Galatians 1:10

I often enjoy retelling situations from my life that prove valuable as I continue along this growth path (my fancy way of admitting I’m getting older). Perhaps, one of the most enriching lessons I’ve received was via a conversation with a friend of mine. We’ll simply call this friend by his first name for now- Ben. I’ve written about Ben once so far (The 95% posted on May 18th). One thing Ben shed light on for me about five years ago was a bible verse that is still a staple throughout his everyday walk- Galatians 1:10. As I continue praying each day to be guided by The Holy Spirit to discern how best to elevate my spiritual connection, certain situations seem to arise that remind me of past lessons learned. We don’t always learn particular lessons all at once, rather we need several scenarios to comprehend over time. Perhaps we don’t have the spiritual or mental capacity to fully grasp certain teachings at different life stages, so we need repetition to “beat it into our heads” as we evolve.

I remember years ago talking with Ben about this burning desire I’ve had since childhood to be make sure everyone around me was always happy. I used to have such a horrific time with anyone being upset at me, disagreeing with me or not being pleased with my “performance.” I constantly felt (mostly unknowingly- almost like it was programed) that if I could only make everyone else happy I would have the internal fulfillment we’re all searching for. Boy was I wrong. This is one trait that has created much conflict (internal and external), a plethora of anxiety and probably helped in the creation and destruction of multiple relationships. What I’ve since realized through identifying my own brokenness and my ensuing journey of healing (still on that train), is that the more stake I put in trying to appease others the more I realize that’s simply an impossible mountain to climb. No long term internal fulfillment can ever come from pleasing others, regardless of the relationship. Sure, you can be a great impact to others, yet I believe the true fulfillment comes with spiritual awakening- walking with The Spirit as we learn what really matters most in this world. I’ll get into other areas of struggle I’ve had similar to this topic around putting too much stake in other “worldly things, feelings, situations” later, but for now I want to stick to this simple lesson learned from Ben.

Galatians 1:10- Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” NLT

We are typically conditioned from our past experiences in many ways. Some even believe generationally we are hard-wired based on experiences and ensuing traits that evolved from our ancestral bloodline. I can certainly reflect about my ancestors and think of a few ways this makes sense for me, once again we’ll revisit later. I reflect on the environment I grew up as I rationalize where this need to please was imbedded within my unconscience self. Whether being the constant “new kid” in school, the unsettling “home” in my adolescent years, the desire for perfection to please my dad/coaches in sports, the performance based school system (lacking much individuality of course)- I can see how these factors helped create a “people pleaser.” Performance based thinking to win the approval of others was simply safer throughout childhood for me. The more of my environment I could control based by being a good kid, saying the right things, or simply performing well, the better life seemed to be for an evolving young mind. I believe I liked control and predictability because being out of my comfort zone, or worse being in potential danger, were less settling options (childhood wasn’t always blissful for me).

Ben had his own childhood, which he still uses to impact hundreds of thousands of people with his passionate message and faith-walk to this day. Even Ben, “Mr. 95% Joy,” consistently has to remind himself that his purpose is bigger and more divine than any one person’s perspective that reacts to his message. We all have people in our lives who expect us to perform (expectations typically don’t lead to a happy dynamic btw), and a tragedy occurs when we put this performance of life at a higher priority than serving God and our true self, or in the way of loving ourselves all together. Jesus scarified himself for us, not so we could figuratively sacrifice our true selves for everyone else all over again. I’ve experienced and seen countless examples of how serving people FIRST can lead to a lot of pain and lack of authenticity. I still struggle with this lesson, as I believe we all do in certain facets, yet I often quote this verse above during these struggles because my good friend inspired me to do so. “I am for God first, not people” is even one of the “I AM STATEMENTS” I consistently read as a reminder to myself.

I pray anyone struggling on the hamster wheel of trying to please others can take solace in surrendering that to God. Perhaps reminding yourself of this particular verse can help free your spiritual side to experience a life more destined and fulfilling for you, the life He wants you to have. Hopefully us “people pleasers” can impact the world in a bigger and better way by shifting our order of focus. Thank you Ben for enlightening me with this verse several years ago, as I truly feel God made an impact on me through your discernment. My gift to you will be continuing to share this important message with others throughout my life.

