God Meets Us When We Suffer – Interview with KJ Ramsey

God Meets Us When We Suffer – Interview with KJ Ramsey

We are in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and my guest is therapist, and author KJ Ramsey. We’re taking about faith and suffering, our bodies and stress, grief, and our communion with Christ.

When we suffer, we might question our faith, or we might question whether we have a strong enough prayer life, or wonder if there’s more we could do to earn God’s favor. We tend to think that more effort should produce a blessing.

K.J. says, “I think that for me, finding hope and suffering and finding joy in suffering, being able to be resilient within vast amounts of uncertainty. That has largely come through dwelling in the scripture and seeing what the whole scripture says about what is the story that God is writing in our world and where does my life fall within it.” 

What becomes clear is that God chose to enter into our suffering.

Now, as we walk through the uncertainty of our times, in this coronavirus pandemic, we can know we are not alone. Still, we have lost much. Acknowledging that grief and allowing ourselves to grieve the losses is human and healthy. It’s not a sign of a small faith, but rather, it’s an invitation to draw close to God, who loves us.

KJ is a therapist and a writer. She’s written for multiple publications, including Christianity Today and Relevant. Her new book, This Too Shall Last: Finding Grace When Suffering Lingers, comes out May 12th.

Disclosure: Links may be affiliate links. If you decide to purchase any of these resources, I earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.


Links

This Too Shall Last: Finding Grace When Suffering Lingers
kjramsey.com
@kjramseywrites


Quote: "We can experience the grace and rest of a God who loves us, not for what we do but for existing. Because we're his children. - KJ Ramsey

Transcript

Kay:  My guest today is KJ Ramsey and KJ is a therapist and a writer and she’s written for multiple publications, including Christianity Today and Relevant. Her new book comes out in May, it’s called This Too, Shall Last Finding Grace When Suffering Lingers.

[00:00:45] KJ, first of all, thank you for being with us today.

[00:00:48] KJ-Ramsey: Thank you for having me.

[00:00:50] Kay: KJ  let’s, let’s just start, with you and your book, and then we’ll move on to current events. Because, as at the time when we’re recording this, there’s a lot going on in the world that is so new to all of us, and we will, we will get there, I promise. But, because I think in terms of where we are in the world right now, and it’s such a timely message that you have.

[00:01:15] I’d like for our listeners to know a little bit about you and because of the type of questions that we’re all asking now, and the discomfort and the fear that we are feeling, you’ve not necessarily in a pandemic, but you, you’ve been down the road a little ahead of us. And so if you would tell us a little bit of your story.

[00:01:37] KJ-Ramsey: Yeah. So living in uncertainty, and loss is a big part of what my whole adult life has been. So I, I, I’ve lived with a severe autoimmune disease called ankylosing spondylitis for 11 years now. And, and along with that, my husband and I have experienced a lot of spiritual abuse and job loss. So combine my physical illness with some deep spiritual pain and job insecurity because of both.

[00:02:18] And that has really made me and my husband have to dwell in the place where we don’t know what our future holds, which is really all of us all the time. But we’ve had to live with that palpably in our faces for our whole marriage. We’re about to hit, um, our 10th anniversary in June, and we’ve had to live in the place of. Finding that God is with them, even when our life doesn’t feel good and doesn’t look like it’s going to get much better. Um, so yeah, both through disease and, and some deep spiritual pain and wounding, I’ve had to learn how to live in this deeply painful place and find that there’s still goodness here.

[00:03:09] That’s all. So that’s a little bit of a start.

Kay: and part of that road that you have traveled, that’s, that’s driven you in into God’s word. In a way maybe that a lot of us haven’t gone down that you know, some, sometimes, I mean, you can just kind of tell how the, the sometimes we kind of fling scripture around, without really grappling with it and with its meaning and the full meaning rather than just taking one verse.

[00:03:39] You know, but really saying was this whole passage say, and what does it say in the context of the whole word of God? And, and, I imagine that you have spent some time  doing those deeper things. And in doing that, what have you found.

[00:03:55] KJ-Ramsey: Yeah. Well, you know, I think the way that the western church especially looks at suffering, is as though it is an indication of a lack of faith.

[00:04:08] KJ-Ramsey: Because we’ve so tied our faith in our risen Lord with progress with the American dream. So we think that more effort should produce a blessing, that a stronger faith and praying harder will produce the life that you want.

[00:04:33] Even if we don’t consider ourselves adherents of the prosperity gospel, it’s sunk its teeth into our souls. And. So when my life was turned upside down by suffering by this disease that came and never left, I had to find my way back to the whole story of scripture. I had to find my story. Within a bigger story and to see that the whole Canon of scripture tells us that pain and suffering actually have a place in the plotline and that within the scope of scripture, our suffering is part of the story of God making all things new.

[00:05:18] But that story isn’t done yet though the end has been written, we’re not to the end yet. And so. I think that for me, finding hope and suffering and finding joy in suffering, being able to be resilient within vast amounts of uncertainty. That has largely come through dwelling in the scripture and seeing what the whole scripture says about what is the story that God is writing in our world and where does my life fall within it.

[00:05:53] So I think that’s what I would encourage people to. To begin to explore is not just what does Romans eight 28 say about your life, but what does the whole story of how God relates to his people say about where you’re at and, and what is our hope? What are we longing for, and where are we headed? And I think where we’re headed, I think what scripture makes clear is that we’re headed to God making all things new.

[00:06:23] And when we suffer because of Jesus, we get to be. United to this power in the midst of our weakness that we can’t know in any other way.

[00:06:36] Kay: [00:06:36] Yeah, that’s good. And we’re all in this strange new place. We are recording this on April 3rd, 2020 in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic. So if you’re listening to this years down the line, you can look in the history books and see what happened because we’re in the middle of it right now.

[00:06:59] Kay: people all around the world are at home. We’re practicing social distancing and we’re dealing with a lot of uncertainty. And, um, it feels like the ground is moving under us every day.

[00:07:13] KJ-Ramsey: Yeah.

[00:07:14] Kay: and our usual coping mechanisms are, are groups that we go to are, we can’t even go to church right now and be with our people or our jobs right now. Many, many people, either are sitting home and trying to do their work alone or have been let go from their jobs because their businesses are closed right now because people can’t go in.

[00:07:39] KJ-Ramsey: Okay. Yeah.

[00:07:40] Kay: So much uncertainty and, and it’s global, like there just doesn’t seem any place that’s not touched.

[00:07:48] Why do we do when we’re so alone?

[00:07:51] KJ-Ramsey: Mm. Yeah. This is such a profound time of upheaval.

