Following Makes the Follower

I’ve just read another article defending school teachers. It’s the millionth  (probably zillionth) published, rapidly going viral, well deserved justification of my profession. Really, there’s so much written which credits teachers as heroes that I’m having trouble figuring out who the villains are. Exactly who is panning American educators, laying the blame squarely out our feet for the very downfall of Western Civilization? Admittedly my research on this topic is grossly limited because no one is liking and sharing the blog posts which bemoan teachers for being lazy freeloaders.

Teaching wears me out. It’s hard work. And ladies and gentlemen, I am not lazy. Here’s a little known fact that I always want to scream from a rooftop when I hear teachers criticized—the skills, people. It takes an unbelievable amount skill to deliver a lesson well. Communication, intuition, classroom  management, on your feet decision making, maintaining discipline—SKILLS. And that’s just the delivery of a lesson.  That’s not to mention the interpersonal skills it takes to develop relationships with  your students and create a welcoming atmosphere for each class, even though at times you’re met with fierce resistance.

Now, how about planning? When I first switched from teaching English to history, I sat at my desk and cried because I had no idea where to start. I’m not sure about other teachers, but I do a fair amount of research for history presentations. It’s very time consuming. Then, you have to be creative, even a little artistic at times. Technology? Heck, yeah. You better be on top of that.  Time management? Indispensable. Planning is just a fraction of what a teacher does in the mislabeled “planning period”. Teachers act as their own personal assistants. We type, copy, distribute, and file every document ourselves.  In 45 minutes, I may have a stack of papers to grade, a couple of tests to run through the copier, an assignment to type, and five or so emails to answer in addition to all the research and lesson planning. Then there’s the matter of personal business. More than once, I’ve spent the bulk of a planning period playing phone tag with my doctor’s office.

But here’s the kicker, folks. You can’t simply have nominal familiarity with each skill. To be the teacher that apparently we are all expected to be, you have to master all these skills.  What’s a perfectionist like Mrs. Beasley to do? Well, let me tell ya. I feel a lot of pressure. All the time. At least once every school year, I have something like a nervous breakdown. The kids know I’m a basket case and discuss it when I’m not around. It’s embarrassing. I thought it would get better when I left public schools for Christian education, but I have a unique gift for not letting things go.

All this pressure has given me mixed feelings about my career as a teacher. I love planning (the creative part, not all the clerical stuff) and presenting. I truly do. I enjoy my students. But my heart’s desire was always to be a stay at home mom.  As a young adult, I never envisioned my children in daycare, or in full-time pre-K classes, all so that I could put in my time teaching other people’s children during the day and have nothing left over for my own in the evenings. I thought it would get easier when my children got a little older. They’re in the first and fifth grades now, and I chase my tail now more than ever. I’d love to quit my job, run my household, be more available to my husband and children, and write.

I’m sure that sounds cynical, but I promise this post has a happy ending. I’ve returned to teaching several times because of circumstances. It took a lot of years for us to finally have a family of our own. Every year that I returned to school in August felt like a slap in the face. I simply wouldn’t be there if I hadn’t miscarried. Those years were long and bore the ever present specters of brokenhearted loss and freaking out over test scores. Public school, I don’t miss you.

For a few years after we first adopted, I quit teaching and worked part-time. This I could manage. But, Todd’s call to plant a church is my call to plant a church. It’s that one flesh thing, I think. The first time that he suggested I go back to teaching school full-time so that he work on a church plant, I lit into him. It was not my finest hour as a wife, I confess. Amazingly, the Lord went to work on me, and I’ll never regret the decision to move, go back to work, and plant Renew Church. I might choose an easier schedule, but I love my school and I love my students.

Unfortunately, my spiritual gift is wearing my feelings on my sleeve and blabbing my thoughts and opinions to anyone with ears, so it’s no secret how hard teaching full-time is for me.

Luckily, my principal and I have a good working relationship, one characterized by my frank admissions that teaching wears me out and I’m pretty much always overwhelmed. He knew the day he interviewed me that I’d hoped to move on from teaching eventually. That he still hired me is better than any trust building exercise. Over time, I’ve conveyed my deepest concerns about my employment without holding much back. I’m a better wife and mother when I am not obligated to a full-time job. It plays on my conscience to be deprived of the time and energy that I’m sure should go to my family. Recently, he waved me into his office to ask me how I’m doing. I had a miscarriage a couple of weeks before school started. It’s been a hard year.

We had an honest conversation. We always do. He knows that I would like to be at home more and have time to write. He knows that I have to work to support us while we plant the church. He knows that more than anything, I wanted my baby. I assured him that, as worn out as I get, I’m all in. “I know,” he said. “You’re committed to these students.” Thank you for that, Mr. G. I’d like to think that each and every nervous breakdown has been for the greater progress of the gospel.

