No Reason to Perform – He Loves You Anyway

No Reason to Perform – He Loves You Anyway

I was walking down the street today – one of the small joys I now appreciate more than ever, thanks to Covid-19 and countrywide lockdowns. I was thinking about all I needed to do…and all I wanted to do.

There’s a big difference between those two. When I NEED to do something, I can often feel guilty for not ticking it off my to do list. But when I WANT to do something, it happens so effortlessly. And doing it brings joy. Get what I mean?

In that moment I realised that some of my items on my two to do lists (NEEDED TO and WANTED TO) have changed. Or rather, they moved. Thankfully.

For years – ever since I’ve found God as the love of my life – I’ve been involved with his work. His work can be being good to your neighbours, building a character that aligns with His values or it can be leading a major ministry that makes global impact. It’s all part of answering His call.

But here’s a faulty mindset I’ve lived with during many seasons in my life: I HAVE TO.

What I Got Wrong

Years ago I felt exhausted, burnt out and unmotivated. I was also fearful – extremely so. Even though I had an idea of what I thought God’s calling on my life was, for some reason, I couldn’t go into action. I was frozen by fear. Fear of failure, fear of conflict, fear of taking on a responsibility.

Photo by Doğukan Şahin on Unsplash

All of that should disappear when I realise how present God is in everything I do. Even though He shows me what to do, it’s not that I have to do it on my own. He simply wants to pursue a project with me. But my picture of my life was that I was supposed to deliver this perfect present to Him about what I’ve done for Him on earth.

Oh, how I got it wrong!!

He was there – always has been – with the desire to walk a certain path WITH me. He would have carried me through each trial to get to this goal that we were chasing. I missed it completely, never pursued it, simply because I imagined attempting that journey on my own. He was offering me an opportunity, and I took it up as an order.

I remember that part of my frustration was seeing so many people – some my age, some older, some younger – doing extraordinary things for Him. They saved people from human trafficking, they built safe havens for the abused, they fought for justice. They really made a difference! They didn’t only TALK about His kingdom. They lived it and made it happen.

Why couldn’t I do the same?

Surely God must think less of me because I’m not performing at that level.

He must be so frustrated with me who can’t get her ducks in a row and do something big for Him.

In that season, I remember noticing how so many things signaled that it’s a good time to pursue that dream: people I met that would have benefited this goal He had for me. A property that would have been the perfect place to start it all. It could have happened.

But I just couldn’t do it. It was a burden…No…I MADE it a burden…a ‘I HAVE TO’.

It was not a joy. I never went into action.

And I felt like a failure.

The Advice I Wish I Understood Earlier

So, I remember, more than once, reaching out to Joanne Ramos, whom I respect as a leader, a believer and so much more. Wow! She wrote me back all the way from the US! I wrote to her for a bunch of reasons and she actually took the time to read my long letters where I tried to explain my confused thoughts. There was a lot of turmoil inside me.

Photo by Adam Solomon on Unsplash

And I got great encouragement from her. What stuck with me is the ‘why’ she did what she did…

Her words:

‘Wanting to know Jesus…. to understand who He is and be close to Him.’

This is quite in contrast to my skewed perception that it’s ONLY about fulfilling a mission.

Unfortunately, it took me YEARS to figure out what that really meant.

I have done so much in my life because I thought it was the ‘right’ thing to do. I pursued projects, because I believed it’s all about ‘purpose’. I have these dreams pounding in my heart about writing books, helping the lost and fighting for justice. And the moment a dream drops in my heart, for some reason, I turn it into a ‘HAVE TO’. I turn it into a performance. I ruin it. I ruin it for myself. And I exchange joy for guilt. Guilt for not making the dream a reality yet. Guilt for not getting it perfect. Guilt for being too afraid.

If ONLY I could turn around, look into His face…discover how He is always by my side wanting to help me make those dreams the blessings He wants on earth…and all the while actually just passionate about revealing more of Himself to me.

Yesterday a friend told me ‘God loves a desperate spirit’.

I asked her why she thinks that is.

She said something along the lines of desperation causing us to press in to Him. In my own words, desperation forcing us to consult Him after we’ve tried all our own ways and seen they don’t work.

This could apply to anything: wanting a baby…wanting to start a ministry because you love doing good…wanting better for a friend or family member…struggling with finances.

In my old perspective, I wanted to bring the perfect result to Him as proof of my faith, my diligence, my commitment to Him, my love for people. I didn’t get much done with that mindset.