I find so much comfort in and Jesus in that Jesus knows the agony of feeling forsaken and the depth of feeling isolation, that Jesus was no stranger to anxiety, that in the garden of Gethsemane as he was about to die, it was preparing for his death. That he was so in so much anguish that he had sweat, like drops of blood. And, and when I read that as a therapist, I think Jesus had a panic attack. Our God knows what it is like to have your, your whole body in life feel like it’s shaking.

[00:08:55] Like, like you’re breathless, like God willingly and enfleshed himself into a life where he would feel that on our behalf and carry all that weight to the cross. I find so much comfort there. So in the middle of our aloneness, Mmm. I think we have a God who. Who knows where we’re at. He is not just the creator of the universe. He’s also the pain bearer of the universe. He. He moved in among us and decided to feel this weight of living in a broken world and in a broken body personally.

And I think that’s where we start. I think that’s where we started. I think it’s where we finish, uh, that there is a communion that we get to have with Christ in the middle of our uncertainty and in the middle of upheaval. That we can’t know when we’re so busy hustling hard to do things for God’s kingdom.

[00:10:16] Kay: Yeah, yeah. Two, two things there. As you were saying that, you know, Jesus told his disciples, I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you. And I thought it was interesting that he uses the word orphan  because orphan is, that’s so much more than saying, I won’t leave you alone.

[00:10:41] An orphan is, is truly, truly alone. And unprotected, and probably feeling rejected.

[00:10:53]Kay: so much uncertainty in the life of an orphan and Mmm. I think in him saying that, I will not leave you as orphans. He’s acknowledging even there, you’re going to feel like orphans. There are, there are times when you are going to feel exposed. And broken and alone and Mmm. not provided for We need to acknowledge that, that we will feel that, that he understands that that’s something we feel. And the also says, I will come to you.

[00:11:32] KJ-Ramsey: Yeah.

[00:11:33] Kay: and the second thing when you, you said communion, I’m thinking literally about the practice of communion where we remember, do we, I mean, when we, when we take communion, how often do we do it um, some, just something we do.  It’s something, it’s a ritual, but it’s in remembrance of him and the breaking of his body and that, and the shedding of his blood, which was for. Not only our salvation, but for our healing, and understand that there’s this tension between the already accomplished, it is finished

[00:12:17] KJ-Ramsey: Yeah.

[00:12:17] Kay: and the not yet, that we live in. That’s the space.

[00:12:22] KJ-Ramsey: And right now, as we, as we acknowledge the upheaval that we’re in, as we feel the weight of our uncertainty, we have ample moments where we get to acknowledge that God was broken on our behalf. That God chose to be shattered by suffering. So every place of our shattering right now where our souls just ache with what is happening with where our stories feel shattered, our futures feel like they are not going to come together like we wanted. Every place, every moment where we acknowledge that becomes a thin space where the not yet of God’s kingdom touches the already where we get to acknowledge and feel perhaps in a truer deeper way that God really did come to dwell among us and to make us new. These moments of feeling ripped apart by what’s happening in our world, I think are also moments where we get to more deeply know that God chose to allow his own life to be ripped apart on our behalf to to purchase and create our world being healed.

[00:13:56] Kay: And, you know, we have this space here  where we’re home. And I know that not everybody  has a quiet home or unnecessarily restful home. All right? Now you’ve got kids that are home that weren’t, weren’t there all the time before people are getting a little antsy. I know I  uh, to the bank today because I needed to, but I took the long way there. Just to be out of the house, Um, but we have this kind of, in America, we have this idea that we always have to be productive. We always have to be doing something. 

But then there’s this rest that Jesus calls to a, yeah. He, he calls us into that rest and that’s the place where we can sit with him. And find peace in him. And I just wonder if we’re doing that. We have so many things that are, fingertips that we can do. We can, where we can just kind of put a screen in front of us and how can we find…

[00:15:04]KJ-Ramsey: Okay.

[00:15:04] Kay: that peace? I mean, they’re there. How can we enter into that rest, I guess is my real question.

[00:15:10] KJ-Ramsey: Well, I think we are all in our country—I’m addicted to productivity. And it is where we have found a lot of safety and identity. And so right now with how scarier the world is, we are not capable of staying as productive as we were. So that coping mechanism is being stripped away from us. But I think a lot of us are finding that we feel, a continued pressure to produce from home in our jobs and we don’t know how to stop.

[00:15:59] and so then a lot of us are feeling guilt, and shame about just how little we’re getting done in a day. Mmm. There is an invitation here. You can’t do it. You can’t keep up with your life like you were. The weight of the world is too heavy. This is heavier than anything we have ever seen and. You are not made to be able to carry this weight.

[00:16:32] We’re swimming in a sea of anxiety and loss grief. I mean, you look at the numbers. I don’t know when, by the time this comes out, we’ll see how many people will have died by then. But the numbers that are being projected right now are massive. And the number of people who have already died massive.

[00:16:56] That we are, we cannot be unaffected by this grief. And so we have an invitation here to be honest about where we’re at, but this is too heavy for us, and that we can set aside our striving and let our souls be where we’re actually at. And, and that, like you’re saying, that’s where we. Can experience the grace and rest of a God who loves us, not for what we do, but for existing because we’re his children.

[00:17:31] Kay: I believe something happens when we allow ourselves to just be raw with our emotions before

[00:17:38] KJ-Ramsey:  100%.  Yeah. I think that, you know, we talked about Jesus and him being broken on our behalf. Well, his own cry, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Comes from the Psalms. So let Jesus’s own words carry you back to the prayer book of God’s people. The Psalms are full of God’s people, being honest about where they are.

[00:18:06] And crying out to God, not as  people who are purely steadfast in their faith, but as people with great needs and  arresting anguish and profound anger. That is the cry of God’s people. That is what God has given us in his word as the main demonstration of what it looks like to be faithful in prayer. So we get to go there and pray along with God’s people throughout the ages and say, God, how long?

[00:18:46] How long? Oh Lord, we get to. Call out anger and, and, and lamentation on, you know, what? We wish our world; it was like right now go back. We get to go back to the very prayers that Jesus himself prayed. And I think it’s really in that. Place of letting ourselves be honest about how hard this is that our hope will rise.

[00:19:23] Kay: Yeah. and we’re in that place, and just as there’s a tension between the, you know, the kingdom that is and the kingdom, that is, is to be, it’s not yet, you’ve written in, in this book that’s about to come out, This Too Shall Last. The subtitle is finding grace when suffering lingers. And you talk about, The grace, but that, you know there’s suffering and joy can, can the two coexist.

