Know your awesome powerful voice, now what? Four concepts to consider.
I think by now, if you have been reading from the beginning of this series, you have caught on by what I mean by voice. It is a noun and verb. But it so much more than just doing something for God, it is who we really are when the true essence of our being comes in contact with the divine. It is in this place where God magnifies the best of who we are and transforms it into something greater than could ever develop on its own.
God provides the megaphone
If you could have an anthology of my written works from high school to this present day, there would be a distinctive literary voice or style that would be evident. Gladys Childs' writings would look and read like Gladys Childs' writings. However, when I am authentically connected to the real source of the power behind my voice, my voice becomes magnified. I become louder than I ever could on my own. I become more of who God originally created me to be.
God knows me intimately and deeply, and therefore knows how to make my voice roar. God has the ability to bring out things in me that I have either not brought out yet or do not even have the ability to bring forth. God is my perfect partner of trust. The One with whom I can bare everything and trust that I will not be condemned, rather, God will shape me to make my voice great, make it unique, and make it the truest version of me. So, you read my words and hear my voice but, because of God, it is amplified. What I could do on my own, with God's power, becomes shouted through a megaphone.
The vibrant and living connection with God must be maintained for your voice to have staying power. God transforms our stories into voices for Him. You cannot separate who you are as an individual from your service to God and expect it to be blessed and multiplied. There always needs to be an intentional effort when it comes to your relationship with God.
In my husband's church, there is a deliberate emphasis on the 6 Spiritual Habits: daily devotionals, Christian community, sabbath holiness, tithing, missions, and witnessing. Each of these are important to ground us as Christians and deepen our walk with God. They are non-negotiable. Period. Daily devotionals involve talking and listening to God through scripture reading, prayer, and quiet reflection. Christian community is getting connected to the body of Christ. Sabbath holiness requires taking a day off for worship and to rest. Tithing is where you give 10% of your income to your local church. Missions is giving your time and resources beyond the walls of the church. And, witnessing involves building bridges to "love" your neighbors and friends to Christ.
When you are negligent in one or more of these areas, you are going to struggle and feel more disconnected from God and your voice will wither. If you were wanting to be an Olympic athlete, you would take the steps required to excel in a particular sport. You would learn, train, and prepare mentally, physically, and emotionally to become an Olympian. The same is true if you wanted to become a teacher, a fireman, accountant, or plumber. So, why all the huffing and puffing when it comes to your faith? The only way to be a strong and vibrant Christian is to do what it takes to get there -- the 6 Spiritual Habits.
God transforms our stories into voices for Him
One of the individuals who is a regular reader of my blogs said she is learning so much about me. She has been surprised by some of my past. I told her that one of my students said, "Dr. Childs, you do not look like your story." It is true, I do not look like my story. That is the power of God. God transforms our pasts into futures.
That is one of the amazing things about God. Romans 8:28 says: "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." (ESV) This is an often-cited verse. Sometimes I wonder if one of the reasons it is repeated so often is because we are trying to convince ourselves of its validity. However, if we have lived long enough and persevere through the various trials that come our way and continue to seek God, we do not have to convince ourselves of the truth of Romans 8:28. We know and have lived its truth. God is always redeeming what we or others have broken.
I know when one is in a season of difficulty that it can seem to go on forever. And, literally, the season of difficulty can last for years. I know from personal experience. However, that is not the time to turn away from or blame God. We are called by God to trust Him, live out what it means to be a Christian through Christ's example, and keep moving forward. And, as my husband likes to say often to the congregation, the worst thing is never the last thing where God is concerned. Amen to that.
People who do not know who God is and how God works, or who have never accepted Christ, or have accepted Christ but never taken the time to grown in their faith often blame God for their misery. When it was either another person, themselves, or just part of the natural cycle that caused the grief in the first place. When Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana, it was interesting for me to watch people either thank God for His vengeance on the "sin" city of New Orleans or watch people blame God and ask Him why was He punishing them, was He not a God of love?
Really? Both drove me nuts. God does not look down on earth and say, "Who do I get to zap today?" That idea comes the gods the Greeks worshipped. Not from the God of the Israelites. Did God tell people to build a city below sea level...no. Humans did that because they loved the beauty of the place, and it would make a great seaport. Was there warning to get out and leave...yes. Did a lot of people deliberately choose to stay thinking the storm would not be that big of deal...yes. So, let me think on this for a bit, humans chose to build a city below sea level and when there was warning to leave a lot of people who could leave the city did not. For those who were physically unable to leave, did everyone pitch in and make it possible for them to leave...no. So, how is any of this God's fault? Sounds like human fault to me. The irony is for all the "religious" people who kept preaching God's justice failed to overlook that the French Quarter and the main entertainment parts of New Orleans which are considered to be "so sinful" were not even flooded during the storm. These areas fared better because they were located on higher ground.
I know a lot of people really do struggle with the idea of suffering, but I will not discuss it more here as it is its own blog series. The bottom line is, we serve an awesome God who takes the suffering we experience and can transform it into a brilliant and bright future if we follow Him.