Then he said something that I wasn’t sure I could accept.

“You’re going to have to be OK with the fact that God called you to teach. I know it’s true because He’s using you here.”

See, this is a problem because that was a really nice thing to say, and I can see that you’re my biggest fan, but that’s not what I wanted to hear.

Also, that’s the second principal who told me that I’m called to Christian education. It’s the second time that I doubted (and resented) this assessment of God’s will. That conversation has hovered over my thoughts since that day. Honestly, it depressed me a little. And irked me a lot. I’d like to determine what God’s telling me to do, thank you very much.

A few weeks ago, I was writing a bible study lesson for my small group when God placed a startlingly simple truth under my nose. What makes a follower of Christ? It’s the following.

In order to disciple, we teach all these different facets of the Christian walk—pray, study, worship, serve. Don’t conform. Be transformed. We flesh out all those simple truths into a litany of specific obligations. Attend church—be there. Join a small group—get real.  Sing in the band—serve in the way that gives you joy. Teach Sunday school—volunteer when no one else will. Go on a mission trip—stretch yourself. Surrender to the ministry—make church your job. Plant a church—even if it’s crazy. Surrender to missions—go where no one else will.

So much stuff. Am I simply picking what works for me and my situation? Why do some women get to stay home but I have to work? And, how do I know I’m not called to something even bigger, like foreign missions? And, if I have a passion to write and it is really fulfilling to me, can that be my call?

A week or so later, I was teaching European imperialism to my 9th grade history students. The presentation includes details of the Chinese Boxer Rebellion between 1899-1901. As we discussed the massacres of foreign missionaries and Chinese Christians, I told the students that one question plagues me every time I teach this unit.

Why does God call some to all that hardship—in this case to be the victims of unthinkable atrocities– but He called me to Baptist Prep?

Funny. Those words—called me to Baptist Prep—that actually came from my mouth. OK, it’s true. If I felt that God had some other plan, that’s what I would do. Also, in comparison to martyrdom, teaching seems so easy. Even funnier, the next thing to tumble from my lips was that startlingly simple answer. What makes a Christ follower is the following. He leads. You follow. Period.

I have a friend who might have made an awesome school teacher, but she is now a missionary in Ecuador. She’s single. Her heart’s desire is to take God’s Word to women in the jungle. He led her there. She followed. It never crossed my mind that God might ask me to follow Him, as a single woman with no children in my future, into missions.

I have a another friend who would much rather be a missionary in Africa than teach school. She owns a salon, her day job, if you will. But she’s also  fundraising for African Christian Outreach for no pay at all. Someday, she’ll be in Africa full-time. She can’t wait for the day that Jesus leads her to Kenya for good. I’ve always been kind of relieved that He never led me to Kenya.

I have another friend who works in a nursing home and I can tell that those patients are richly blessed to have her there. She is amazing, so compassionate and genuine.  Me? I’d rather teach school, or go to Africa, or to a jungle, or teach school in an African jungle, than work in a nursing home. I kind of have a phobia of nursing homes. Please God, don’t lead me there!

What those women do seems so difficult to me. Yet, I’ve heard from my friends again and again, “I don’t know how you do it. I couldn’t work with kids every day.” They might be really relieved that God didn’t call them to teach writing to eighth graders (which is hard, I can tell you).

The strongest spiritual influence in my life, my mom, was a teacher for a short time. I’m sure she believed when she was in college that she would teach for a lot of years. But God led her to Bible Study Fellowship International, and she followed—first as a class member, then in leadership in the children’s program, and finally she became a teaching leader. I’ve always been astounded at the influence she had because of BSF.  When I was a kid, I just thought she gabbed on the phone with her leadership circle a lot. Years later, I realized  that it was her ministry which she conducted over the phone, in leaders’ meeting, and giving her lectures. She taught hundreds of women over the years, but also personally mentored many of her leaders. She also mentored me. Things would have turned out very differently for a lot of people if my mom had gone a different route.

Jesus led my husband to plant a church. Todd followed—and brought his family along! Jesus led me back to teaching. I followed. I’m going to trust Him that our choice to make our lives here will turn out for the greater progress of the gospel—that a lot of lives would turn out differently if we weren’t following where He leads.

In His authority, God carries out His plan. Maybe where He leads you is where you will have the most influence—where your presence will turn out for the greater progress of the gospel. And guess what? That’s hard work, no matter what it is. Going to China or the jungle, teaching or a nursing home—if you’re there to proclaim the gospel, it will never be easy. What is it that Jesus said to do before you follow? Oh, yeah. Deny yourself. Take up your cross.