[00:19:51] KJ-Ramsey: 100% 

[00:19:53] Kay: Okay. That’s such good news. We needed to hear that.

[00:19:58] KJ-Ramsey: you can’t, I believe that you can’t have joy without sorrow.

[00:20:06] Kay: Hmm.

[00:20:07] KJ-Ramsey: really, it’s grief that makes space for goodness.  This is the pattern of the human soul. And as we acknowledge the grit and groaning of where we’re at, who we are. Are enlarged by the Holy spirit to also see and taste and share the goodness of what’s here too.

[00:20:42] This has been my story. This is the church’s story. This is what we get to know more tangibly right now than we ever have before. God meets us in our grief because he took it on himself. And he makes grief the place where goodness grows.

[00:21:03] Kay: And it’s a place, um, think about when, when we go through things and we have those friends that stick with us through the hard times. The friends that come to visit when it’s, you know, when we’re in the middle just willing to be, you know, that  I’m not trying to fix us, not trying to shame us or change us or. Push us in a direction, but just to they don’t come with an agenda, except to be with us in that and that in a way, even right now, Surely Jesus is there with us in our suffering. The friend that is always with us and always available to take, uh, take that space.

[00:21:53] KJ-Ramsey: Yeah. And Jesus is the friend that’s closer than a brother. Um, but we can’t see Jesus just an end right now. There’s so many people in our lives we can’t see . I think that. This time is in its profound pain is also such an invitation. I think that something I wrote about a lot in my book is that when we’re stuck in trying to make and, and identify the purpose in our pain, we can’t feel God’s presence.

[00:22:35] Because. When we’re stuck in an, okay a state of analysis, operating largely in the left brain, and we are anxiously trying to figure out why would God allow this to happen? What is the point? Um, our brains and our bodies can’t experience. We can’t turn on what is called the social engagement system of our brains.

[00:23:03] And. So I think I bring this up for listeners because Oh, and stress, what we know how to do is to run away from it, to avoid it, to pretend like it’s not as bad as it is. And when we do those things, we’re not going to be able to feel the presence of the invisible God. But if we can. Stop and remember our bodies.

[00:23:35] Remember that what is happening in our world really is affecting us and really is making us feel dysregulated physically, most moments of most days right now. And we offer our bodies a chance to breathe.That is what turns on your brain social engagement system, which is what you need, not only to connect with other humans, but to connect with the God who is here.

[00:24:01] So faith right now and always, but right now we can feel it more acutely and notice and notice it and lead into it more palpably. Faith actually looks like remembering that your body is fragile and susceptible to stress and that you can breathe in the midst of it. Acknowledged the breath of God. The spirit of God is in you because you’ve been United to Jesus, and from that place of physical care, self care, you will begin to feel the presence of the invisible God.

[00:24:37] Kay: what are some things that we can do? How can we take kind of some first steps towards doing, taking care of our physical bodies so that we can do that?

[00:24:46] KJ-Ramsey: Yeah. So I talk about breath prayer all the time because I think that our breath or actual in and out breathing is our first, first means of remembering that God is with us.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the spirit is called the breath of God.

[00:25:10] and that we. Have to breathe to live. So when you breathe, when you remember to take a deep breath, you really are offering your body a moment to remember that the breath of God is in you, that you are not alone.

[00:25:31] You are not forsaken. You were always connected to the spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. So first and foremost, we have to remember our bodies. We have to remember to breathe. We get to acknowledge throughout our days that we feel overwhelmed by all the news that we’re seeing, that we feel deep sorrow over the suffering of our world.

[00:26:00]That we feel anxious about the ways that our family’s futures are changing. Every one of those moments throughout our day, which is many, many moments. Because if you’re human, you are being affected by this in a lot of ways. Every one of those moments is a chance to breathe, to remember that when your body feels stress, overwhelm, anxiety, shame, guilt.

[00:26:29] Your body is sending signals throughout your whole body. Your brain is sending signals throughout your whole body that say like, you’re not okay. You’re not okay. That is a chance to stop and breathe. Offer yourself a physiological way to remember that God is with you. So I always start with breathing.

[00:26:50] Kay: Yeah.

[00:26:51] KJ-Ramsey: with breath prayer, you can just, you can just breathe. But. You know, saints, throughout the ages, Christians throughout the ages have used breath prayer. So tying your in and out your inhale and your exhale with a simple prayer. Like what I use is just Lord on my inhale, have mercy on my exhale and I just pray that in my head.

[00:27:13] There are other, you know, lines that you can use, but just a simple acknowledgement as I breathe, that I am dependent on God’s mercy to live and breathe and have my being and that that is a good thing. And that remembrance in those moments, changes the way that I experience my day.

[00:27:34] Kay: what role does gratitude play in that?

[00:27:36] KJ-Ramsey:  In breathing?

[00:27:37] Kay: Yeah. I guess in that whole experience of understanding that at once now we’ve taken that moment to acknowledge that dependence on him and his presence.

[00:27:49] KJ-Ramsey: well, I think the—we, we don’t necessarily have to start with gratitude, but I think that, when we are honest about our need for grace and we breathed into it, that gratitude will be the result because you will experience that God is with you. Even if you don’t feel everything is better. Cause you probably won’t

[00:28:18] That moment of breathing, that 30 seconds that you take to breathe in and out slowly to remember that the breath of God is in you will counter the story of scarcity that’s happening and playing out in your life right now. That. That you aren’t enough, that you won’t have enough, and that you’ve had enough with this already.

That’s the story that we’re all living, but the greater story that each of us is part of is that God is enough.

[00:28:50] Kay: Yeah.

[00:28:51] KJ-Ramsey: God has enough for all of our needs, even unto death. Yeah. And that he will always meet us where we’re at. Acknowledging that story that produces gratitude, a gratitude that is a bit beyond what we can understand or a gratitude that’s passed sometimes what our circumstances would appear to hold. But I think also, when we breathe, our bodies are put into a state where we are more capable of acknowledging and savoring goodness that’s here.

[00:29:35] So when you’re in a state of stress and alarm, which we’re, like I said all in like many, many times throughout the day, right now, you’re not capable of. Noticing as much beauty or goodness. But when you breathe, your body is going to be in a state where it’s more capable of seeing goodness too. So as we pay attention to our bodies and try to stay regulated right now, that’s gonna put you in a place where you’re going to be able to be more grateful because you’re going to be more at peace within yourself and capable of noticing what’s here. That’s good.

[00:30:13] Kay:  was thinking about, you know, some of

[00:30:15] KJ-Ramsey: Okay.

