Ephesians 6:10, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”
Who are you known to be? What would others say about you when they describe you? What strengths are usually attributed to you? Are you:
- The sweet spirit
- The hard worker
- The compassionate one
- The faithful lady
- The loyal friend
- The punctual person
- The motivator
- The calming presence
- The loving soul
Possibly you are more than one of these. That is wonderful! But who are you, really?
Allow me to stop for a minute and speak to a small group of ladies here that share a similar background with me and will understand my situation. I was born and raised and still live in the same county and state, all my life (41 years so far). I have attended the same church my entire life. My father, who is still a member, has also attended this same church his entire life (68 years so far). I went to the same school, a Christian school run by my church, all of my school years. Then I attended the college run by my church. Do you see the pattern here? Ha! I am the definition of a Hometown Girl. The point: I am and always have been surrounded by the same people. These people knew me at ages 1, 10, 20, 30, and 40. I have only had 3 pastors my entire lifetime. There is a lot of security that comes from being in the same community and church and county for a lifetime. So of you who moved around all the time would probably LOVE to have my childhood. But there’s also a lot of something else—there’s a lot of expectations to fulfill. There’s a lot of reputation to “live up to” or to “overcome.” There’s pressure (granted, much of it is put on yourself, not given by others), pressure to BE that person everyone has always known you to be.
Every girl who lives in one town all her life desires, at times, to move to a completely new place. Why? For a change of pace, of scenery, of temperature, of opportunity? Well, sure, I guess. I do love to travel and see new places. But I really love my home and my town and my life. My desire (at times overwhelming desire!) to start all over somewhere new was completely wrapped up in this: no one would know me! I could begin fresh and be whoever I wanted to be. No school-age reputation would be there to fulfill or try to change. I could start over! Those of you who went “away” to college, was that a wonderful feeling? Did you love the fact that no one knew your past (good or bad), and that you could develop a new reputation? The same would be true with moving to a new community or church, I assume. I never had that luxury.
Of the qualities listed above, I was the “good girl.” (Okay, for most of my life, except a few years in middle school- but we won’t talk about those!) I was going to do what was right. I was dependable. You could give me a job or duty and know that it would be done on time and done right. I was a leader, a teacher, one who inspired others. I was trust-worthy. The ideal babysitter and role model for the young girls to follow. (As I write this, I’ve got my tongue in my cheek. I’m actually laughing at “that girl.”) Yes, I hope I still possess these qualities, but I certainly hope they are truly who I am on the inside, not just a cover for what everyone expects me to be.
Now I speak for the Girls that grew up in church. You aren’t a first generation Christian, maybe not even second. You don’t know anything else but church. You, too, grew up doing the right things. That was what was expected. That’s how your parents reared you. You learned young what was right, what was wrong, how to separate the two, and how to stay separated from those who weren’t doing right. I can’t thank God enough for the blessing of being born in America, in a Christian home, and in a Gospel-believing church. Wow! What a heritage! I didn’t choose where I was born. Multiplied millions were born in less fortunate times, places, communities, and cultures. It’s mind-blowing how blessed we are!
That being said, there are many expectations to uphold. Somewhere along the way, we stop and analyze, “Am I living like this to continue to be who everyone thinks I am? Do I believe in all the things I teach and say? Am I trying to live a life to prop up a reputation I acquired as a girl?” We all come to ourselves at different points in life and ask the tough questions.
So often we “good girls” try to keep being good and doing good in our own power. We know the drill, the routine. We can quote the verses. We’ve heard the sermons. We got this! It’s tiring, though, living in your own strength. It’s also sinful. You and I don’t have to run away to “find ourselves.” We don’t have to move to a new place where no one knows us. We don’t have to try to BE the person everyone thinks we are. We don’t have to live life in our own strength. In fact, we are command NOT to live this way.
I’m calling out to all the Hometown Girls. I’m calling to all the Church Girls. STOP IT! JUST END IT. Put away the living up under the good reputations. Stop trying to be who everybody thinks you should be! Sit down. Rest. Allow Jesus to take your life. Allow the Holy Spirit to fill you and give you all the fruit of His Spirit that you are trying so hard to produce on your own. I know how it is. I’ve lived there. I tried to manufacture love, joy, peace, gentleness, GOODNESS. Goodness knows, I tried. It ain’t gonna work, Girls. Not for the duration; not for a lifetime.
May I just be the Friend who says, “Why are you doing life in your own strength?” That is going to get you tuckered out. Stop and think with me. Does this describe you? Too often it described me. If you just feel weary in the Christian life, may I suggest that 2017 in NOT the year for you to buck up one more time and give it the ol’ college try? No. No more. No more living life in our own strength! That was so last year. 🙂 This is the year we come to Jesus, each and every morning. We stand still and know that He is God. We walk with Him in quiet peace as He leads us in His Word and through His Spirit.
I am praying for each and every one of you to do LESS this year, in your own power. Rest, sit, stop. Allowing God to live the Christian life for you, through you, in you.
God bless you this week and this year, Friends. We’ll go deeper on this topic next week!