Don’t be afraid to share the real you

This is my last week at my job. It hasn’t really sunk in yet. I’m not sure when it will. I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m going to be a bawling mess on Friday, not necessarily because I’m sad to leave but because I’m going to miss the wonderful people who’ve played such a huge role in my professional life.

My cubicle was like Grand Central Station yesterday. So many people came by, just to chat, and it was great. I am usually tucked away in a corner somewhere quiet where I can compose articles and feature stories in relative quiet, so I don’t often see people. Everyone who came by wanted to know what was going on, where I was heading, why I was leaving, and I had decided that if people asked, I would tell them.

If somebody asks me why I’m leaving, I’m going to tell them it’s because I believe God is calling me to something bigger. That’s a great thing to tell someone of likeminded faith. Generally speaking, they’ll understand what you’re saying. They might even identify with it. But try telling that to someone who doesn’t necessarily believe the same way that you do. What do you think is going to happen?

Honestly–I didn’t know what would happen, because I’ve usually chickened out at the last moment and offered a more “rational” explanation for why I’m walking away from my job. Because I do have rational reasons. They just aren’t the reasons that drive me.

And I’ve been afraid to tell people the real reason why I’m leaving. Well, I decided yesterday to stop being afraid and just be real with people. And you know what happened?

People cried.

Has that ever happened to you? You tell someone your dream or what God is doing in your life, and they start crying because they’re so happy for you? Or they’re so touched? Or they’re so excited?

I’m not sure that’s ever happened to me. But it happened yesterday. A lot. And that stunned me.

I’m an introvert–a true ISFJ if you’re into Meyers-Briggs personalities. I don’t share my personal feelings or thoughts with many people, mostly because I don’t think anyone will value them enough to care. That’s not a judgment against other people. That’s just the way I see my own feelings. I don’t understand what difference my feelings or thoughts will make to anyone else. But I re-learned an important lesson yesterday: My story isn’t about me.

Today’s verse is 1 Samuel 16:7.

AuthenticityHoax_AFBut the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

When you present yourself to people, what do you think they’re looking at? They’re looking at your hair and your clothes probably. They’re making judgment calls about how put together you are (or how not put together you are). Face it, in the corporate world, your presentation leaves an impression. Your handshake tells a lot about your personality. Your ability to maintain eye contact tells a lot about your communication skills.

Ultimately, none of that really tells who you are. You can be dressed in the shaggiest, dirtiest, worst clothes in the world and be a millionaire, but nobody would know because people are only capable of seeing what’s on the outside. How wonderful is it that God sees our hearts and knows who we are in private?

I say it’s wonderful. Maybe it’s not so wonderful for you. I think that’s what bothers people about God, because He knows all our secrets, all the things we do in the dark that we think nobody will ever find out about.

God knows.

And let me tell you something, friend. God made you who you are. With all your foibles and quirks and idiosyncrasies, God crafted you to be uniquely you. There’s nobody else on Earth like you, so you should never ever be ashamed of God’s handiwork. And what’s more, if you’re redeemed–if you’ve trusted Jesus’ sacrifice to pay for your sins–you have a relationship with God Himself. Maybe the world is broken, but if you follow Jesus, you aren’t.

So why are you hiding? Why are you afraid to tell your story? Why are you afraid to share with others about what God has done in your life?

I can tell you why I’m afraid. I don’t like conflict. I don’t like confrontation. I’ve been scared that people will get upset at me or get up in my face and tell me I’m stupid. But I really believe that’s a fear planted in my heart by our enemy. Maybe people are that way in bigger cities, but nobody in Wichita has ever raked me over the coals for my faith. The times that I’ve spoken about it, people have always been very respectful and interested. And maybe that’s because I’ve made an effort to be respectful and interested about them first.