[00:30:16] Kay: some of our experience with what is happening in the world right now is because our expectations have just been shattered. We have, um, I’m thinking of like high school students that were planning their graduations, you know, and now school’s out.And, all of these kinds of milestones in our lives and things when we have shattered expectations, what does that do to us? How is that playing into, how do you think that’s playing into what’s happening with us right now and, and what can we do.

[00:30:54] KJ-Ramsey: Well, I think that  there, I’m seeing a lot of Christians. Treat these moments like we, this is exposing our idols and we should never have had these expectations in the first place. And I don’t think that that’s, an embodiment of the kindness of the God that I know. I think that God grieves with us for the way that our stories feel shattered right now. And. I think the invitation is to grieve. These are losses, not being able to graduate, not being able to see the people that you love. Having your future be changed. That these are losses. And I believe that every loss that we endure. That God endures it with us. He doesn’t judge it from a distance because we’ve been United to Jesus.

[00:32:04] Jesus is experiencing this in us with us, and so as we feel a deep sadness and sorrow for what’s happening in our lives. The God of the universe is experiencing that, feeling that with us on our behalf in us, God grieves for what we are losing and grieving too. So I think the simple answer is grieve. We have a lot to grieve right now.

[00:32:40] I wish that there was more that I could tell people to do. But, I think our culture is allergic to grief and we would rather just feel good, but grief is what your soul needs in order to, again, find. Goodness, in where your, what your life is becoming. You need grief. And, and that’s, I, I guess I would love people to know that we as Christians, we often treat our emotions like there fickle things that should not be trusted.

[00:33:17] But emotions are actually just body States. God made you with a body that is good and that feels. Because he wants you to pay attention to your life and yourself as though they matter.

[00:33:35] Every emotion that we feel from fear to grief to anger are. Physical first felt physically as sensations and their physical prompts to pay attention to ourselves as though we are loved by God and to pay attention to our needs as though they are things that God cares about.

[00:33:56] So every feeling of grief and loss and even anger that we have can propel us to the feet of Jesus. Who, who stands with us in our sorrow. I guess I just really want people to know that your, your big feelings that you have right now are not the enemy and they’re not, and they’re not only things that are being used by the enemy to keep you from faith.

[00:34:24] They’re actually the very ground where your faith can be nurtured and sustained because God wants to meet you in your big feelings with his big love.

[00:34:36] Kay: yeah. And that’s the thing that doesn’t leave. It’s the thing that won’t leave us. He’s, we, we get outcomes focused. But he’s focused on us and on the relationship. That, uh, to me, that’s very comforting. But yeah, that permission to grieve, because I think we have really, Mmm. Struggled to name what is happening with us on what we’re experiencing.

[00:35:08]KJ-Ramsey: Yeah. And you know, I study a lot of interpersonal neurobiology and the father of interpersonal neurobiology,  talks about name it to tame it, that we have to name our feelings in order to tame them. You know, our feelings do feel really overwhelming right now cause there’s a lot of them and they’re intense.

[00:35:28] When we take time to name how we feel too. And that first starts with noticing your body. Notice where you feel tension. Where are you feel pain or, discomfort? Because that is often your first signal or way of figuring out what you’re really feeling. Notice your body. Take Mo. Take more than a moment, but take at least a moment to try to name what you might be feeling right now.

[00:36:02] You can use things. You can Google feelings wheel. There are lots of. resources out there where they have, it’s, when you Google it, you’ll see there’s like a really colorful wheel that has a ton of emotions. Words on there. You start in the center with some of the bigger feelings, like mad, and then you can trace your way out to get more specific from there.

[00:36:25] If you have a really hard time naming what you feel, you can use things like an emotions wheel to help you figure out what is this feeling. That you’re feeling, and by naming it, you actually are helping your brain and body relax. you know, it’s like Harry Potter, were, I think it was reminding us of like, fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself.

[00:36:53] Naming this Massive loss. Naming these feelings that we have actually decreases their power to overwhelm us. So taking the time to slow down and stop trying to get so much stuff done and just name how you feel that is actually what’s going to bring you back to a place of feeling that God is with you.

[00:37:23] Kay: Mm. Mm,

[00:37:24] KJ-Ramsey: It takes time. It’s inconvenient, but it’s actually what you most need.

[00:37:29] Kay: and I know a lot of us, um. Especially, therapists, pastors, certainly the people that are working in healthcare. But I’m thinking kind of the next, the next circle out, the people that are trying to help the helpers that are on the front line, um, are hearing a lot. Yeah. You know, we’re, we’re sharing stories and even, you know, we’re listening to people’s stories on the news and, but especially the ones who, in their role.

[00:37:59] As a counselor or pastor or hearing the stories there, the other people are bringing their suffering,  um, to us and maybe maybe there’s physical symptoms is the first clue that I’m bearing too much weight on my own. But what would you say to the counselors or pastors who are having people come to them maybe in more numbers than you’re used to or with things that you’ve never, where we’re all encountering things that we’ve never encountered before, but you know what I’m trying to get to there.

[00:38:35] KJ-Ramsey: Well, we, you know, as a therapist, I’m feeling the weight of my clients and the sum, I’m not just feeling my, the trauma that I’m going through personally in this, but I’m feeling what they’re going through too. And what I’ve noticed is that I can’t, I can’t carry the weight. It is too much. And while it’s a sacred thing to get to meet with them and to hear their stories and to make space for those stories, I have to make space for myself again.

[00:39:15] After having heard those stories, and I have to have ways to release the weight of their stories and their trauma back to God because he is the only one who can hold this weight.

[00:39:27] So I think that it’s paramount for those of us who are in helping professions right now. To first be honest, that we can’t hold the weight of the stories that we’re hearing and the things that we’re witnessing.

[00:39:43] We just can’t, our bodies were not made to encounter this much trauma, and that means we also have to be willing to stop. And to set aside pockets of time where we let ourselves slow and we acknowledge how futile we feel and fragile. We feel. And, um, take time to grieve what we’re hearing and to come back to ourselves and acknowledge how this worldwide trauma is affecting us.

[00:40:23] Personally, I think it’s. It’s essential and that, and, and sometimes that might be like, you have to take a whole day off. But sometimes that might mean, like I did this morning before our podcast, I had things I was dealing with before we started recording, and I needed to take a few extra minutes to center myself because I didn’t feel grounded.

[00:40:49] And I wanted to be able to be here with you and listen well and extend kindness. But I first needed to extend some kindness to myself that I, that I didn’t feel okay. So that was just me taking three minutes to breathe. Sometimes you might just have one minute, but when you acknowledge that, Whoa, that was a lot that I just heard, or a lot that I just encountered with somebody’s story, or w you know, the trauma written across their face of what they just lost.

