Jennifer Camp, co-founder of Gather Ministries, and author of Loop, grew up in the middle of an almond orchard in Northern California and now lives in the busy Bay Area with her husband and three kids. A former high school English teacher, she loves to write, but she especially loves to encourage people to seek and live out the truth of their story, their identity in Christ. You can find her writing at her blog, Jennifer J. Camp .You can connect with Jennifer on both Facebook and Twitter. She would love to have you join her there.
“You are not the forgotten one.”
I hear it–a statement, simple enough, from a Father who pursues. He wants this truth to sink in deep this time. He wants me to believe it: Achievement does not make any person more worthy of love.
“You are not the forgotten one. You are the chosen one.”
Oh, Father. Take this heart that doubts your truth. Kill it in me. Give me a new heart. Help me deny the temptations of this world.
Yes, something in us has to die to make room for God’s truth.
The fire in the hearth blazes. I sit with blanket pulled across my chest, turquoise plaid wool tucked under my feet. The house sleeps, but I know, God, You’re here. Early morning comes like a new beginning, a chance to awake, once more, to truth. A chance to put to death, once more, these lies.
Believing truth is a battle hard-fought and won. Other messages–the dark ones, the desperate ones–the eager pokes and prods to our heart that cause anxiety, doubt, insecurity–are so much easier, sometimes, to believe.
My head, so rational (usually) knows my value is not determined by the world’s definition of success: numbers, on a platform or a scale; beauty, from youth or wealth. My head knows this. My head recognizes the voice of the Father, the voice that has saved my life, given me hope when there was shame, new life when despair reigned.
But yet I still struggle to believe it. My heart rebels against my mind. My mind struggles to convince my heart.
There is such good for us, we daughters of God–such a beautiful life, right here, right now. But rather than energized, we feel exhausted. Rather than free, we feel stuck. We are not made to feel overwhelmed, lost, depleted. And when we do? That’s how we know, in our spirit, that it is time to die again. It is time to break agreements we have made with the enemy about our worth. It is time to receive more of our King’s real life.
“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).
Over and over, I must give Jesus my heart. Over and over, I must discern what agreements I have made with the enemy and then immediately break them. Over and over, I must die to myself. There was a significant dying in me once before. It has helped me see the value of not delaying in doing it again.
A ROCK HARD HEART
Once upon a time, God, in his tenderness, saw his daughter cowering, a rock upon her chest, dragged down by deceit and pride and shame. And he lifted the rock off of her. He asked her if she wanted to keep her unchanged heart–a heart conditioned to lie and to pretend and to work to create an image that is anything but true. And for a while, she rejected Him. She could not imagine facing her sin. She could not imagine confessing and opening her heart. So she said no. She was fine. And He let her stay, just like that, for two decades, a secret kept, a heart locked up, a rock upon her chest.
Not only from friends and family, but from my own self, I kept the secret of my abortion. I pushed it down, refused to think about it. I convinced myself that deception was a much better way to live than showing the world my scars. If I could hide my bad choices, my regrets, why wouldn’t I? Why reveal what I had done, who I really am, what I am capable of?
I kept the truth about me a secret, and, in doing so, I convinced myself, for two decades, that if no one knew what I did–what I am still capable of doing–I would be okay. The world was my idol. Keeping up an appearance in which everything looked beautiful, put together, polished and tidy and good made me feel that I was beautiful, put together, polished and tidy and good. I wanted to be these things. And convincing the world that I was these things was easy–easier, at least, than admitting it was actually a lie. All of it.
But there was a cost.
The cost of the lie was my heart. I made an agreement with the enemy that I am only loved because of what I do. I made an agreement that if I, in my sin, am capable of so much deceit, of treachery, of murder, then surely I am no good. And I wasn’t ready to deal with that reality. So, rather than surrender my heart, my pain–confess my sin–I buried it.
Those decades of hiding my heart from God were some of the loneliest of my life.
“You are not the forgotten one.”
Old wounds healed. But new agreements made.
I feel myself wrestling to lay down my life again.
It is time.
EVEN THOUGH IT FEELS TOO GOOD TO BELIEVE
We are loved. We are loved despite of our sin. We are loved despite are weaknesses. And even though it feels too good to believe, even though, of course, we do not deserve it, this is the only path to Life. We must lay down our life; we must break agreements with the enemy; we must waste no more time in pretending to be strong, insisting on being stubborn.
We can’t do this life on our own, right here, right now. We are desperate for God. Beautifully desperate. And that is more–so much more–than okay.
This desperation for God is why I listened for God’s voice and I created Loop. This desperation for God is why I listened for God’s voice and I created Breathing Eden. This desperation for God is why I listen and I spend hours each morning creating a new project I am so eager to share with you soon.
And this is why, in whatever I write now, I endeavor to do it with vulnerability. For it is my vulnerability, my weakness, that is my strength. It is a lie from the enemy that tries to convince me that the opposite of this is true.
I am tired of believing lies.
SO, WHAT NOW?
How do we take steps, each day, to surrender?