 

 

 

 

 

Katie Revisits Pain and Purpose–or, She’s Back in Black

I shocked myself a little bit this week when I realized I hadn’t published anything on this blog since February. FEBRUARY. Dang. Where’ve I been?

It’s not that I haven’t written at all. I’m working on a bible study that I hope to have published. My biggest obstacle is deciding when I’m done with research and can actually write. I’d like to have it done by the first of the year. Don’t hold your breath, though. I sure won’t.

We launched Sunday morning services for Renew Church in February. It was awesome. Euphoric. What a joy to see it all come together! After all those years of wrestling with God’s call to move and plant a church, we now see a long inspired vision spring to life. My insight into this rather lengthy test of faith was that God indeed has a plan, that the plan is most often challenging if not downright painful, and that the pain of the plan puts me on my knees. I get to be a part of what God’s doing, and it draws me to Him like a gravitational pull. The more challenging the test, the stronger the pull.

The church launch was the last time I wrote for this blog. Since then? More of the same. Husband, kids, teaching, church plant.

Oh yeah, and then I got pregnant.

You’ll find these two principles sprinkled throughout my blog: God has a plan, and God gives me more than I can handle. Then there’s a third principle—that the first two are for my benefit (among many other things). What follows here is more of more than I can handle.

When I found out I was pregnant, I almost didn’t react. Back in the day, when getting pregnant made sense, I would stand over the little pee stick and wring my hands in anticipation. A positive test would be met with squeals and then a high five to the good Rev. But this?

Unplanned. Unplanned for a 45 year old. Unplanned for a full-time working momma and wife to a bi-vocational pastor. Unplanned after many miscarriages had gone before.

One time in all our pregnancies we heard a heartbeat, but it was still so early that there was nothing to see on the scan. All we knew is that the baby’s heart was beating. Back then, I thought a heartbeat meant that everything would be okay. But four weeks later I was bleeding.

Last summer, we allowed ourselves to get excited when we saw our 8 week ultrasound. With this scan there was more to see. Peanut had a head and body. There was a picture of a little person there.  I knew that we weren’t out of the woods.

Two weeks later, I went in for another scan. There’s a horrible moment when the tech doesn’t say anything. Just tick, tick, tick on the keyboard, and you know that it’s bad news.

Loss is not uncharted territory to me. I’ve done this many times. But it’s doing a fine job of wrecking me.

My husband took my girls on a trip this weekend, so I’ve been alone. It’s actually been really good for me to have a couple of days to reflect. People have a great capacity to sweep grief aside in order to perform. The only way for me to function was to put this loss on the proverbial backburner. Day in and day out, I had this peculiar feeling that there’s some loose end that needed attention, but I couldn’t bring myself to face it.

Since Friday night, I’ve been facing it. What I’ve found out is that when I can assign a purpose to my pain—when I see how it figures into God’s plan—I go straight to Him with that pain. But when I can’t figure any way that He can use it? When it seems purposeless? I bolt.

All my planned pregnancies, and subsequent miscarriages, led me to something. They led me to adopt. They taught me about His authority. They strengthened my marriage. They deepened my empathy and provided me with an avenue to minister to others. I see their purpose.

But not this time. I got nothin’.

As I took all this to the Lord this weekend—finally—I realized that my obscured view of His purpose is the purpose.

If “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”, then certainly I must apply faith to this situation. I can’t see his plan. I don’t know His purpose, and yet it is my deep hope that He has one. It’s the lack of understanding—or perhaps the lack of accepting—His purpose that is the opportunity to build my faith.

Before I found out I was pregnant, I read a blog which asserted that everything doesn’t happen for a reason. It bothered me. Maybe we’re splitting hairs here. Maybe you say God doesn’t have His reasons yet still believe that He will “cause all things to work together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.” The writer who published that blog contended that Romans 8:28 does not mean that everything has a purpose, but that I can choose a response to my circumstances that benefit me. The obvious question here is, what if my response is wrong? What if I make the wrong choice? And I definitely chose wrong in the past. In the beginning of our miscarriage journey, I chose anger, and it got me absolutely nowhere.

I say that interpretation of Romans 8:28 makes too much of me and my ability to respond and not enough of God. He is bigger than my ability to make the right choice. His Word declares that God Himself makes all things work together for my good. I believe it, and yes, believing it is a choice.

Picture this. You take your last breath. Your spirit departs your body. You hear ethereal singing and the Holy, Holy, Holy of the creatures around the throne. You see Him—complete with the holes in His hands that are now reaching to embrace you. When you pull back from the most heavenly of hugs, He offers to answer your most disturbing question.

Why did I suffer? Why did I have so many miscarriages that I lost count?

“Oh,” says the Word, who has been with God since the beginning, “no reason.”