[00:41:21] You get to take a minute to breathe and to, to release that weight back to God.

[00:41:29] Kay: Yeah. Because we can’t, I think that just that acknowledgement. And it’s not ours to bear, and I know we’ve probably all heard this a million times, I’m going to say it again, that the oxygen mask in the plane, right? Put it on yourself first before you help others so that you’re able.

[00:41:50] And I think we all just need to make sure we’re doing that. It’s hard because we want to, especially we kind of, if you’re wired to be a helper,  um, the tendency is to keep going, keep going, and keep going. But there’s a crash. That comes. 

[00:42:05] KJ-Ramsey: Well the thing is that we can’t fix this.

[00:42:09] It, we just can’t. There is nothing that we can fix. but what we can do is be present for one another even just through our screens. Cause that’s the main way that most of us can be present right now. And.  to be present. Like we can extend the presence of God through our presence with one another, but you’re not going to extend a grounded, gracious presence.

[00:42:34] If your body is dysregulated and flooded with your own fear and, or, or the fears of those who you just helped, we have to keep going back to the presence of God. The peace of God and grounding our bodies there and help our bodies to feel okay, to not be in this heightened state of alarm. So that then when we meet with someone again, we can extend the grounded grace and peace of God.

[00:43:05] So I think for helpers right now, that means taking a lot more time in between for therapists, taking a lot more time in between sessions to ground ourselves. we have to protect space to be still so that our bodies can keep coming back to a state of calm, to offer that first to ourselves and then to our clients.

[00:43:29] And you know, the same is true for pastors, etc. But.

[00:43:33] Kay: Yeah. Yeah. As we wrap up the interview, I do want to come back to the book  that This Too Shall Last.   because I, it is such an important message. I think a lot of people, um, and church that. Or wondering, you know, w what does this situation that I’m in or the sickness that I have or, or this experience,  there’s a shame even they can, can be there or a feeling that I’m not doing enough. We touched on that a little bit, but what do you hope will happen with this book as it comes out.

[00:44:12]KJ-Ramsey: I hope that the book will be a message of relief for those who feel like they’re drowning in sorrow. Number one, to be shaken by our suffering or to feel ongoing sorrow because of it does not mean that we are not faithful. That a story that includes suffering is a story that is still good and loved by God.

[00:44:53]  I hope that it is relieving to people that your life doesn’t have to look amazing in order to still be a life that’s full of faith.  And that. It makes people turn toward themselves and their stories with curiosity and compassion and courage that perhaps this God who chose to suffer as the means of showing us his love really does meet us in a unique way when we suffer.

[00:45:38] That perhaps these stories that are shattered by suffering are stories that make it possible for us to hold and know the most grace

[00:45:51] that perhaps we really are loved by God. Not for what we do, but for existing. And that perhaps because Jesus suffered and died and was Rose again by the spirit. But that spirit who lives in us can empower us to live these lives where we feel totally inadequate and totally shattered as full of grace and life and even joy.

[00:46:26] I pray that the book, um, just meets people with the compassion and the, uh, empowering energy of the Holy spirit to say that, Hm, maybe my life that is really full of sorrow can actually be full of grace and goodness too.

[00:46:52] Kay: KJ, thank you for being with us

[00:46:54] KJ-Ramsey: Thanks for having me. It’s good to be with you.

[00:46:57] Kay: Thank you for the book. Thank you for the articles and for the wisdom and the depth that you speak to these, these deep issues. You know, you speak to at a level that a lot of us are afraid to talk about?

[00:47:15] And you go there.  And so I want to thank you for that. And I wish you well as we continue on this adventure that we are in.

[00:47:25] KJ-Ramsey: The same to you. Grace and peace to you in this too.

Chickening IN: From Fear to Courageous Faith, with JJ Gutierrez

Chickening IN: From Fear to Courageous Faith, with JJ Gutierrez

Sometimes a single word or phrase has the power to change the course of our lives, and “Chickening IN” is that word for JJ Gutierrez. This little twist on a familiar phrase launched JJ into a transformational journey from fear to faith. Her book, Chickening IN: From Fear to Courageous Faith, 8 Pillars of Transformation, is a practical guide to defeating fear and doubt. I spoke with JJ in February, but her message is especially needed today.

JJ says, “We all have fear. But some of us have a lifestyle of fear.”

Chickening IN represents a lifestyle shift. It’s the transformation that takes place when we face our fear and confront it with the truth. In JJ’s case, a simple comment from her daughter was the catalyst for life-changing action. And it gave her a word to share, to help bring this lifestyle change to us. During our conversation, JJ shared her own story of “chickening in”, the eight pillars of transformation, the ways fear lies to us, and examples of how people in the Bible experienced and overcame fear.

As she walked her own journey out of a lifestyle of fear, JJ developed the eight pillars of transformation. These are practical steps to overcome fear.

The 8 Pillars of Transformation

  • Facing Fear
  • Stepping-up to the Plate of your Life
  • Taking Calculated Risks
  • Traveling Unknown Roads
  • Embracing your Uniqueness 
  • Pursuing your Dreams
  • Doing it Afraid
  • Faith the Difference Maker 

In her new book, Chickening IN: From Fear to Courageous Faith, 8 Pillars of Transformation, JJ goes through all of the pillars. In our interview, she went into depth with the first—facing fear.

Internal Conversations with Fear

There is such a thing as healthy fear. That’s the fear that keeps us from touching a hot stove or running out into the highway. Fear’s rightful role is to alert us to real danger. However, fear can also become a lifestyle, where the conversations in our minds make unlikely worst case outcomes seem like certainties. Fear lies. Fear exaggerates the negative possibilities and undervalues the positive. In the interview, JJ goes over the different types of lies fear tells us.

Your fear knows exactly what buttons to push.

JJ Gutierrez

JJ says the voice of fear seems to know just what buttons to push to send us into a spiral. “It knows exactly what to tell you, and it’s very personal.” It can be subtle, nudging us to “small” lies, or step back when we really want to step up, or plunging us into worry and worst-case scenarios. That’s when we get wrapped up in fearful thoughts and “what ifs” that make the frightening things seem inevitable. Once we’re caught up in the spiral, it’s hard to see what to do or which way to turn. But there is a way to change the conversation.

Learning How to Change the Conversation

The key to changing the conversation with fear is inviting God into the conversation. ” Instead of having a conversation with fear,” JJ says, “we want to turn that conversation to having a conversation with God. And that is the key. That’s the key differentiator.” Allow God to speak truth to the fear, because most of the fear that holds us back is built on lies.

