“The struggle is real.”
Ever heard this saying before? It seems to be a popular phrase quoted by many these days when facing hard times or just a long and tiring day at work…
Recently though – I have found it interesting that despite going through days of my own where the struggle has felt all too real… I have been given more random compliments from friends and words of flattery than I have seemed to notice before. This post is not to point out these compliments, but to bring awareness to the fact that compliments can hold more than just kind words. (I should note that I write this post as I continue to learn how to balance all aspects of my life; my love for wildlife, for people, for my home and for my future. At times these tend to conflict with each other and I find it all too much to think about at once… How could I want to stay home but also want to be somewhere else – how can I aspire to live a life that seems so hard to maintain – How can I be everything to everyone while also pursuing my dreams?) So here are just a few of my thoughts that I felt lead to share with you as I travel along this crazy life journey… All of them stemming from what receiving compliments has revealed to me…
While I am no Superwoman, I have realized that through recent compliments – I am apparently doing a lot better job at life than I give myself credit for. And I believe this is the same for you – whoever you are reading this. While my faith is in God and I know that he is always with me – I have realized that the Devil is just as real and is just as at work in our daily lives. These compliments remind me that maybe you and I are actually doing a good job at the point in our lives that we are at – and that inward doubt you may be feeling is not necessarily the truth. So I guess in sum – take it a little easier on yourself. Be proud of where you are at and what you are doing and take a breath every now and then. Listen to God’s voice, who realizes we are not perfect – and yet loves us just the same. God wouldn’t tell you to doubt yourself or to feel anxious every day. He may redirect your steps and inspire you to feel directed in other ways, but I do not believe feelings of guilt, anxiety, or hurriedness will accompany his word. Those feelings are either of human nature or of devil inspired deceit. Identify the difference between feeling overwhelmed and feeling directed. One inspires anxiety – the other inspires movement.
Henry David Thoreou once said, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.” Notice that he didn’t say go all-knowingly in the direction of your dreams… I believe this is something worth pointing out. I have realized recently that much of my anxiety – that others probably don’t see (or maybe some do), stems from the unknown. Stems from the inability to completely predict the outcome of a situation, a relationship, or a decision. But in reality, not one of us is ever going to truly know our futures. We can make decisions that point us in certain directions, that guide us along the way, and that keep us moving – but we cannot ever know where the journey will always lead. One decision opens the door to others – inviting in other opportunities for both doubt and faith. And because we are human – we must daily fight between choosing one over the other. I am no different.
However, something I am working on is learning to be confident versus striving to be all knowing. I use to think that being confident meant knowing all the answers (and while having answers does help), there is something also wise about being confident in the unknown. For me, this is much easier because of my relationship with God – who I know always has my best interest in mind… But that doesn’t always mean I do maintain the confidence in myself that I wish I would – and that He probably does as well.
So realize, we are not meant to know nor will we ever know the future – so why try so hard to have it all planned? What we can control is our confidence and our peace in knowing we can control each day of our life. That our confidence in ourselves can literally change the outcome of situations and can overrule the unknown. If I had the confidence in myself that others proclaim they see in me – maybe I would be Superwoman after all… So trust yourself a little more. We are created to be strong – but it is up to us to anchor our truths in what our God says about us. That we are created perfectly – that he knew us before we were born – and that if we choose to believe, we have the SAME power in our bodies that lifted Jesus from the dead…. (In that case – maybe I really am Superwoman!)
Something else I have realized as well is that distractions in life are a real problem… I am guilty of being so distracted by doubt (among other things) that I miss how well I am genuinly doing… Or fail to receive friendly compliments, believing that they are lies and that I couldn’t possibly be helping others the way they proclaim. But distractions – whether through doubt or other tangible means – can be just as detrimental to your success and daily happiness as doubt can be. When you are called to do something different than most – there will be distractions disguised as obligations. Obligations to stay up late and go out with friends, obligations to work tirelessly because it is the standard, obligations to follow a prescribed format for life because 90% of those around you are doing the same… But what seem like obligations could in fact be distractions preventing you from living that life you dream about. Not all obligations are bad – some are very real and very important – but pause and think about today – what did you do for you? What made you happy that didn’t require working for someone else or making sure someone else’s needs were met? I don’t mean to sound selfish, but if we spend all our time making others happy, reaching deadlines, and meeting the expectations of others – whose life are we really living?