IG: @surrender_project

Transformational Renewing

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve of what God’s will is- His good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:2 NIV

Have you ever read Romas 12:2 and reflected on what is meant by “patterns of this world?” I was in a church service recently and our attention was brought to this verse, which for some reason got me thinking. I wonder what the world looked like through Paul’s perspective when he was writing to the Romans two thousand years ago? I wonder what traits, tendencies and patterns reflected then that we still mirror to this day? What did Paul mean exactly by “patterns of this world?” What did he mean when he said the “renewing of your mind?” How can this transformation of our mind help us test and approve of God’s will?

My thoughts….

Bad stuff happens, so I don’t think we need to focus on those “worldly things,” as I would assume we all realize we shouldn’t conform that direction. I can say however that negativity often seems to be a center of focus for many of us, even when we don’t realize it. Gossip, judging, shaming, selfishness, lack of forgiveness or just straight up anger are all examples of how we can feed on negativity. Short term this might feel empowering or exciting in a human way, yet hopefully we can all agree that long term these “patterns” only lead to pain, hurt and darkness. What about some of the good things like loving relationships, finally getting that promotion, having children (so I’ve heard), or even the simple blissful moments throughout our day? How about the feeling of standing on top of a mountain overlooking a valley below, which is possessed by an array of colors seemingly displaying the splendor of life itself? I think if we could all “conform to patterns of this world” that brought more of these amazing moments we admittedly would. Many patterns are good, many indifferent and many destructive. Yet what pattern is always present in “this world” that Paul may have been referring to? I could only come up with one: everything is born new and eventually returns to a place of death and decay. Some would call this “the circle of life.” Nothing in this world is everlasting….. right?

The “merry-go-round” of this world for many of us looks something like this (simplified version of course): be a kid, get good grades, graduate, get a job, get promoted, meet that “special someone,” get married, buy a home, have children, raise “good children,” eventually retire, etc..

All of these things can be amazing experiences, yet isn’t it ironic that when we reach certain milestones we still feel like something is lacking? Perhaps I’m the only one?

Here is another example I find pretty regularly, admitting of course that I’ve been here myself: Perhaps a new suit will help me feel better? Maybe moving into a new place? Maybe buying a new car? Maybe switching jobs? Maybe getting in better shape, or perhaps the opposite- scarfing that brownie sitting in the kitchen (or more often in my case the beer in the fridge)- yeah that will do it. Just keep buying, getting, possessing, eating/drinking and obtaining more in “this world” and perhaps I’ll get to a point that I finally feel complete…

Nope… something deep down at our core still seems to be missing. When everything externally looks pretty good, even in the most blissful times, we still seem to be searching for some deeper meaning or connection. Have you ever felt this way even during the truly solid times? I certainly have. My soul still cries out for more true peace, growth and fulfillment to fill the void that recognition, praise, possessions, other people or even money seemingly cannot. I don’t believe Paul was saying we shouldn’t enjoy some Earthly things. I do however believe he was saying the only way to really feel transformed/renewed is by connecting to our TRUE PURPOSE IN LIFE….GOD!

Here’s a thought- what if the unexplained void of fulfillment we all seek is actually the “renewing of our mind,” as Paul writes in Romans 12:2? What if the “transformation” to focus on Godly things instead of focusing on “the circle of life” is our real purpose in life? What if dialing into a relationship with Him that transcends our depth of understanding is the real ticket to peace, happiness and joy? What if our focus is supposed to be on God instead of our perception of what “this world” wants from us, or what we can gain from “this world?” Another question- how could we “test and approve” of God’s will unless we were actually CONNECTED to God- like literally? How could I, a mere human, “test and approve” of anything so Divine as God’s “good, pleasing and perfect will?” The only possibility I can think of would be if I was so “tuned in” to God that I could literally live my life directed not by my own footsteps, yet by the footsteps of The Shepard Himself. That I am literally tapped into God within myself via The Holy Spirit and experiencing Him moment by moment. TRANSFORMATION via the RENEWAL of our mind, by changing the way we think, by conforming to our spiritual calling over focusing on worldly patterns which always have an end date. All to experience a bond with God so deep that we can experience more of “His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Seems like pretty sound advice to me!