JJ gave the example of three friends. One has a negative impact on you. Another has a positive impact on you. And another has a neutral impact, or no real impact either way. As we bring our fear to God, it goes from being negative to being neutralized. That time with God, conversing with Him, grows our faith, and that impacts us on the positive side. That shift, JJ says, can cause us to move forward “So that we can make decisions that will lead us to start overcoming that fear.”

Faith is being able to say, “God, I am terrified.”

JJ Gutierrez

Overcoming fear is a process. One step follows another, with small, sometimes imperceptible forward movement. That first step of faith, saying “God, I’m terrified,” invites Him into the conversation. As He speaks truth, we are able to take those practical steps we need to take.

How many times have you “chickened out”? Chickening IN is an invitation to a lifestyle of courage and faith.

Links

JJ Gutierrez, Courage Challenger and Mentor – chickeningin.com
Get the book (affiliate link): Chickening IN: From Fear to Courageous Faith, 8 Pillars of Transformation
Find JJ on Instagram and Facebook

The Power of Lament

The Power of Lament

All last month we talked about calling and purpose. But what happens when things don’t go as planned? What happens when you get bad news? When everything falls apart?

The Bible gives us plenty of examples; an incredibly powerful way to deal with suffering, called a lament. Lament is a powerful form of worship. It’s both an expression of grief or anguish, and a cry of hope. 

I was at a conference several years ago during a particularly difficult time. I was holding on to the promises of God, but I didn’t see anything happening. I was rooming with a good friend, and she had stepped out for a bit. While she was gone I had it out with God. I started praying, and came to a point where I was letting out all of my sadness and frustration. My friend walked in while I was yelling/praying and she turned right back around and left. I asked her later why she left. She said, “I’ve never heard anyone talk to God like that!” We joked about having a bolt of lightning strike at a prayer like that, but I figured, God knows what I’m thinking anyway. He knows my doubts, my fears – He already knows I’m dealing with all this stuff, so why not say it? Why not put it out there and ask Him about it?

“My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” You know who said that? Jesus, on the cross. He was quoting David, Psalm 22 – which says “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” (Psalm 22:1, NIV)

So there it is. If it’s good for Jesus, (and David) I suppose it’s good for me, too. More than one third of the Psalms are laments.  And then of course there’s Job, and an entire book called Lamentations. Habakkuk. And more.

So why am I talking about lament on this podcast? I’m supposed to be encouraging. Find your voice, tell your story, change the world and all that. But the truth is we get stuck sometimes. The voice gets stuck at the back of the throat. There’s no strength to push this dream on anymore. The world is too big to change, and the burdens too heavy to carry. But take heart. You weren’t meant to carry these things alone. 

This is why I go to lament during those really hard times. It’s such a reminder that I’m not alone. The greatest thing to me about lament is God hears our cries. And He does not condemn us for it.

Grief is a part of life. And it’s a journey that takes time. There is power in naming what has been lost. Lament gives us a place to name our losses. To put words to our pain. Or groaning, or wailing  – it’s all there.

As a culture, we’re uncomfortable with suffering. We mean well. But our attempts to alleviate suffering with platitudes can ring shallow, even hurtful. There are times when there truly is nothing to say, except perhaps – I’m here. You are not alone.  And that’s what God does. He is with us, and He’s not going to offer up a quote he saw on instagram, he’s not going to change the subject or walk away. Even when he’s silent – he’s still there.

“The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just that time when God can’t give it: you are like the drowning man who can’t be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.”

– C.S. Lewis

“Every lament is a prayer; a statement of faith” and “You might think lament is the opposite of praise. It isn’t. Instead, lament is a path to praise as we are led through our brokenness and disappointment. The space between brokenness and God’s mercy is where this song is sung. Think of lament as the transition between pain and promise. It is the path from heartbreak to hope.”

– Mark Vroegop
Think of lament as the transition between pain and promise - quote from Mark Vroegop

A Pattern for Lament:

  • Addressing God
  • Review of God’s faithfulness in the past. 
  • Complaint 
  • Confession of sin or of innocence
  • Request 
  • Expression of trust/praise

Lament is not a denial of faith. It is not a sign of weak faith. Rather, it is a way of reaching out  to God. In actually signals we trust God with our deepest questions and our most painful and raw emotions. It is a form of worship. And when someone near us is suffering, we can come and sit beside them. We can join them in the lament. Mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15).  It is an act of love.

Recommended:

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament by Mark Vroegop
This Too Shall Last – a new podcast and book by KJ Ramsey

Disclosure: Links may be affiliate links, which means I get a small percentage of any purchase you make at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

Living for the Audience of One

Living for the Audience of One

What does it mean to live for an audience of one? Part two of my look at The Call by Os Guinness.

Disclosure: Links may be affiliate links. If you decide to purchase any of these resources, I earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

In “Episode 31 – What does it mean to be called?” we looked at the first part of Os Guinness’ book, The Call: Finding and Fulfilling God’s Purpose For Your Life. The main point is there is not calling without a caller, and that caller is God. It follows naturally that if the One who calls us is God, then we should live in a way that honors Him above all else.

“A life lived listening to the decisive call of God is a life lived before one audience that trumps all others—the Audience of One.”

Os Guinness, The Call

Have you ever been in a conversation and added a comment that seemed innocent at the time, but later you felt convicted about it? I’ve done it more than a few times. I’ll drop a little comment in, and later think, “Why did I say that?” Maybe I felt insecure in that moment and needed to let the others know that I’m special, too.

And what about defending ourselves? Especially when we feel we’ve been unjustly accused or insulted. There’s a need to save face, to defend ourselves, and maybe even to belittle the other person. It’s easy enough on social media. I can find a source somewhere to back up my side of the story, and it often provides an added swipe or two at the opposition. Right or wrong, the flavor and intensity of my response may indicate my focus has shifted away from the Caller.

Audience of One

One danger in today’s world is that we are so connected and easily distracted. And at the same time we are more anonymous than ever. No longer tied to each other in physical community, our personal relationships are often based on what we choose to show to others, not what they see of us in real time, in real life. This can be a great temptation, as we can do or see whatever we want because we can’t be seen or held accountable. Who’s watching? Who will know? The message today seems we can do whatever we want.

Remember Joseph in the bible? His brothers sold him and he became a slave in Egypt. Then, God gave him favor and he was promoted until he was in charge of Potiphar’s household. Joseph was handsome, and Potiphor’s wife made advances. This was a woman used to getting whatever she wanted, yet Joseph refused. But what did he say? Listen to his words.

