I’ve often said that when you first tell people that you want to be a writer, expect a lot of blank stares at best, and a reaction akin to announcing that you plan to become a serial killer at worst. That is, until you get published. Then everybody will know you and proudly proclaim that they knew you “back when.” They’ll completely forget all the times they said “why do you want to do that?” or “didn’t you graduate? Why not go back to school instead if that’s what you want to do?” Or any other number of “helpful suggestions” that included doing anything but that.
That’s not to say that I didn’t have support. Of course, those closest to me wanted me to succeed at making my dreams come true, but let’s face it – your inner circle is usually pretty small. Most of the people you know won’t be in it, and they certainly won’t understand the things that are most important to you. In fact, even those in your “inner circle” will eventually lose their enthusiasm for your personal pursuits if they don’t see results face, and often. It’s unfortunate, but peoples’ attention spans are usually much shorter than God’s timing. Most people don’t have patience to stay the course, especially in a culture where everything is instantaneous and available with the click of the mouse or the press of a button. That’s why I believe that internal motivation is perhaps the most important element in pursuing your authenticity and purpose in life.
What is internal motivation? Basically, it’s the determination and inner drive to see things through to the end, no matter what it takes. I’ve said before that God will only reveal purpose to you, and for that reason you simply can’t rely on others to hold you up and carry you through the finish line. They have their hands full with their own lives and frankly, they are probably overwhelmed with keeping up with the day to day grind of reality. You must have strength within you to stay the course and be determined to see things through all the way to the end, no matter how many battles or struggles you must endure. There path to purpose isn’t a straight line, but rather a winding highway. There will be progress and setbacks, trials and errors, success and failure, as you wind through the journey. Some people will be with you for all of it, some for part, but remember that they are also taking their own journey’s. We all only have so much emotional energy and must dedicate it to those things that matter most. And let’s be honest, what are you more concerned with: Your own life or somebody elses’? That’s not being selfish – it’s just the way it is. We must attend to our own obligations and priorities first and foremost.
Likewise, there are also people that don’t want to see you succeed. This usually isn’t personal, even though it feels like a very real attack on who we are. It’s really smoke and mirrors for their own insecurity. I believe we all have these “emotional vampires” in our lives that can find the dark cloud in any silver lining and discourage us from doing anything that causes us to rise above where we’re at. Their security is in making sure that you (and often, everybody they know) stay inside the convenient box they’ve put you in for their own comfort. You must realize that this box isn’t your problem. Do yourself a favor by dealing with these toxic relationships quickly and efficiently, and moving on. In fact, that might be the very thing that makes them realize the right thing to do so they can get on with their own lives. Doing the right thing and refusing to accept other peoples’ problems is often the best living testimony we can provide to the world.
Yes, the journey to purpose can be a lonely one at times. There are journey’s we must take alone and things we must discover on our own. The good news is that we are never really alone. The Lord is always right there with us, to ensure that we stay on the right path. He will always do His part as long as we do our part by following the prompting of the Spirit, but sometimes what is right isn’t what looks or seems right. That’s why it’s so important to be internally motivated. These promptings are usually very personal, and we have to be able to stand up to scrutiny, discouragement, and sometimes even attack to see the victory. But as I’ve said so many times before, the reward is well worth it. There’s nothing better than realizing you are uniquely and wonderfully made, and being content with who you are.
Next Time: Contentment – The Secret to Joy.
In this fourth entry of the From Sidekicks to Superheroes series, I’d like to talk about the devil. My point is rather fundamental – it’s that the devil does resist us when we try to be all we were meant to be. Simply stated, he lets no good deed go unpunished. The entire reason why sin and evil exist is because Satan hates humanity and wantsus to suffer. Period. He’s not going to let us have an easy life and we will have to fight the devil every day we walk this Earth.
I trust you understand all of that. I did offer more in the way of reflection on this point in Battleground Earth – Living by Faith in a Pagan World and I encourage you to check that out if you’re interested. For the sake of berevity, I am going to focus this entry on making an important distinction that I feel many people fail to make: That Satan is not the source of all the problems we face in our lives. Although he is the source of plenty of misery and suffering, the truth is that the things we come up against are sometimes the result of our own errors or (gasp!) God Himself resisting us. Let me explain:
Simply stated, we all make mistakes. We’re human and it happens. Sometimes, however, we’re so hung up on our own will that we aren’t willing to admit that we made the mistake. When that happens, God usually puts resistance in our way to give us an opportunity to stop for a moment and take stock. But if we refuse to heed these “warning shots,” then we become a victim of our own mistakes. Here’s an example from my own life:
When I graduated college, I intended to go to graduate school. I had all intentions of getting my Master’s Degree, but I was engaged and the desire to get married and start my own home was greater than further academic pursuit. Ok, I thought, I’ll take some time off, get established, and go back to school later. I did get married, we bought our home, and I found a job, which lead to a promotion a year and a half later. At the time my job had a tuition reimbursement program, so once my one year probation was over, I began looking into advanced degree program opportunities. As luck would have it, I did find one program that I was very interested in, and it qualified for the program. But that’s where the luck stopped.
As soon as I started the application process, I got a memo that the tuition reimbursement program was being cancelled due to budget problems. This was a first “sign” that something wasn’t right. I felt some doubt, but I plugged on. I submitted my application and started looking for grants, loans, and other types of financial aid. Once they received my application, another “sign” came: One of the program administrators called me and said the program didn’t have enough applicants for the following semester, so they were deferring all applicants until the following semester.
At this point, I had serious doubts. I had long dreamed of getting my Master’s degree, but the truth was that I was happy in my current job, and I was starting to wonder if it would be wise for me to take on this burden so early in our marriage. I finally, for the first time, prayed about the situation, and sensed that I was to do nothing for the time being. Allow things to unfold and see what happens.
A week later two things happened: I found out that our household income was too high to qualify for financial aid, and I got a letter from the college stating that due to low enrollment, the program had been disbanded.
Talk about a door slamming closed in your face! I heard the locks bolt and the chain slide too! But I got it – the Lord had me on the path I was meant to be on, and a higher education wasn’t part of it. That was an emotionally and heartbreaking incident for me, and I brought it upon myself. If I had taken time to pray and seek His will instead of following my own ambition, I could have saved so much time and trouble for myself.
There are times, however, when the devil does come against us. For example, that graduate program was reinstated several years later –right when Rick and I started the process of selling our old home and building a new one, in fact. We talked about it for all of 2 minutes before the graduate school option was thrown out completely, for once and for all. The timing and circumstances had finally come together for us to build, and when I took a good look at our life together, I realized that we had accomplished all we wanted by that point anyway without the advanced degree. I finally realized the graduate degree was nothing but selfish ambition for me. I traded “I” and “me” for “us”and “we” when I got married, and part of those marriage vows are to consider how what each does contributes to the whole; and an advanced degree contributed nothing to us as a couple. But I do feel like the devil threw that option at me at that point in time to see if we could be diverted from building our“dream home” and the life that the Lord wanted Rick and I to have together.
The point of this entry is that you must be aware of what’s happening in the spiritual realm if you hope to be authentic and have the victory that Christ died for you to have. It can be difficult to discern whether the things we face are satanic opposition, sowing consequences of our actions, or Holy Intervention, and I’m sorry to say there’s not an earthly litmus test for this. Your only test is that of prayer and the intervention of the Holy Spirit. If you lift up all things in prayer, the Spirit will reveal truth and show you the right way.
For the sake of berevity I’m going to close with this. Next time, we’ll talk about the 4 ways the devil attacks us and how to stand up to it.