So, eventually I did reach moments of desperation. I started asking Him His opinion on the matter. About how I’m supposed to go about things. At last, instead of running away with the idea, hoping to return to Him to show what I’ve done with it, I faced Him WITH it. I faced Him with the shriveled idea that looked quite crooked, with no promise of making much impact. And that was what I was supposed to do from the start.

Bit by bit, he broke down my mindset of ‘I HAVE TO’. Now, it’s more like ‘Let US do this’.

I will also admit: I had to deal with a whole pride aspect. I had to realise it’s not about being the best or making the most impact. It’s about knowing Him.

I’m getting there. Slowly, but surely. (This in itself is a challenge, since I prefer getting things done quickly…but His way is better…and slow & steady apparently doesn’t mean I’m a failure. What a revelation!).

Why do We Feel we ‘HAVE TO’?

I think there are many reasons you may feel to perform in His eyes:

  • For some, it’s personality.
  • Faulty teachings.
  • Wanting to be like the respected church leaders, thinking that’s ‘success as a believer’.
  • Working to obtain people’s recognition.
  • Thinking His blessing only comes based on our deeds.

All of these can easily replace the motivation that should be behind all we do: our love for Him. And when we don’t do something based on the right foundation, we give the enemy an opportunity to enter with fear, pride, sin and so much more.

Photo by Fuu J on Unsplash

Living in Freedom Without ‘I HAVE TO’

Why am I writing this?

I’m kinda figuring out this chunk of a lesson as I’m writing these words.

What I know is this:

To live with a sense of ‘HAVE TO’ prevents me from ever going into action to do His wonderful work on earth. For me, the overwhelming obstacle is usually fear. The ‘HAVE TO’ results in fear of failure, whether it’s in my family responsibilities, my ministry, or my work. For you, the obstacle may be something different. But to forget that He is part of those dreams can spoil the process and even stop it altogether.

It has taken me months to get to this point. Now, my mind does recognise the freedom found in His grace, rather than feeling a weight on my shoulders because I take on a mission and ‘schedule a performance’. Now, many of the items on my to do list falls under ‘I WANT TO’ because I do want to see what happens if I pursue an idea WITH HIM. And since I don’t feel I have to impress Him with the outcome, the results matter less…there’s less fear…and joy once again enters the game.

I don’t want you to miss out on having journeys with Him because the enemy gets you to believe the lie that you HAVE TO do this, or you won’t be good enough. Or that you HAVE TO pursue a project to get the adoration of people.

Please turn and seek His face, sooner than I did.

There is so much freedom in partnering with Him, instead of perform for Him.

Matthew 11
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Way Maker – My Story & the Lesson I Learnt in Exactly 1 Month During COVID-19

Way Maker – My Story & the Lesson I Learnt in Exactly 1 Month During COVID-19

So, I simply want to share my COVID-19 story with you guys.

I do think that God reveals Himself in the simplest, most beautiful ways sometimes. The subtleness is often exactly what you need to be reminded how gentle, caring and PRESENT our God is.

This story has a lot to do about South Africa’s lockdown chapter during the Corona pandemic, but the principles stay the same no matter what’s going on around you: my God cares enough to make it known that He is ever-present.

So, here goes.

Setting the Stage

Exactly one month ago, on 27 March 2020, I was not at my best. It was the start of lockdown, but as an introvert myself this fact in itself did not upset me as much as it did many others. So what was bugging me?

There was this sense of foreboding which I admit I allowed to take hold of me. What would the future hold? As someone stated very aptly, there was a sense of grief for the fact that life as we knew it was changing. Was that what got to me? Perhaps.

Also, even though I’m blessed to work in an industry that could continue operating during the worldwide pandemic, we weren’t completely unaffected. Clients were a little harder to come by, rates had to be lowered to accommodate customers. So, of course, there was the question – the fear – of whether we would survive throughout the crisis.

All of this DID lead me down the path of feeling somewhat depressed. I did NOT have my usual reservoir of joy supporting my emotions or enabling me to help those around me. I really felt down in the dumps.

But God knew what I needed.

The Way Maker Journey

Introducing Way Maker

Now let me make this clear: I know the song, but it’s not that I’ve heard it countless times. I don’t sing it in church every Sunday, because I admit I don’t get to church every Sunday. I don’t listen to gospel radio stations all day, because I work from home where I listen to instrumentals to keep focus.

But into my brain that Friday morning popped the word ‘Way Maker’. I knew about the song, so I Googled it. (For those who don’t know the song: read the beautiful lyrics by Sinach here)

And I found Way Maker on YouTube.