“No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”

Joseph, Genesis 39:9

Joseph is responsible for Potiphar’s household. He’s been trusted with everything. But he says “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” Joseph’s audience is God. He lives for God. He carries his responsibilities in a way that honors God. He respects Potiphar, but he understands if he does what this woman wants, it’s God he must answer to.

And what happens? The woman lies; she falsely accuses Joseph and Potiphar throws him in prison. That’s in Genesis 39, if you want to read it. But you can see Joseph’s mindset. He knew who his audience was. The audience of One.

Conceit and Pride

One of the refreshing things about The Call is that Guinness addresses the distortions and dangers of calling. The reverse side of calling, he says, is conceit. Truth can be distorted, and the most effective lie begins with a sliver of truth.

The closeness between calling and conceit is easy to see. After all, to be called is to hear God whisper three things to you in a hundred intimate ways—“You are chosen; you are gifted; you are special.” Let those three things sink in for longer than the first precious moments and you will inevitably hear another voice, honeyed and smooth: “Yes, you really are chosen . . . gifted . . . special.”

Os Guinness, The Call

If we let that second, subversive whisper take hold, we elevate and deceive ourselves. Above others, and even above God, the very One who calls us. This conceit isn’t limited to individuals. Groups and even nations can follow this distorted, malicious whisper. It is the very nobility of calling, Guinness says that makes us vulnerable to pride: “The twisting of our highest aspirations will be twice as evil as the twisting of our lowest.”

The twisting of our highest aspirations will be twice as evil as the twisting of our lowest. - Os Guinness, The Call

Again, we who are called are vulnerable to pride even as we claim the audience of one. Why? Because the audience of one is not God, but ourselves! It is possible to think so highly of ourselves that we look down on others so that we do not care what they think. If the Audience of One is us, we’re in a dangerous place.

The Remedy

What is the remedy for pride? It is grace. When we understand, through grace – that we are called only because of God’s grace. It is not something we’ve earned or purchased for ourselves. We are unable to call ourselves. God does it, It is by his grace alone. When we understand that – not only in the head but also in the heart – then we know enough to be on guard.

When our focus is on the crowd, the Caller’s face gets hard to see. His voice can be drowned out in the melee. Not only when we get caught up in disagreements, but also when we perform. How much time and energy do we spend churning out memes and polls and quotes and questions, merely out of fear our social feed will fall into oblivion? Who is this performance for? We can look to Jesus for the answer– he went off by himself and called his disciples to come away from the crowds for times of rest and quiet instruction. In our busy lives, are we too important to step away for awhile and meet with the one who calls us? To seek His face and wonder at His majesty? To let Him teach us how to be what He has called us to be?

Action Steps

  1. Read Matthew 6:1-4. Why does Jesus require that our good deeds be done in secret? 
  2. Let’s take time each day to offer our callings back to God. If we allow Him time and space to examine our heart’s motives, we’ll be less vulnerable to the subtle changes that lead us off course. 

Did you get Part One? What Does it Mean to be Called?

Disclosure: Links may be affiliate links. If you decide to purchase any of these resources, I earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Thrive Without Striving – Interview with Matt Ham

Thrive Without Striving – Interview with Matt Ham

Matt Ham left a 10 year career in insurance sales to start YouPrint, a faith and personal development organization, and its nonprofit initiative called the Life Center. In this interview, Matt offers perspective on how we can thrive without striving.

“Unfortunately we place our own understanding and expectations on how things should work out and it never works out that way. One of the greatest mistakes that we make is limiting God by our own understanding.”

YouPrint is positioned as executive coaching, mentoring, community, and discipleship between Sundays. The philanthropic side of The Life Center is about removing obstacles, with the message “God loves you and he cares about you and he desires genuine relationship with you. And He created you for such a time as this. And we’re here to walk with you.”

“The Life Center is actually going to be a campus style facility where it will literally be a launch pad for entrepreneurial kingdom minded endeavors. It’s a vision from the Lord that we are faithfully following out.”

The Desires of Your Heart

God gives to you from His Spirit, and your heart is where those desires dwell. “It’s like seeds of his genius that he planted in your heart. And you feel them or perceive them through your desires…He says, I will give you the desires of your heart in exchange for your will. You give me your will. And I will give you the desires of your heart. That’s it. That’s the offer. That’s the offer of faith. Delight yourself in the Lord. What does that mean? That means surrender your will. Yield to him. Trust in him. Abide in him. You know, it’s all throughout scripture. Who did this the best? Jesus.”

“What are you busy with doing in your life? Are you busy with protecting and building your own reputation, or are you more concerned and busy with living underneath the reputation of God and his provision and his literal desires to give you the desires of your heart so that you can change the world for his glory? That’s why we do what we do.”

Matt Ham

Investing in People

“People are the best investment that you can make. Period. Investing in people is the best investment that you can make.” Just as Jesus encountered each person in a different way, so must we. What are the gifts God has placed inside that person? Can we see the potential and not just the circumstance?

“The church is the body of believers. That is not confined to Sundays. It’s not confined to buildings.” That includes entrepreneurism. God has called people into business and into all kinds of roles in society. “We need a people who are infused into those cultures and become literally evangelists in those pockets…God will clarify the call as you yield and surrender to him…The process of discipleship is to get people to that place because that is the most effective way to spread the kingdom.”

But How?

Matt says we come to that place of knowing who we really are, and fulfilling our purpose starts with a posture of rest. “It starts with stillness. We’re not very good at that. ‘Come to me, all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.’ The offer of Jesus first is rest.”

  • Get to a place of rest and stillness.
  • Magnify and elevate the glory of God. Learn to praise Him.
  • Take a posture of thankfulness.
  • Then be quiet and meditate and listen back to what he’s saying. You hear that and see that through his word, the Bible.

“The life that God has created you to live is literally waiting on the other side of your capacity to be ready, be at rest, yield and surrender your will and listen to where the spirit leads and follow that. And that is what is anointed and blessed.”

Matt Ham

Connect with Matt: YouPrint.life

What Does it Mean to be Called?

What Does it Mean to be Called?

Disclosure: Links may be affiliate links. If you decide to purchase any of these resources, I earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Today on the show, I want to give you a small taste of Os Guinness’ book, The Call

While many other books will give you tactics and tools to discover your calling, or to focus your vision, and so on – I want to start with The Call because it gives us a foundation, which I think most of us understand is absolutely essential before you build anything that’s going to last.

I’m definitely not going to cover everything the author has packed in here, so I recommend you get the book and read it for yourself. 