No. That can’t be right.

I choose faith—the assurance that though I can’t see or understand His purpose, He has one. When I ask Him why I suffered, I believe He will point to my participation in the work of the kingdom, to others who were moved by my testimony, and to how my suffering was the gravitational pull that put me before Him and kept the cross before me.

For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things which have not been done,
Saying, ‘My purpose will be established,
And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’

Isaiah 46:9-10

ADVENTures Day 22–Dark Games

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2 (NIV)

I come from that generation who played outside until dark. “Be home when the street lights come on!!” my folks would say, and mostly we obeyed. This is a bit of a problem since, well, it’s fun to play in the dark. Every once in a while, in the wintertime when it is dark by 5:15, we would stay outside and play and play until someone stepped out and called us in.

We made this a habit during Christmas break, and I think my mom would let us get away with it just to keep us out of her hair. I understand this, now that I have my own two bairns–my two sweet little angels who woke me up on the first of my 10 vacation days with loud shrieking and the unmistakable sounds of trading punches. Sigh. Peace on earth.

One year during Christmas break, we took to playing hide-and-seek in the dark. I. LOVED. IT. No one could beat me. I had the very best hiding place–right on the front porch. This would be the proverbial hiding in plain sight strategy, except I could just step back into the shadows and no one knew I was there. The biggest danger is giving yourself away by laughing. Someone would come so close, even look directly at that dark corner and never see me.

We were out there until someone called–someone with authority called me by name out of the darkness .

My life before Christ was a little like this. I was a good kid–mostly, but some things about the darkness I found hard to resist. Generally I wanted to be obedient, stay out of trouble, and stay safe. But I held back a little darkness here and there, because it was fun–exciting even. It was obvious from watching the people around me that the darkness–as attractive as it seemed–was truly dangerous. After seeing one or two lives in shreds, I worked at maintaining a balance between light and dark.

But it doesn’t really work that way. You can’t love the light and flirt with darkness.

‘It can be bright with joy if you will do what you should! But if you refuse to obey, watch out. Sin is waiting to attack you, longing to destroy you. But you can conquer it!” Genesis 4:7 (TLB)

And this . . .

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. I Peter 5:8 (NLT)

God had allowed Israel to be devoured by the nations around them. He spared a remnant, brought them home, and promised them a Savior. The Lord had to teach His own people not to love the darkness–that they couldn’t be His chosen people and sprinkle in practices from pagan religions. What a treacherous, painful lesson for all those people. Yet, we repeat that pattern, don’t we? Isn’t it all too frequent that those who claim Christ as Savior are holding a little bit of darkness back for themselves?

That was my life for a number of years. I had made the decision to follow Christ, but I tried to bring the darkness with me. The Lord in His mercy knew that I had to be taught just how dark the darkness is. I love Psalm 110:75, “I know, O LORD, that your judgments are right, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me.”

My husband’s testimony is a dramatic example of being rescued from darkness. He would tell the story better, but in a nutshell, he made a decision to follow Christ as a kid. When he grew older, like so many of us, he rebelled because he loved to play in the darkness. One night as he was out with some friends, God simply spoke to him. Clearly, Todd heard Him speak. “You don’t need this anymore.” I love this story. I’ve heard him tell it so many times that I knew there was a specific spot on a particular street in Marion, IL, where my husband heard and obeyed the voice of the Lord. When we went home for Thanksgiving, I asked him to take me there and I snapped this picture.

Boulevard

That night put my husband on a collision course with so many things that followed–a call to the ministry, college, seminary, me. I’m so grateful. He shook us both loose from the darkness so that we would be ready for each other.

God, in all His authority, has stepped out of Heaven and called you home. He gave us Jesus, the Light of the world, so that we would have no fear of being devoured by the darkness. If you have received the gift of the Lord Jesus, then you have so many things to praise Him for this Christmas.

If you are still flirting with darkness, are you tired yet? Maybe your life is in shambles because sin has devoured you. It’s not too late. Light has dawned on those living in deep darkness. He has done all these great things for each of us–and yes, also for you! Don’t refuse His gift!

Leave your darkness and run home to the light.

Merry Christmas.

 

ADVENTures Day 7–Absolute Power

I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever;
    with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known
    through all generations.
I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
    that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.
You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
    I have sworn to David my servant,
‘I will establish your line forever
    and make your throne firm through all generations.’”  Psalm 89:1-4

A few friends have been so sweet to send me messages thanking me for posting every day for Advent. Thank you for the thank you. But I must apologize. Last night the post just didn’t happen. Sorry about that. I got my inspiration kind of late in the afternoon, and then decided I needed help from a scholar and so posed a ‘little’ Hebrew question to my husband. I figured he would just open a website or two to find what I was needed. It seems there is no such thing as a small Hebrew question.