Pause and Listen

I have a younger colleague of mine who has found some success in his young sales role. He was a college athlete which taught him a level of GRIT that has propelled him in the sales world. He’d run through a wall if you told him it would help him be “successful.” I’ve known him since he started at our company about 4 years ago. He started out pretty raw of course, yet has evolved into a pretty sharp young man in his mid-twenties. We had a conversation recently that really hit me and before you can grasp why, I must tell you that he reminds me a ton of myself at his age. You see, he’s doing everything “right.” He’s very busy, which in our business means he’s working very hard to meet and help a lot of people. I’d argue he’s actually too busy now and even a little scattered/spread thin. The gist of our conversation revolved around how well he’s “performing” at work, yet how he is feeling out of alignment personally. He expressed that he wants to make more time for his marriage, for his personal health/fitness, hobbies he enjoys and spiritual life. I sat across from this young man and could clearly see a mirror of myself several years ago as he told me these things. The difference- he at least was aware that he was “letting himself down” in certain areas, and it wasn’t sitting well. I tried my best to express the importance of working on himself first, meaning his relationship with God, his health, his wife and even carving out some time for particular hobbies he loves (joy). I don’t believe one can be truly great at work without being great within first, at least not with motivations that align spiritually and are authentic. I can “run through a wall” in business, yet it’s going to be for broken reasons if I don’t make sure my true purpose is the driving force behind my actions. I also don’t resonate with who people say all you need to do is “work harder” and “do more,” and things will be better later. Guess what, if I told this young man to “do more” or “work harder” he wouldn’t have much left of his true self or what truly matters to him later because he would’ve scarified these things to chase some pipe dream of “success” that ties in with recognition and money. I heard recently that no amount of money can buy you a second of your life back- AMEN! I would also argue no amount of money will fill the void you’ll feel if you’re not fulfilling the true purpose and calling God has planned for your precious life.

Toward the end of our conversation I asked him about his spiritual life. He’s a pretty dialed in Christian young man, so I was glad to hear when he said something to the tune of “I keep praying and asking God to guide me.” He shared that he asks God all the time for advice, which was great overall. Understanding how busy he is and that he feels disconnected from himself and what really matters due to a frantic life, I asked him a simple question… “If you’re praying over and over again seeking His guidance, when is the last time you actually paused long enough to listen to His response?” He just looked at me puzzled for a moment, tilted his head down and admittedly shook his head, as if to say he hadn’t. I feel like we can pray over and over again, yet if we don’t take a little time to disconnect and actually HEAR what God has to say, we might be missing what He’s trying to tell us all together. We all hear/feel God in different ways, but I can promise you from my experiences when I lean into Him I’ve felt, read, heard and understood His responses substantially more. When I lean more and more into “the world” and my spirit isn’t as connected, I amazingly don’t hear a whole lot from God since I’m too busy to pay attention, unless perhaps He flashes a neon sign in front of my face. When is the last time you prayed and actually carved out intentional time to be alone with Him to hear/feel/be in His presence? Amazing things happen in this space and I think this is one daily activity we cannot afford to sacrifice. Pause to connect and feel Him, you just might be surprised at how much clearer your path becomes. This typically doesn’t involve a cell phone, a TV or a crowd of people. I still struggle with pausing at times, don’t get me wrong, but I’m aware of this and working on prioritizing my time around Him. Maybe this will help others who are living a frantic schedule and feeling an element of disconnectedness. How many minutes could you carve out per day for a more fulfilled spiritual life- ten, thirty, sixty? Regardless, I bet every second will be worth it and the other areas of our lives will be thankful we chose to spend time with Him.