The Call is not a recipe book. By that I mean it’s not a plan-you-life by following these 5 or ten or twelve steps to whatever book. Rather, it is an invitation to examine calling, what calling is and what it is not, and the dangers of the distortions of calling. 

What is Calling?

A quick trip to the dictionary offers these definitions:

  1. the act of a person or thing that calls.
  2. a call or summons
  3. a strong impulse or inclination
  4. a convocation (like a meeting)

The origin of our word for the vocal meaning of “calling” has its origins in the Old English “hildecalla” which means “battle cry.”  Calling also shares roots with the Latin word for “glory” – ”gloria” – and this is where the vocational meaning of calling, the one associated with purpose and meaning comes from. 

The idea of calling and vocation is important to us because it affects our personal identity, humanness, and significance. 

The main idea for The Call is that there is no calling without a Caller. As Guinness says, “If there is no Caller, there are no callings—only work.”

Here is how the Guinness defines Calling: 

“Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service.”

Os Guinness, The Call

We are called by someone, to someone, and for someone. And that someone–the One who calls us– is Christ. This is our primary calling.

That which we see as a vocational or occupational calling – those things we do in response to the primary call, are the secondary callings.

Calling, when it is seen as a response to God‘s call, requires us to stand up as in the image of God not only in the exceptional moments when people are watching, but also in the quiet, the mundane, and in the hidden places of our lives. We are called not only into an occupation, but to life itself. And that life transcends our own frame of reference, and reaches beyond our understanding. 

“God’s call is God’s word to each of us, powerful, precious, and deeply personal.” he goes on to say “Our calling is the sphere of our responsibility. But we are not responsible to our calling. We are responsible to God, and our calling is where we exercise that responsibility.”

Os Guinness, The Call

My interpretation of Guinness’ point is this – that our primary calling is to follow Christ. Our secondary calling is the way in which we exercise the responsibility He gives us to act and  influence within the sphere of our responsibility. Every part of that secondary calling is saturated with the primary calling. The two are intertwined. If I pursue my secondary calling in a way that is inconsistent with the primary calling, then I have missed the point. 

Distortions of Calling

Guinness points out two distortions to calling, The “Catholic Distortion” so named for the time when it first gained traction – this distortion elevates the spiritual over the secular. Think about the sacred life of monks versus the mundane lives of those outside the church.

Then there is the “Protestant distortion” which elevates secular over spiritual so that work becomes the thing we serve. Consider the term “full-time Christian service” – is someone who practices their calling outside of what we consider ministry work, or work within the church or a para church organization then not practicing their primary calling? Not at all! But our language gives away what we truly believe. 

Then there is the term “vocational calling” which – remember our definitions – means “calling calling.” So what we mean by “vocational calling” is actually “occupation” or work, and before we know it we’ve separated that area of our lives from our primary calling.

Consider these distortions as evident in the myriad of personality tests, gifts inventories and so on. Think about such tests you may have encountered in the workplace or as part of a self improvement program. The results can be useful to find what our natural tendencies are, but they are largely too broad and don’t really consider specific individual gifts. 

Now think about such a test you might encounter at church. These tend to focus on spiritual gifts, and ignore natural gifts. Often, it seems these tests are geared toward filling up volunteer positions within the church, separating them from life outside the church. 

Other gifts assessments combine the two, but, in Guinness’ words, “they divorce the discovery of giftedness from the worship and listening that is essential to calling”

God's Call

Four Key Distinctions

If we are not careful, the two great distortions take hold. The key, according to Guinness, is to balance giftedness with stewardship. How do we do that? Guinness offers four distinctions – four areas where we must carefully watch the way in which we view calling.

First, we should remember the distinction between individual or particular calling and general or corporate calling. If I elevate my personal calling and giftedness about that of the community, then it’s a sign I have gotten my secondary and primary callings mixed up. 

Then there is the distinction between a special calling and original or ordinary calling. By this the author means we are all called, but there may also be a specific, supernatural and direct calling from God. Everyone has an original or ordinary call. Not everyone has a special call. The ordinary calling is not a “lesser” calling.  

And we can inordinately elevate either the special call or the ordinary call. In one case, everything is treated as supernatural and nothing as ordinary. Not to say we don’t live with a sense of awe and wonder. But there is a real danger if we think we need a special call before we can do anything, because if we wait and ignore the ordinary call, then our gifts and talents remain unused. 

Think about social media and the many opportunities we have for comparing ourselves with others. It’s so easy to fall into the comparison trap and to believe that whatever calling or gifts we have are somehow inferior—or superior. Either of these is destructive. 

The third distinction is between something being central to our calling and something being peripheral. Importantly, we must remember calling is central to the whole of our lives. So it is not only what we do and who we are; it also includes our relationships, and a fallen world.

Guinness says: 

If there had been no Fall, all our work would have naturally and fully expressed who we are and exercised the gifts we have been given. But after the Fall this is not so. Work is now partly creative and partly cursed. Thus to find work that perfectly fits our callings is not a right, but a blessing.

Os Guinness, The Call

I wanted to highlight this because it’s easy to fall into the platitudes and the tactics and the pathways that we pass around on social media. It’s easy to find ourselves in these echo chambers where everybody’s “crushing it” and we can chase after gurus and get caught up in the next big thing. It’s like binge dieting for our minds, consuming content out of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), and it’s not healthy. 

It is possible to nail it – to know your calling and pursue it with excellence, and still not see it come to fruition yourself. I’ll refer to Hebrews 11. We love the first part where the dead are raised and blessings flow, but what about the last verses of that chapter? The ones that come after “There were others who…” and “By the same faith…”  I’ll let you look that up.

Finally, there is the distinction between the clarity of calling and the mystery of calling. As Guinness writes, “What may be clear to us in our twenties may be far more mysterious in our fifties because God’s complete designs for us are never fully understood, let alone fulfilled, in this life.”

I’m on the older end of this one. And I know if I had known at the start what I know now, I may have been too frightened to take the first step. But I’m glad I did. 

Invitation

Set aside some time over the next few days to sit alone and present yourself and your gifts, your talents and your tendencies to God. 

There’s a song that says “Here’s my heart, Lord–speak what is true.” It makes a wonderful prayer.

Somewhere in that quiet place and in that surrender, may the God who created you speak truth about who you are and who He created you to be. 

Let’s hear from you

What are some books you’ve read about calling and purpose? What stuck with you or helped you–and why? Record a short voice memo one minute or less-and let us know. Email the audio to connect@lifeandmission.com – we might play it on a future episode. Or, you can write your answer in a simple email message.  Either way, I’d love to hear YOUR recommendations.

Part Two – Ep. 33 – Living for the Audience of One