HebrewI was a little disappointed in myself for missing a post, but today I hit on a little different inspiration than I had last night. The nice thing about teaching at a Christian school is that I get to read the Bible and pray with my students.  I try to have a scripture for each week; usually we stand to show our respect for the authority of God’s Word, and we all read aloud together. Generally, on Mondays a small amount of preaching accompanies the reading of the Word–I like to explain why I chose that verse. This week, I’ve tried to have a different Advent passage each day and, time allowing, I slip in an explanation about how the scripture relates to the birth of Christ and, naturally, to our salvation.

This morning I figured that I would make an explanation about the word covenant, since that is what prompted the Hebrew quest last night. But in first period as I was reading, God took me a different direction. In my ninth grade classes, we start the year discussing the absolute power of 17th-18th century European monarchs, particularly in France. We begin with Louis XIII and trace how his power was increased, how that power reached its pinnacle in XIV, and then follow that line of Louis-es (yes, I invented that word) through the French Revolution. Once we get Napoleon exiled, we watch power struggles and uprisings all through Europe in the 19th century–rulers trying to click some default setting back to absolute power, fighting off these upstart lower classes who picked up dangerous ideas about liberty and equality from the French.

While I was reading this morning, the repetition of the word faithfulness popped off the page, followed by covenant, forever, and throne. You see, it’s impossible to discuss absolute power in class with out making the obvious connection that none of us want to be subject to that kind of rule. That is, we don’t want to be subject to that kind of rule by someone who is likely to abuse it. We don’t want to be subject to that kind of rule by someone who is inept or acts arbitrarily or who plays favorites. Basically, we don’t like to be under anyone’s authority very much, but absolute rule under someone who is morally flawed? Yikes.

In today’s scripture, God’s promise of a forever throne through the line of David is reaffirmed. We have this prophecy fulfilled in Christ our King. He rules absolutely, BUT HE IS GOOD. More than that, He rules with compassion and love and mercy and grace–fairly, justly, [working] all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). 

We balk at someone who has ultimate authority over us. In reality, He already has ultimate authority over you whether you choose to submit to Him or not. But His call to repentance should not be viewed as a threat, it’s an invitation (thank you for preaching that one, Jonathon Curtis!). You are invited to be a subject of perfect, loving absolute rule.

Friends, I pray that you will see the unimaginable worth of this King who loves you, who is faithful, and whose throne will last forever.

Merry Christmas!

Pray boldly–even when it doesn’t make sense.

Though Zechariah and Elizabeth were well along in years, the angel says his prayer had been heard. No doubt the couple prayed for a son when it made sense to pray for one—but all those years later?

A few years ago I prayed for a son. I’m not sure that it made sense praying to that end—I was 41. Emma Kate, the younger of our girls, was about 2 at the time, and I believed that we were “done.” We put in five hard years of miscarriages and indecision before God led us to adopt. Our family was indeed complete.

But I was not.

Still, I was in part unaware of my feelings about having a biological child until the doctor tossed out the word hysterectomy. He only meant to inform me of my options—I might endure endometriosis until I completed the change, but if not, I could always go under the knife and have my womanhood removed. No big deal.

I was not prepared to hear those words. At all. He left the room and I burst into tears. Where was this coming from?

I’d always held out the possibility of getting pregnant again. I just did my best to pretend it was something I didn’t need to do. The results of our genetic testing a few years before had shown that biological children were certainly possible; in fact, according to the genetics counselor, we should only miscarry one pregnancy in five.

So we prayed. Maybe we were praying when it no longer made sense to do so. I was labeled advanced maternal age, high risk, and I’d already lost six or seven babies at this point.

I prayed very specifically, very boldly, for a healthy son who would not carry the chromosome translocation that increased our chances of miscarriage.

But it didn’t make sense. It was unlikely that God would give me the answer I wanted.

Was this Zechariah’s prayer? Was he hoping that God would act on their behalf and take away his wife’s disgrace? If so, how strange that he doubts the angel’s news! Zechariah’s reaction to Gabriel begins a pattern that is repeated throughout the gospels. People will see something supernatural right before their very eyes but will not receive its message nor recognize the identity of the Christ. Ritual religion does not help you detect the movement of God. Looking eagerly for Him helps you recognize Him.

Prayers have been heard

The answer to Zechariah’s prayer is unified with God’s purpose.

He will be a joy and delight to you . . . Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God.” Luke 1:14, 17

That purpose is always to engage in meaningful relationships with people—not just in ritual religion–to turn them from their sin, to discover the value of eternal life in Christ Jesus.

And—for Zechariah—did this begin with a prayer that he never expected the Lord to answer?