I recently read a book by Lauren Cunningham (the creator of Youth With A Mission) about faith, finances, and life. In the book he writes, “Don’t waste your time trying to do things that God has neither called nor equipped you to do.” This was a great reminder to me that we can excel at many things, be great at keeping others expectations met, and live a life that meets our needs… But what is it that you are called to do? Is there someone or something – disguised as an obligation – that is preventing you on giving your 100% to your calling or to what you want to do? Just food for thought… It is my prayer for you and for myself that we don’t spend time doing unnecessary ventures, but that we move into the areas of our lives that he has both called and already equipped us to fulfill. Not all obligations are distractions – but it is good to be able to discriminate between the two. (I know a big distraction for me is a busy schedule and trying to constantly fit everything in – when I should be fulfilling other priorities for both myself and my God given calling.)
Compliments have also recently brought to mind another area of concern… How do you know if you are or aren’t in the right field, especially if you are seemingly doing well at something? I don’t have all the answers, but as a follower of Jesus – the answer is simple for me. It is that pull in your heart at the end of the day. That pull often asks me – what are your priorities, what makes you happy, and are you doing such things? Or more blatantly – are you listening to me? The Bible reminds us, “Be careful. If you aren’t your hearts will be loaded down with wasteful living, drunkness and the worries of life. Then the day God appears will close on you… You will not be expecting it. That day will come upon every person who lives on the whole earth.” (Luke 21:34-25)
Wasteful living: To me that doesn’t mean just doing things that are morally wrong, but also essentially wasting your time. Not living for the right things or not fully investing yourself in what you are called to do…
Drunkness: pretty obvious
Worries of life: Well, we all are familiar with these. Worries about finances, buying into the latest trends, making sure other’s expectations are met, wondering about the future, being quick to anger and slow to forgive… the list goes on and on and we all face such worries on a daily basis.
But — Jesus tells us – BE CAREFUL. Otherwise your heart will be loaded down. (Ever feel like that?) And that is not what He wants for any of us. He realizes the struggle is real – He realizes this earth is filled with the works of the devil. He gives us free will – but He encourages us to think about the ways we are living and to be careful! In order to avoid living our lives in a way that makes us anxious, sad, and worried among other distractions.
In my heart, I know that I have many areas that I need to work on. I worry about many things, I know I waste a lot of time prioritizing things of this world and the expectations of others. I also tend to feel like I have to fit the roles others see me as or that the world says I should be… But the Bible also reminds us – “Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Stop wanting what others have. Don’t speak against each other.” (1 Peter 1:22)
So simplify, what do you want to be? Do you really need that thing you see everyone else has/wears/does? What do YOU want? And that is okay if it is different than most! Find joy in who you are. He made you perfectly. And in the end you will never fit the mold, be the perfect friend, or do everything right always anyway. But so long as you are loving your neighbor, prioritizing what is good, and pressing forward – you can rest in his peace.
So for me, I am thankful for the compliments my friends have given me – but they have also made me realize these other areas of my life I need to work on – and perhaps these ring true for you as well in some way…
Are the compliments reflections of who you want to be or are they of what you are doing? If they are of what you are doing – do you feel joy when you receive them knowing you are pursuing your calling or do you feel that silent voice saying – that is great, but something just doesn’t feel right… If so, perhaps they are unknowingly directed at a distraction temporarily preventing you from being all you are called and equipped to be — rather than what you know in your heart you can be. Regardless, compliments are a great and special thing to be appreciated – but use them as reminders to both be easy on yourself and also to check where you are at on your journey.
I know the things that make me happy and that I would like to prioritize are spending time with God and family, writing, reading, and helping animals facing extinction. Some are more thought requiring than others – but they all make me happy and I do believe they are gifts and desires God has called me to enjoy, fulfill, and spend my time wisely pursuing.
I write this post with the intent and the desire to do more of all of the above and to let the rest sort itself out. I know if I am doing what I am supposed to do – those who truly love will remain in my life, support me, and encourage my calling. And to me – that is the biggest compliment of all.
I hope this inspired and/or reminded you in some way of the value of your life and what you are called to be. Put aside all other distractions for a moment and consider where you are at and what you are doing… Pray about your reflections and have the courage to follow where He is leading – confidently – not all knowingly – with movement – not anxiety.
Always show love for others, stay humble, slow to anger, and do what He has called and equipped you to – while you have the chance to.