And I put in my earphones.

And I pushed ‘Play’.

And every word soaked into my being. Every word sung about depression…about Him being the Light in my dark moments…about working miracles when our humanly ways will definitely not be enough.

So, in those 8 minutes, God gave me back my hope. The hope I’ve held onto ever since I was a teenager and I grabbed hold of a belief that He has a plan with me, our country and His people. And His plans are always ongoing, no matter what.

So, I breathed again, listened to those videos ALL day…and saw how He provided each day over the coming weeks. For example, work may have not been in abundance as I was used to, but He provided enough for EACH DAY! He NEVER let me down.

And I thought that was my lesson.

But God was not finished.

Way Maker Across the World

So, you all have seen posts and videos from across the globe about how humanity has decided to stand together during this very trying time. Many people say that humanity is corrupted at our core, but in one of the most trying times in human history:

  •  It’s GOODNESS that is coming to the fore.
  • People SACRIFICE so much to help one another.
  • Communities are driven to SUPPORT each other.

Tough times bring out our TRUE selves, right?…and the world has proven that that which God has made us to be – people who live His values – is STILL at the centre of our beings.

But, back to Way Maker.

Have you taken note of some of the details of the positive stories people are sharing? Did you notice how many of them mention people singing ‘Way Maker’ to each other and frontline workers? This was happening in:

Was God simply trying to show ME that He is in control, or is this His beautiful golden thread making a path across the globe?

And STILL my God wasn’t done with showing me His beautiful hand at work.

Way Maker in Port Elizabeth (my home town)

So, as a country, South Africa has gotten through most of the lockdown period, but of course there is still a long time of challenges ahead. We have to rebuild our economy, small businesses are suffering and many people lost their jobs.

I look around me and have to force myself not to be overcome with sadness and worry for some of my friends’ current predicaments.

And then God sends me this.

I see it in my Facebook feed. I live in PE, so of course I watch it. It’s good news: a COVID patient is released!!!

But listen closely.

What song is playing in the background at the beginning of the video (try to listen in between the voices)?

Yes. The song that has become my anthem…the world’s anthem?

Way Maker.

God Makes a Way – Always

I can’t but see His beautiful golden thread that has been traveling with me SINCE DAY 1. And it’s only a confirmation of what He has done for me my whole life.

He is ALWAYS present.

He is ALWAYS helping.

I know all of you may not feel, hear or see it at the moment; but I pray that one day you will look back and the picture will become clear for you.

For now, this is my COVID-19 miracle.

I pray for each one of you out there that needs your own type of miracle.

I know my Way Maker is ready and able to show you the way. And please share your own lockdown stories so we can encourage each other.

Blessings to all of you.

A Letter to my Friends. Please Read. It’s About You

A Letter to my Friends. Please Read. It’s About You

Moving is tough and I’m not talking about packing boxes.

I may never see all of you again. When I think of all your faces I think of all the value you added to my life.

There is this urgency in me not to go before you KNOW what you mean to me. That’s what I’m all about I guess: that people may know their worth. Maybe because some individuals have helped me find mine and now I can’t bear the thought of you not knowing the impact your life has made on me.

I’m moving far away and for a few years you have helped form me and guide me through the waves of life. And now that season is over, but what you’ve accomplished in me is not. Your marks made me stronger, wiser and happier. And you have to know that that is a legacy you leave in this world.

Yes, I know with the technology of today we’ll still communicate. But I’m going to miss the times around the kitchen tables and feeling your comforting hugs or seeing your smile. So here’s me trying to say thank you for all those moments.

Thank You for Making me Laugh

Is there anything better than making a serious, complicated person like me get out of her usual box of reference and laugh ecstatically? You made that happen. You made me see the lighter side of life. You made me ENJOY life when all I wanted was to ACCOMPLISH life.

Thank you.

Thank You for Being Wise when I Couldn’t be

I’m used to being the counselor and advisor. But there were times when I couldn’t be and I became the student. And wow, your authentic way of living and “practice what you preach”-ways and your experience made me trust your insight. Thank you that you had the guts to go through trials so I could learn at your feet for a change. I will never forget what you did for me.

Thank You for Listening

I prefer listening. I love hearing stories. But then occasionally I need an ear. And you were there. How can I say thank you enough that you heard my sorry stories without judging or even advising. Safe spaces are hard to come by in this world and you gave me one. Thank you.