When I prayed for a son, I miscarried, but that doesn’t mean the prayer wasn’t answered. Maybe, if I peel back the layers of the last few years, I’ll see clearly the Lord’s purpose. Maybe it was to engage in a more meaningful—less ritualistic—relationship with me. Maybe it was part of the greater work of preparing the Beasleys to be on mission–leaving what is comfortable and leaping into situations where we have to depend on HIm. Maybe it was simply to prompt me to pray more and more unlikely prayers—and ask boldly—so that I might better see that His purpose is for my good and His glory.

Always pray boldly, even the prayers we think He is unlikely to answer. His answers–the ones we hope for and the ones we don’t–are unified with His  purpose.

When He speaks, it is so often not the words I want to hear, but I can always be sure that that they bear His purpose. He always draws me closer so that I am engaged more deeply in my relationship with Him. As He answers each prayer, He prompts me all the more to turn from my sin, to submit to His authority, and in doing those things I discover the value of the life I’ve found in Christ. He brings the supernatural right to my doorstep, and I look all the more eagerly for Him–not just for the answers to my prayers.

Because of God’s tender mercy,
    the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,

to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    and to guide us to the path of peace. Luke 1:78-79

I used to know a little about my worth. Now I’m convinced.

chipmunkHere’s a little disclaimer. I had oral surgery yesterday. My mouth is pretty sore, and I’ve got a big ol’ chipmunk cheek to prove it. Possibly—probably—I shouldn’t attempt to write given the medication that I’ve taken. But I can’t stand it. I’ve got to get this out!!!

It’s been a long time since I gave any thought to my self-worth—how I evaluate it, whether it’s too low or too high, etc. Perhaps I thought I had evolved enough emotionally that this really wasn’t an issue anymore. And then again . . .

I had to go on a junior high retreat to find out otherwise.

What I discovered on retreat was that we all need to work through this. No matter how much we mature, we are always either puffed up or torn down by external factors. I left junior high 30 years ago, so I don’t worry so much about what the cheerleaders think of me nowadays. But I’ve only replaced their evaluation of me with something else—-

I catch myself getting either a little manic or a little depressed depending on how many views I get on this blog. If I could just be funnier, deeper, or get more shares, I’d feel better.

It bothers me—deeply bothers me—if I feel like my students aren’t enjoying my class. Nothing sucks the wind out of the sails of this teacher like a classroom full of complaining students. A teacher said to me once, rather condescendingly as I recall, “I don’t think we have to entertain these kids!” Well, I don’t think I have to, but it’s a whole lot more fun for me if they’re having fun. And when they’re not having fun, I worry that I’m not good enough. If I could just be more organized, take more time to plan, be a little more creative . . .if I could just bring my ‘A game’ every single day without dropping the ball, I’d feel so much better.

As hard as I tried not to worry about keeping up with the Joneses, when we were looking at houses to buy, I could not stop myself from wondering what other people might think of my new house. Now that we’re in the house, I worry about color scheme and furniture and knickknacks. If I could just have the money and the sense of style to put together something impressive, I’d feel better.

Over the last several years, we’ve had enormous changes in our lifestyle. We don’t live and work in the same town anymore. A lot of the spare time I had to run in the evenings has been eaten up by working full-time, commuting, and motherhood. Moving to Arkansas brought other challenges for a non-athlete such as myself. It is so DAD GUM HILLY around here. I’ve battled several injuries that have sidelined me for months at a time. I’m just not able to keep up with workouts like I used to and now I’ve gained weight. I cannot begin to describe how much my weight and body image haunt me. Day in. And day out. For. Years. If I could just have the energy to get back to training, I’d lose the weight, look better, and feel better.

I began dieting in elementary school and by the time Christmas rolled around my sixth grade year, I was seeing a counselor twice a week for self-esteem issues and compulsive dieting. This battle of understanding my worth began more than 30 years ago, but I’ve not mastered it. So, in some ways, maybe I’ve never left junior high.

The speaker at the retreat, Blake Hudspeth, called on the students to recognize who defines them, who gives them their identity, who determines their worth. He used Matthew 16:13-20—Christ builds Peter’s identity when Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ.

I was listening carefully and taking notes, knowing that I would be leading a discussion over the message to a small group of girls afterward. Something nagged at me. I know all this is true. I know my worth is much higher than the amount I typically assign to myself. I can list verses about Christ’s love and how it should be the factor that determines my worth. Ugh. What’s wrong with me?

It’s not that I don’t understand my worth in God’s eyes. I’m not convinced of it. I looked around at the students—especially at the sweet girls in my charge. They will struggle and struggle to overcome the definition of worth that the world forces on them. We cheerlead and we encourage and we compliment and we exhort them to recognize how beautiful they are. Why will they not be convinced?

