For several weeks I’ve been zoomed in close on my word of the year, and my stewardship goals but sometimes stepping back to see how the little pieces fit into the bigger picture is helpful. Today I feel the need to step back a smidge and revisit WHY stewardship is my focus this year.
A few days ago I saw a video on Facebook. Two of my real-life mentors and friends, Frank and Connie Jordan, were being interviewed about formative experiences in the beginnings of their relationships with God. The whole interview was fantastic, (I’d expect nothing less,) but one thing Brother Frank said toward the end of the conversation stuck out to me.
When asked to relate something he wished he’d known when he first started walking with the Lord, he responded, “I expected God to do all the work. It absolved me of having to do anything. God’s going to do what He’s going to do, but He also expects us to do what we’re supposed to do. And He’s not going to do what He’s called us to do…”
I think I said “Amen!” out loud in my house. Because even though I grew up in a Christian family, going to church three times a week, and have been filled with the Holy Spirit for 23 years, this concept has revolutionized my thinking in just the past six years.
My Cop-out Prayer
I wrote about journaling two weeks ago. One theme I notice when I look back at my earliest journals is how often over the years I’ve prayed “God, help me ________.”
Help me be more dedicated.
Help me fight this temptation.
Help me stop being the way I am.
Help me know what to do.
As Brother Frank said, I used those petitions as a way to absolve myself from taking action.
Today, as the mother of a toddler, reading over my old “help me” prayers makes me chuckle. When I tell Abby to clean up her messes, almost every time she will say, “Mama, help me!”
But I know what she really means: “Mama, you do it!”
And I think that’s often what I mean when I ask for God’s help. “God, this is too hard and too big, and I just want you to magically make me holy and make me good and make all this painful stuff go away.”
Am I willing to help my three-year-old clean her room? Sure, I am, but only if she’s going to demonstrate to me that she’s trying. When I see her putting in the effort to be responsible and obedient, I’m happy to pitch in and assist.
But I’m not willing to take over her job.
God parents us in much the same way.
Make Every Effort
In 2013 I heard a Bible study which was pivotal in shaping my understanding on this issue.
1 Peter 1:5-7 says, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”
Peter goes on admonish the church that these qualities should continue and should increase. In verse 10 he implores them “…be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”
Make every effort.
These are all commands to ME. These are not things God is going to do FOR me.
His Spirit provides me with the power to do them, because on my own they would be impossible. But the directive is for ME to take action.
An Object in Motion Stays in Motion
I know I mention the Enneagram almost weekly, but it’s only because learning the framework has been so impactful in the way I see myself, my relationships, my habits (both good and bad), my struggles, and my walk with God.
One of my favorite podcasts about the Enneagram is Susan Stabile’s Enneagram Journey. Recently she interviewed another Enneagram Nine, and in the conversation she said something like, “The more Nines have to do, the more you do.”
It seems like an obvious statement, but as a Nine myself, I found it truly insightful.
Inertia is a real and driving force in my life.
If I’m already busy, I can add a little more to my plate and still manage to get it all done somehow.
A busy week with several appointments? I’ll look over my calendar, find the empty slots, and all my housework and blogging tasks will be completed, no problem. If someone asks me to fit in one more meeting or I need to cram in an extra chore, it’s usually not a big deal.
But if I’m idle, it’s hard to get me moving toward productivity.
A wide open week with nothing scheduled? I’ll probably procrastinate on the cleaning and we’ll end up eating breakfast for dinner because I forgot to defrost the chicken or pre-heat the oven. Then I’ll stay up til all hours on Thursday night to get a blog post finished for Friday.
If I were a car, I’d be highly unreliable. Once I’m in Drive, getting things done and marking things off my list, I resist shifting into Park and taking a break, because I know too well how much harder it will be to get myself going again. I’d rather just keep running full-throttle until I’m totally out of gas and sputter to a stop on the on the side of the (metaphorical) road.
Other times, in my walk with God, and in my life in general, it’s easy for me to slip into Neutral and just coast. If I’m not actively moving toward a goal or staring down a deadline, it’s hard for me to continue progressing. I will let things slide dangerously close to the guardrails before I slam things in Drive, hit the gas, and jerk the steering wheel to get myself back on course.
It’s good to realize this about myself. Not so I can shrug and say, “Oh well! This is just how I am and when I ask God to fix me, nothing happens, so I guess I’ll just always be this way.”
No! Approaching life the way that comes naturally to me isn’t diligence. I can’t let myself coast while also “making every effort.” My natural rhythms of dead batteries and continual jump-starts doesn’t lend itself to effective practice.
This is why the word “steward” jumped out at me late last year. Because a steward is responsible to someone else. I need outer accountability. It’s just part of who I am.
If there’s no natural structure in my life, I need to create it. For blogging, I set the expectation that I’ll have new content up every Friday. Is anyone out there waiting with bated breath for my latest ramblings? It seems unlikely, but knowing that someone might be hopping over here on Friday to see what’s new keeps me click-clacking away at this computer.
In some areas, like my finances or my physical health, there are tangible markers of progression (or digression, as the case may be.) For other things, such as stewarding my motherhood or my marriage, I have no class to pass, no papers to be graded. I’m accountable to God, but the parameters are more amorphous.
Those are the areas where my brain tries to get off the hook and just go with the flow. But effective stewardship is the opposite of coasting.
So I am making lists, and checking off boxes.
Today I’ll sit down with my Powersheets workbook and think about what worked in February and where I need to focus in March.
I’ll look back over my journal to see what themes God is bringing to mind.
I’ll keep praying and seeking God for how I can continue to grow and mature.
I want to compare the goals for stewardship I created in January and hold them up to the light of 1 Peter 1:3-7. Will these areas I’m focused on help me grow in virtue, knowledge, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love?
Because if not, maybe I need to revise them.
I want the promise of verse 10, “…for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”
I don’t have to get them right every time.
I just have to keep moving in the right direction.