Thank You for Drying up My Tears

I love crying. It cleanses me. It’s God’s way of getting all the junk out of my system. And you allowed me to vent. You made me okay again. Most of all you made me feel safe even though I was vulnerable. There is no greater gift a friend can give. Safety. Wow. I’m going to miss that.

But as God always sent you at exactly the right time when I needed you, I also know He will send me new safety nets in my new home. I pray that you will always find the right friends at the right time. You deserve the best.

Thank You for Making me Dream

You helped me realise dreams, dream new ones and encouraged me every step of the way. How do you say thank you to someone who saw potential in you even before you knew it was there yourself?

Thank you for bringing me one step closer to my God-given purpose. Thank you for the insight and inspiring me by chasing your own dreams. You’re amazing and I pray all your goals will one day be reached. I will be praying from afar. I will cheer you on always.

Will We Meet Again?

I don’t know who of you I will see again. I must make peace that seasons change. I don’t want unrealistic expectations because it hurts too much when expectations aren’t met.

But whether this is farewell or only ‘until we meet again’, know that the memory of you makes my life richer. It gives me the strength to move onto the next chapter of my life. You have been good to this person and may God bless you immensely for that. You have been His hand in my life and I have been so privileged to know you.

Today words aren’t enough to express my gratitude.

I hope we meet again. In my heart our friendship lives on. Thank you for the footsteps you left in this heart so far.

The South Africa I love(d)

The South Africa I love(d)

So…they’re tarring the road that runs past our front gate. Yes: South Africa still has signs of progress. That is the first fact I want to impress upon you. Just down the road from me a stunning estate with a brand new school has opened. So in spite of our focus on that which is going south (no pun intended) in our country, innumerable lights jump up in the darkness. I’m referring to building projects, innovative people doing great things, entrepreneurs living their creative thoughts, charity projects helping the broken hearted.

 

All of this have not stopped…even though there is a lot of frustration with our leaders and a lot of hate speech doing the rounds, we have much to combat that negativity. Because I believe the only way we can keep on making this country better is to have hope that it CAN get better. And hope is fueled by current truths. So there you have one: progression. And here’s some more.

These workers outside our gate. I do not fear them. I do not simply tolerate them. They have become a happy moment in my day whenever  I leave for work (which I still have in this country) or the shops (these seem to keep on jumping up as well). The workers don’t hate me. Their smiles are genuine and their recognition of my car is followed by excited waving. The assistance I get from them is what I love of South Africa. Despite our racial differences we respect each other…because that’s our default. Even amidst students fighting and parliament frankly becoming a joke, there’s a group of South Africans-both blacks and whites-that do their utmost to live the value of civility and respect and love.

A few weeks ago I was late for work and so I entered the road well after the workers started their day. At the moment I wanted to charge down the road, the workers were just getting into wetting the earth and using the TLB (I marvel at how construction workers expertly manoeuvre these huge vehicles). I turned into the road and everything stopped. They stopped everything. For me.

I was disturbing their daily task. I was interfering with their schedule. But they did not hesitate for a second to move all the heavy machinery out of the way…and then they would not let me pass. Not until they smoothed the gravel to make sure my car was not hurt. I know they may have a foreman who would swear at them if they upset the locals. But this group of hard workers looked after me and my car in such a caring way at a time when they could have left me to my own devices or kept me waiting until they were finished.

I messed with their schedule again just a day or two later when I got stuck in some of the soft earth being prepared for tarring. The wise old workers deliberated, got everyone together and lifted my car out of the sand while making sure nothing is damaged, all the while communicating with me, smiling broadly. He could have been brash. I would have understood. They work hard and I’m simply a bother in a hectic day. But they weren’t. They were the most friendly people I came across that day.

Every morning I’m met by these workers(who are doing a very neat job of laying the road by the way). Every morning I’m reminded that South Africa has a choice. I am blessed by a group that chooses to live respect and that gives me hope. I smile back because I love them for turning our road into tar, for doing a good job and for making me feel safe and accepted when all around us everyone is fighting.

These people are what I love about our country. That different types of people can live love and friendliness…even when it’s not necessary. We do it because we can…not because we must. And sometimes we need to be reminded of the power within each of us to influence those around us…with love…not hate.

I know there’s a lot that’s wrong with this country. But not all of it is. Some aspects are so RIGHT. And I will passionately believe that it can outgrow the rest.

Easy? No.

Possible? Yes!

Don’t let this goodness die. Please.

Are we going to make our countrymen smile…or cry? You decide.

winter