Becoming convinced begins with a confession. I’ve been locked in a battle with God—sort of indirectly—where my actions imply that His appraisal of my worth isn’t accurate.

I don’t value my life if I’m not

  • skinny
    • pretty,
  • smart
    • talented . . .the list goes on . . .

I depreciate my value if I can’t

  • get published
    • be everyone’s favorite teacher
  • run 30 miles a week
    • be the perfect wife and mother and NEVER DROP THE BALL

I’m insecure if I don’t get enough attention—especially regarding the things above.

So, there’s my confession. I try to talk God out of loving me, His creation. I, in fact, imply that He isn’t doing enough to help me attain all of those things and that’s why I don’t feel as good as I’d like. Forgive me, Jesus. Scrub me clean!

Now, how do I become convinced that what God says about me is true? I admit, Blake Hudspeth, I drifted off for a few minutes while you were teaching. I got lost mulling this over because I’ve been in a holding pattern over self-worth since the 3rd grade. It. Must. Stop.

Then the thought occurred to me, who are the people who can convince me that I’m smart, pretty, or talented? When I was single, if a guy I was attracted to was attracted to me, I felt good. Back in junior high, if the popular girl I so admired complimented my clothes or my hair, I felt good. When an athlete friend of mine told me that I was doing well training for my marathon, I felt good. When Todd Beasley told me he loved me, I was over the moon.

What’s the magic formula that makes these people have so much influence? It is because I value them. When the people on whom we place the most value notice us, recognize our accomplishments, love on us—we allow ourselves to be convinced. We accept the compliments and the praise and the adoration from those we most admire because we want so much for their high opinions of us to be true.

Now, why on earth are we not so convinced by God love and adoration of us? Why would I not want His high opinions of me to be true?

It is because we don’t really know the value—the exceedingly great worth—of our Savior. Not really. If we truly understood how worthy is the Lamb of God, who gave Himself up for us, then we would abandon the pursuit of earthly validation. Part of not knowing His true exceeding worth, is acknowledging the exceeding depth of our sin.

We know what He’s done for us. We know the things that He said about us during His ministry here. God’s Word is full of proclamations of His love. If we are unimpressed by God’s love, perhaps it’s because we don’t know Him all that well. Maybe if we press in and spend some time in His Word, we will more fully see how beautiful and cherished we are, and BE CONVINCED THAT IT’S TRUE BECAUSE WE WILL KNOW HIS WORTH. WE WILL KNOW THAT HE IS FAR MORE VALUABLE THAN ANYONE WHOSE VALIDATION WE SEEK ON EARTH.

God Rays

Maybe we just don’t get how awesome He is and, therefore, don’t realize that it’s a BIG DEAL to be chosen by I AM. What He did was rescue us, clean us up from all that filth, and proudly proclaim us His bride. Now, why is someone’s opinion of my house or my hair more important than the One who put Himself on a cross for me?

What is it that you want changed in order to feel more convinced of your worth? Is it a job? Your appearance? More money? Your children and their success? A man or woman in your life? A different man or woman in your life? Some dream that has gone unfulfilled?

As we grasp the worth of the Lord Jesus, we more readily cast these things down to take up the cross. He told us to follow where He leads, and the things He has for us have exceedingly more worth than what we now pursue.

God, give me eyes to see the depth of my sin and the incomprehensible worth of my Savior.

The Plan and the Prize

The surest way to doubt God is to take a leap of faith and then enter into that time of waiting, waiting, waiting. When, oh when, is the Lord going to see my truly desperate situation, swoop in, sprinkle some magic fairy dust and make my life a cake walk?

So it was when we moved to Arkansas. We made a decision to leap. It did feel a little like a free fall—exhilarating one moment, excruciating the next. Part of my problem with the wait was a misplaced faith in the input/output principle. I figured if I input faith and obedience, making dramatic decisions as evidence of such, that the output would be. . .well, it should be awesome beyond reckoning. Right? If I make a big, thorny, dangerous play, then doesn’t God owe it to me to show up in a big way? This faith stuff is so hard, but I’ve got a big blessing coming!

I wanted that. I wanted something miraculous that I could point to and say, “Just look. He confounds us with His power! Look at how He blessed me for my act of faith!”

Funny. Now that I’ve been through the whole rigmarole, I think it a bigger demonstration of His power that He changed me rather than my situation. Circumstances? Sure, He can calm the storm. He can even call me out on the waves and we can do a little jig together, but change my mind?

That’s the miracle, I’m telling you. God be praised! Nothing is impossible with Him! I am not the person I was. He removed the, “Lord, I did. . . and now You must do. . .” from my lips and stuck in its place, “You’re God if You do and God if You don’t. I worship the Living God.”

