The post below is an excerpt from Nothing to Prove (coming Jan 31st!). You can pre-order a signed copy here AND get a free NOTHING TO PROVE hand-stamped brass necklace if you order by December 10th. To grab a necklace, head here, fill out the form, and we’ll ship you a necklace and Christmas card.
I was full swing into a wrestling match with happiness when Zac and I received an invitation to spend a week at our friend’s lodge, which sits adjacent to a Young Life camp called Malibu Club up in the middle of nowhere Canada. If I am honest, I wasn’t miserable and feeling intense sadness; it was more that I had chosen to be numb.
For months I’d mulled over the obvious culprits behind my struggle: spiritual attack so blatant at times I have laughed out loud at how obvious the devil can be, pressure to protect the purity of this “great work of God,” the chaos of all the hard work mixed with four kids growing up at turbo speed and me feeling like I was missing it.
I remember one night in particular lying in bed and saying, You know? If this is what it means to follow You, God, I don’t know if I am up for this.
As we approached our time at the lodge, coming to any understanding about the root of my unhappiness felt impossible, and coming to some big emotional life change at an actual Young Life camp felt cliché. My highest hopes were to laugh and make some memories with Zac and my friends. But here was the problem: at the lodge, where I was surrounded by a whole lot of happiness, my own unhappiness was impossible to escape or ignore.
I wanted my joy back.
I wanted my freedom back.
I wanted my feelings back.
I wanted my passion back.
I wanted my dreams back.
I wanted my life back!
I had seen God move in spectacular, miraculous ways, and I’d seen God move in quiet, behind-the-scenes ways that could only be His hand at work. I’d witnessed answers to prayer, such as loved ones being saved, individuals being freed from addiction, job offers coming through, ministries being launched, children finding new courage.
One night after dinner I snuck away to spend some time with Jesus. It was as flatlined a time as it has ever been. I didn’t cry. I didn’t read. I sat there looking at the sky, asking God what to do with the weight I felt, with my miserably heavy, invisible pack. My soul was about to be resuscitated, but it wouldn’t be in ways that I could have predicted. God brought me there because He was ready to radically shift the way we were doing life together. He wouldn’t let me miss my life, He wouldn’t let me miss His love, He wouldn’t let me miss Him.
He came after me, and He is coming after you.
A fellow lodge guest stumbled up the path, seemingly lost. He was an older gentleman with silver hair and sincere eyes. I’d heard others around the camp refer to him as a wise counselor. A wise counselor. That is exactly what I seemed to need. Someone to diagnose me, someone to explain this heaviness that had invaded my life.
As he walked up, I said, “Sir, I know this is going to sound crazy, but I think I’m supposed to tell you my problems.”
He laughed and sat down next to me. Over the course of the next hour and a half, the man listened patiently to every significant and insignificant thought about my life, the heaviness of my Barbie Dream Castle life and lack of enoughness. My absence of emotion turned quickly to fanatical emotion, and I found myself crying on this poor man’s shoulder and wiping my eyes and snotty nose on his shirt.
I told him about my overwhelming urge to kick in the Barbie Dream Castle of Accomplishment. I told him how desperately I wanted to hear God say, “Well done.” I told him I was afraid of messing it all up. I told him about my constant not-enoughness. I told him my heart wasn’t pure enough, I wasn’t a good enough leader, God picked the wrong girl. I told him how much I wanted to please God.
He listened and smiled and nodded, and can you imagine what he said?
“Jennie, kick it in!”
“Yes, kick in the castle. If this is God, you cannot mess it up and ruin it no matter how hard you try. And if it isn’t from God, then you just did Him a favor.”
My brain was spinning out as freedom and peace seeped into every part of me. I pictured myself kicking IF in…all the expectations, the pressures, the dreams realized. And I pictured it popping back up like one of those inflatable jumpy castle things.
He said words like:
“Jennie, God doesn’t need you, He loves you.” …“No wonder you are so tired, that is a lot to keep up.” …“I’d rather be watching Netflix than be with Jesus, too, if I lived afraid of failing Jesus all the time.”….“God couldn’t care less about successes, failures, visions, disappointments. He will just use all of it, whatever means possible just to get to you, to be with you.”
I laughed out loud at the absurdity of all the lies I’d been believing and the seemingly noble aspirations I had inflicted on myself to prove I was capable to lead such a thing. How silly to think I could manage this God movement. How arrogant to believe I could hold this thing up if my heart could only be pure enough.
I realized that night that I have been living a lot of my life for God instead of with God. And that is a lot of pressure on a girl.
That night, as near to heaven as I have ever felt, God whispered, What if all you ever wanted, all the happy you have craved, just happens to be found in loving Me and people wildly?
Of course that. Of course. I knew it; I just didn’t believe it. And it turns out there is a difference.
He whispered, You know your soul is craving Me? Only Me. That is what you crave. That is life. That is peace. That is hope. That is joy.
I pictured Jesus calling me to this great adventure but saying to me, Jennie, come to me, you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Jennie, I want you to stop doing things for Me and start doing things with Me. We have some fields to plow and your eyes have been straight ahead, working and striving and pulling this heavy thing.
You see, God has called us to His huge vision. He is calling us to go and make disciples of the world and to show people Jesus and to see people transformed. He has called us to feed the poor and bring hope to the sick and love our families through the hard days. He has called us to lives that set people free and to invite them into the family of God. While sometimes we miss the wonder because we daily live out our calling in mundane ways, He has called us to an exciting and noble and awesome task, and if you are not a part of it, I can promise that is one reason that you feel like you are missing something—because you are.
We can’t make light of the vision, but we also cannot accomplish any of the purposes of God unless we do them with the power and the resources and the energy of God.
To read more of this post, pre-order Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard. And if you order a copy by December 10th, you can get a free custom hand-stamped NOTHING TO PROVE necklace from Robinson Lane! Just pre-order your copy from your favorite retailer and head HERE to redeem your necklace (there’s not very many left)!