Are you an Achiever-Believer?

I went to great lengths to find this picture of my old table!

 

I felt the grooves of the soft wood on the palms of my hand, as I decided whether or not to purchase the table. “It’s hard to find handmade tables like this anymore,” The owner said. “After the industrial revolution, many craftsman went out of business. Each table used to be unique with it’s own carved details and imperfections, like this one. But society became more concerned about quantity and uniformity. Since machines were more efficient, here we are.” The owner explained the craftsman of the table was a famous artist from Italy. I wasn’t sure he was telling the truth (it was a craigslist purchase after all), but the story touched my heart and the table was beautiful.

For years, I held on to this impractical table. It was a sticky, soft wood – impossible to clean for a mom with three kids. It was like putting your dinner plate on a layer of maple syrup every night. And it was heavy (you need a team to move it heavy).  But I loved that table. I loved the grooves and waves of the wood that peeked through the dark stain, and the industrial bolts underneath. Mostly, I loved the story behind it and the idea of supporting a craftsman who loved his work.

I have a book on personality types and I am the “The Achiever.” I see a little achiever in my son too, always looking for the next task, the next responsibility, the next goal to reach. In school, the achiever in me piled up straight A’s, extracurricular activities, awards and benchmarks to success. I viewed love as something to be earned.

In college, I became a Christian and everything changed. I encountered God, I encountered His love. I learned His love is unconditional – not based on my performance, my efforts or achievements. I encountered a God who wanted to be with me, not for what I could do for Him.

A simple truth still refreshes my soul: God is after my heart not my output.

I didn’t have my eye on the handmade table because of it’s industrious capacity, I had my eye on it because it’s a piece of art. Intention and passion shine through the design of the table. It’s unique, made by a creator who cares about the details.

Ephesians 2:10 says,For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

For my fellow achiever-believers, we need these truths breathed into our lives. If not, we become consumed doing work for God while missing out on spending time with God. We are loved for our form, not our function. Our Father, the great craftsman, delights in being with us. He doesn’t form us into His image in assembly line fashion. He takes pleasure in the process and invites us to enjoy the process too. Yes, we are created to do good work, but first we must remember we are His work.

My son has been making school lunches lately. He made lunches for two weeks straight even though I never asked him to. Monday he woke up late, I made lunches and didn’t think anything of it. On the way home from school he said, “I’m so sorry I didn’t make lunches this morning, Mom. I was really tired.”

I looked at my achiever son and brushed his hair out of his face. I told him not to apologize, that I never expected him to pack lunches for me.

Then I spoke words to him every achiever needs to hear:

“I love you for who you are, not what you do.”

Fake or Faith?

A couple weeks ago, I ran into a young woman struggling in her marriage. She said, “I just gotta fake it until I make it, right?”

I hear that phrase periodically and it doesn’t sit well with me, I’m a girl who treasures authenticity.  I hugged the young woman and said, “How about FAITH it until you make it? God doesn’t want us to be fake.”

“That’s good! I like that.” She said before we parted ways.

One little word can make a big difference in how we see God through our circumstances and approach him. Fake is different than Faith. Faith is not being fake, there is nothing fake about making the choice to focus on God’s greatness.

I used to have a motto when it came to prayer. I would say, “The only ingredient to a successful prayer is sincerity.” My passion for sincerity was in an effort to avoid being like the scribes who prayed for pretense (Luke 20:46-47). They were being fake, they were praying for show. I also noticed others memorizing prayers (like the Lord’s prayer) and reciting them like the pledge of allegiance. In an effort to pull myself and others towards an authentic relationship with God, I emphasized sincerity. I still believe 100% in sincere prayers, but I’ve also noticed the power of adding one extra ingredient: Faith.

Jesus said in Mark 11:22-24, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

I recently made my first Facebook live video on our tendency to “worry-pray.” Instead of praying in faith, we can have the tendency to magnify the problem rather than the problem-solver. I wrote out a faith-declaration about who God is (all based on scripture), as a way of setting my mind on the greatness of God first before I bring him my concerns. When I set my mind on His greatness, my (once) mountain of a problem starts to look more like a speck. It’s not fake, it’s focus.

If our prayers magnify our problem to be bigger than God and His power – our faith is in the wrong thing.

Yesterday, my daughter came to me overwhelmed with homework. As we sat on her bed, I pulled out my faith-declaration and read it to her. Tears fell down her face as she was reminded of our God who is limitless in strength and power when she feels weak. She asked if she could hang a copy up in her bedroom. The privilege of paving the way in motherhood never gets old. I want her to know what real faith is. Fake smiles through gritted-teeth and says, “I can do this.” But faith is different. Faith says, “I can’t do this, but my great God certainly can!”

When People Walk Away

“When you follow the plan of God for your life, you will lose people along the way.”

My wise mentor, Julie Gorman, said those words to me. They are words I don’t like hearing but I know are true. Julie is an incredible author who writes marriage books with her husband, she is more sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit than almost anyone I know. When she ran full force toward the call of God on her life to help marriages, she lost friends. Some dropped her on social media, some criticized her business plan, some left for other reasons. Julie explained to me this process helped identify who the message was for. Our church, business, writing, creative outlet, mission work, etc. –  isn’t going to be for everyone. We can’t be everyone’s flavor, and that’s okay. Here’s the crossroad:

Will we let discouragement win or the will of God?

When Jesus sent the apostles to preach to the lost, he said (Matthew 10:14) “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from you feet when you leave that house or town.”

What he didn’t say was, “Focus on those who won’t listen and become so discouraged about it that you no longer have the strength to take the message to anyone else. Stay focused on those who don’t receive and neglect those who will receive.” Nope. He didn’t say it because it doesn’t work. Some people don’t want to hear it at all, and some want to hear it from a different source, and that’s okay. Our job is to keep going.

Will you faithfully show up to do what God called you to do and say what God called you to say, even when people walk away? Will you have the courage to keep focused on God and people in need? There is fertile soil somewhere, our job is to go find it.