It was late into our first year in Arkansas. Our church planting efforts were on hold because we were teetering on the edge of financial ruin. I worked part-time at a Christian school. Todd worked full-time answering phones at a car dealership. Neither of us could insure our families through our jobs. Our combined incomes could not cover our expenses—rent and a mortgage for the house in Texas that didn’t sell, bills for both addresses, basic necessities, the fortune we pumped into the gas tank getting the kids and me back and forth to Little Rock five days a week. Something had to give and fast.

For that entire year, I had felt certain that God would solve our problems by moving me from part-time to full-time at the school. If we can just hold on until contracts come out, I thought. And I prayed and I prayed and I prayed—for God to show up and bless me with the fulfillment of my plan.

When I received my contract in the mail, and realized how many classes I had been assigned for the following year, I deflated entirely. I’d placed my faith—not in the Lord who went to the cross for me—but in the plan, the one I’d devised in my fleshy, short-sighted brain.

But I was one class short of full-time. Without that one extra class, there was no insurance. And my salary, though a little higher than before, was not nearly enough to pay for insurance out of pocket in addition to all our other expenses. The day was fast approaching when our insurance through the church in Texas would run out. We were losing ground fast.

As hard as I tried, I could not take this setback in stride. Maybe this was a mistake, after all. Maybe we should never have left Texas. Maybe God had a different plan entirely and we just missed the boat.

I was alone in my car a week or so later, coming home one evening without my children, which almost never happens. Doing my best to check my attitude before God, I prayed for provision. You promised, I reminded Him. I’m seeking Ye first. Haven’t you noticed??? Where’s my blessing??? It was no use. I was crushed. Whatever faith I had that God would do this or do that had evaporated without a trace.

It is the only day in all that year that I was tempted to turn the car anywhere but home and just drive and drive and drive. Go somewhere—anywhere—just get away.

Have you ever noticed that when your circumstances change for the better, it’s easy to miss that it was God’s doing? If someone gives you a new job, you may realize that God provided the job but others are also involved. It’s easy to divide up your gratitude between God, the person who gave you the referral, the new employer, and your prayer partner.

But when you are all alone, sobbing in your car, and you unmistakably hear the Lord’s voice speaking to you, God gets the glory and the gratitude and no one else.

“Katie, don’t you know that I have already blessed you with everything—everything—at the cross? Whatever happens to you—whatever you have or don’t have—is just part of belonging to Me and living My plan?”

It’s no fluke, not my imagination—I heard it. He spoke just as clearly as if He were in the passenger seat next to me.

For a moment I sobbed even harder. If it’s God’s plan for me to be here, seeking Him, watching and waiting for the answers, then I am blessed because God has a plan and I’M IN IT. That plan began with the cross where He took the punishment for my sin. He died so that I could live.

I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Christ. Lives. In. Me. In me! Is there a greater blessing than that? None! If He’s in me, and I feel like things aren’t going my way—as if I’m not being blessed enough, does that mean He’s withholding blessings from Himself? Of course not!

The problem is me and that fleshy, short-sighted brain of mine–it’s the problem of my warped perspective when I take my eyes off the prize. It’s the problem of Christians in every church everywhere who don’t really know what the prize is—who the prize is, and the value of that prize– and so, are always looking for something else to come along and make us feel blessed.

Every blessing came to me when I decided to follow Christ. When I have everything, I am blessed. When I have nothing, I am blessed.

Blessed

Rich? Blessed.

Poor? Still blessed.

Employed? Jobless? Healthy? Sick? Full of joy? Deeply grieved? In any circumstance, am I ever without Christ?

I am always–

Richly blessed with every spiritual blessing. Chosen before the foundation of the world. Lavished with grace. United with Christ. Forgiven, redeemed, and adopted by His blood. Looking forward to the riches of His inheritance—which I obtain as part of HIS plan, guaranteed by the seal of the Holy Spirit. Strengthened in my inner being by the power of His Spirit—the same power that raised Christ death. I was dead in my sins and now I live in Christ.

God has in no way shortchanged me.

This difficult season bore its fruit in faith. Todd and I both agree that we would do it again and again to know Him the way we do now. But, if you’re interested in how God worked things out, take a look at a former post, The State of the Beasley Union. God had it all in hand—but not because the Beasleys took a leap of faith—because He’s God and He has a plan. And a prize that is awesome beyond reckoning.

Addendum 10/10/2014–After I first posted this, I heard Josh Wilson sing “What I See Now” in concert. The song is beautiful and so true. These lyrics spoke to me:

I see a perfect plan, I see God’s guiding hand.
I see a better man, you’ll be a better man.
Sometimes it takes a while, sometimes it takes the trials
To open up your eyes.