God has given me my story to live, and part of living my story is sharing what God is doing in my life. It doesn’t matter if people listen or not. It’s my responsibility to tell the story. That doesn’t mean I get to go around shouting at the top of my lungs to make sure everybody knows, but that also doesn’t give me a free pass to stay silent because I’m feeling uncomfortable.

So no more hiding. God’s given me a story to tell. It’s the story about how He saved me and set me on the path to achieving my heart’s greatest desire, and I’ll tell anyone who wants to listen. Doesn’t matter if they hear it or not. I will have done my part.

And maybe–just maybe–God can take my little story and use it to help change someone’s heart. Maybe I could be the little weight that tips the scales in convincing someone else to take a leap of faith for God.

God sees my heart. He knows who I am. And it’s time I start sharing that person with the people around me.

Blossoming rose in the Glen Eyrie Rose Garden - Colorado Springs, CO

Watch what you think

Everyone knows the danger in spouting off. It’s easy to say something that offends someone else. It’s easy to hurt peoples’ feelings. It’s easy to say something you wish you’d never said. So a lot of times, people will just filter what they say. But how many people realize that what you allow yourself to think about can be just as damaging as what you say out loud?

Blossoming rose in the Glen Eyrie Rose Garden - Colorado Springs, CO

Blossoming rose in the Glen Eyrie Rose Garden – Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Psalm 19:14.

May the words of my mouth
    and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

My brain runs constantly. It never shuts off. It never slows down. It’s always going. Going going going, worse and faster than the Energizer Bunny. There’s always something to think about. There’s always something to plan. If I ever stopped thinking about stuff, I might just collapse.

But if I don’t watch the content of what I’m thinking about, I can get myself in serious trouble.

People talk about the importance of a positive thought life, and that’s probably a good thing to strive for. Thinking positively has a lot to do with your outlook, and it can help in difficult circumstances to keep seeing life on the bright side. But positive thinking will only get you so far, and it’s not something that you can easily dredge up if you don’t already have a Godly perspective. But even people who know God and try to follow Him often have trouble thinking about the good things God has done.

Is that important?

Well, yes. This Psalm is saying that not only do the words we say out loud need to please God, but the things we think about too.

This was a concept that hit the Pharisees upside the head when Jesus was alive on Earth. Jesus told people that, yes, adultery is wrong, but that even if you lusted after someone in your heart, you were just as guilty as if you had committed adultery. Yes, murder is wrong, but even if you hate someone in your heart, it’s just as bad as if you had killed them. Jesus explained to people that what you think about is just as important as what you say out loud.

So knowing that, how do we handle our thought lives? How can I — with my overactive, over-abundance of brain function — keep a handle on what I think about? After all, it’s a lot easier to put a filter on your mouth than it is to put a filter on your brain.

Maybe this is silly, but we need to think about what we think about. Philippians 4:8 gives a list of things that believers should think about.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

People sometimes call this verse a “filter.” If you run your thoughts through this filter, do they work? Does the caliber of what you’re thinking about match with these qualities? If not, you probably shouldn’t be thinking about it.

So how do you stop thinking about something you shouldn’t be thinking about?

For me, that’s the hard part. When my brain gets stuck in a rut, it’s the hardest thing in the world to get out of it. But just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Remember, if you are a follower of Christ, you have the Holy Spirit inside your heart. He’s there to help you. So don’t be afraid to ask.

You have a choice in what to think about. Just because a thought appears in your head doesn’t mean you have to spend an hour thinking about it. No. If it’s not a thought that you should have, drop it. Don’t think about it. Or stand up to it. Realize and recognize that it’s not an excellent thought, that it’s not worthy of praise, that it’s not true or honorable or right or pure or lovely. And choose to not think about it again. Ask God to help you. And if you keep struggling, find an accountability partner.

Eventually, what is in your mind will come out of your mouth. Maybe you can keep them separate at first, but eventually what is going on in your heart is going to happen in your life. We may think we can compartmentalize forever, but that’s a lie Satan tells us. The best defense is to be genuine, inside and out.