Say "no" to false humility
It is odd that we are all surprised when someone does not look or act like their story. However, as children of God there should be no amazement. The Bible is perfectly clear on the transforming power of God. In Christ we have new identities and are new creations. (2 Cor. 5:17) So why the false humility? Jesus never once portrayed falseness of character. Jesus knew who he was and whose he was. He owned his power in God. We should do the same. We should own the voice that God has given us and the power and influence that come with it.
If I had studied for years to be an accountant and then studied more to become a C.P.A., would I advertise my craft by saying, "Sorry. I can sort of manage financial accounts. So sorry." No, that would be dumb. And I know most people would not want to go to a surgeon who touted, "I graduated from Yale Medical School, I was the bottom of my class, but it was Yale." Do not apologize for being a Christian or for using the gifts God has given you. Jesus never apologized for being a Jew or the Son of God. And we should not apologize for being a Christian or for using our voice.
Look at the men and women of the early church. If, as individuals, they had gone around apologizing and feeling less than their brothers and sisters in Christ, where would we be today? They went forth boldly, they lived against the norms of their day, and dared to be different. Somehow, over the centuries we have taken words, phrases, and stories out of the Bible and misconstrued them to say Christians should be subservient, smaller, quieter, inward facing, and less then. All of that is a pile of garbage.
False humility is learned. It comes from history, society, and us, but it is not from God.
If you are having difficulty wrapping your mind around the difference between humility and false humility, here is another way to look at it. With true humility you recognize who came before you, where you come from, who helped you along the way, your strengths and weaknesses, and God's grace, mercy, and love in your life. And the recognition of all those facts does not lessen or cheapen your accomplishments. There is no "less than" in the body of Christ. We and our gifts are all critical and needed.
Voices may change over time
If you have just discovered your voice or are trying out a strong contender, it may horrify your senses that voices can change over time. It is true. Voices may be different in various seasons of life and that is okay. There are two main problems as voices change: surviving the transition and regret over a past voice.
Transition between voices may or may not be difficult. I have experienced easy transitions and transitions so difficult that you would not believe me if I told you what happened. What I have learned from both is that I am so glad God wanted me to change and go down a new path. The transition has always been worth it, even if I did not know it at the time. It is amazing how God always has the right path at the right time for each and every one of us. More often than not, if we would stop fighting God for control, our transitions would be less difficult.
One of the easy transitions happened during my first master's degree. With a double major in Counseling and Psychology, I went to seminary and studied Christian Counseling with the intent of obtaining my Ph.D. in that field. God had other plans. I was merrily going along and loving it all until it was time for practicum. I had finished most of the master's classes in counseling and would now spend most of my time learning in an actual counseling setting with real clients. To help prepare us for this, we were able to practice on our classmates. I was assigned to counsel a couple. I can still vividly see them sitting on the couch in front of me talking about their issues. And, I remember thinking, "Eeew. I do not want to be here. I do not want to know what "stuff" is going on in their lives." I felt nauseous. And then it dawned on me that I would spend the rest of my life listening to other people's problems. Why? Why would I want to do that as problems fall into two main categories: stupid and really serious. I knew the stupid problems would get on my nerves and the really serious issues would make me angry and/or sad. I did not want to spend rest of my life aggravated by stupid problems or distraught over serious ones.
Looking back, I know I had those feelings because God wanted me to go down a different path. Before that semester ended, I let everyone know I was leaving the program and would be moving into religious education. Everyone thought I was crazy for deciding this. Fellow student after student came up to me and said, "You are the best one in the program. You cannot leave." Was I the best in my year, yes. Was that where God wanted me to be, no. It was such an easy decision as I trusted God and went with the flow. Did I know where I was headed long term - nope. I just knew I was not on the right path. I have always been at peace with this and have never regretted it. In fact, after I switched programs I was happier than I had been before, even though I was perfectly happy in counseling. I could have settled for good when God had better in store for me. What is good and right for one person may not be right and good for someone else.
I did not waste my time getting a double major in Counseling or Psychology or half a master's in Christian Counseling. All of that serves me to this day and is a perfect fit with how I serve God now. I had a publisher say to me, your degrees are so appropriate for what your write about and they go all the way back. Thanks God. Do not have regret over a past voice as you transition to a new one. God can and will use all seasons of your life to continue to mature and deepen your voice. It is so easy as we move into a new voice, especially if the transition is difficult, to say that the current voice is the one we should have always had, and we just overlooked it or missed it somehow and then we look down on the voice we were serving God with before. Please stop. To say that a former voice was wrong is really saying God was not able to use you during that time period, which is just not true.
Next week, will be the last installment in this series. So come back as I wrap everything up and focus on positively using our voice. Feel free to follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest and share posts and make comments as you see fit. If you have not signed up for my email list, please do so. I send out bi-monthly newsletters and behind the scenes information.