How do we take steps, each day, to pick up our cross, be confident in our weaknesses, let God be our rock, our stronghold, our warrior, our King, our strength?
Let me know if you’d like me to share with you what I do. In the meantime, here is the truth I cling to: we are so beautifully desperate for God. And that’s a good thing.
What practical thing do you do in response to your desperation for God?
This post appeared originally at jenniferjcamp.com
Coffeeshop counters are filled with felted cupids and red glittered hearts. Men walk the streets of Palo Alto with bunches of flowers pressed into hands.
I lift my face to the sun as I walk. Justin is close, this partner of mine who pushes me toward love more than anyone else I know.
And it is hard. Love. The kind of love that tears at your heart until surrender comes. I’m not doing this right, I’m sure.
“Iron sharpens iron,” is what Justin reminds me. And he pushes, and he challenges. He can tell when I’m stuck and don’t know my way out. And he does that dance of knowing how to pursue me and give me room.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).
And it is uncomfortable. And I want to run. But I need this–someone to pursue me–encourage this stubborn me toward God. I need someone to show me Jesus in the flesh–what love looks like when I am running the other way rather than doing the one thing I know I need to do: fall.
In relationships, we hurt each other when we let our own big self get in the way. (And this is my special talent.) So I listen to Justin’s words, and I ask for God to help my heart be soft. I don’t like it–that place of tension. The Holy Spirit whispers in my ear, inviting me toward a new place. And all I want to do, instead, is stay right where I am. Even though it is more painful, more lonely, more dark.
But I can’t stay here.
I want to be where the light shines. I do. But when I hear words I don’t want to hear–true or not–it is so hard to not have my heart be hardened. It is hard to not be stubborn. It is hard to not be right.
It is a lot of work, this clashing of wills, this battle for more than peace. For love–even hope–can be turbulent too. And it is only Jesus, who is not afraid of turbulence, who calms the storm.
I didn’t know this is what love could look like–that the fighting for another person’s heart doesn’t always mean turning the other way, hoping for the best, and not doing a thing. When we see someone we love turning away from God, rejecting the full life He has for them, it will do no one any good to do nothing. It is our job to love. And love isn’t always neat and pretty and a bouquet of roses in tight, clenched fingers on a sunshine-filled, clean city street.
(Although it might just be that too.)
Love is being reminded it is okay to let your fifteen year old son, who is pushing and pulling to find his own way, go. Even if it feels awful (for you) when he falls. Love is being honest with friends and telling them that really, actually, you are not okay. Love is being bold, letting God’s words be more than words but action. It is listening, yes. But it is also responding to what He says. For what good is a word from God if we forget the Word is alive within us? It is up to us to respond–let the Word take shape in us. Then, only then, will it live.
My Spotify dashboard today offers two playlists: (1) “Valentine’s Day Love,” the first song offering the crooning of Ed Sheeran; and (2) “Anti-Valentine’s Day,” with Adam Levine belting out “Animals.” Each playlist represents a story, the story of love fought for, surrendered to, given up on, or lost. I’ve decided to go with the “Valentine’s Day Love” playlist. It’s got Jewel and Bryan Adams, with a chaser of The Lumineers and The Verve and Sister Hazel. Good stuff.
Love is heartbreak and hope. Love is battle and surrender. The story I want to tell–that I lived a life revealing love that was heart-won and true. I want to listen more to God’s truth, but, most importantly, I want to act on what I hear Him tell me, too.
How are you stirred toward action . . . toward love . . . this day?
It’s been hard, for sure. I imagine it always is, when we’re taking a good hard look at oursevles, the parts previously hidden, the parts we wished we could hide. When do we ever feel in the mood to consider this truth: we each have an affinity for certain sins? Are we ever? In any case, the process, even the outcome, doesn’t sound fun at all.
This hard look we do is not a look into a mirror; it’s into our hearts–our motivations, our history, our personality. The goal? To increase in self-awareness–growing in understanding of our whole self for which Christ died. The reason? To recognize that (1) there is sin in us, the false self that continues to sin even when we don’t want to, and (2), there is the beautiful, true self, the self that, in her fullness, recognizes and lives out her identity in God.
It is amazing how Jesus knows this; He knows each part of us. And He loves us anyway.
These two parts of the self are you. These two parts of the self are me. All of this is for whom Christ came and died and will come again. So I wonder: We should take a better look at her, this whole self, then, shouldn’t we?
“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” (Psalm 139:23)
It can feel better to ignore that deeper part of ourselves, the place where our heart and our soul whispers the truest stuff about us. Yeah, it’s brutal: the truth. But that long, hard look at who we are, at how we are made, at our predisposition toward a certain false self that shields the beauty and power and strength of who we, in our rising fullness truly are, can be kind of good too.
And we need that. We need to claim that self–love all of ourselves, despite our predisposition toward sin or falseness or darkness. For there is more to us than just that. If Jesus loves all of us, despite us and because of us–our existence sprung from the God whose love could not be contained–then we should try to get a better understanding of who this is that Jesus loves so much. Me, in all my falseness, You, in all of yours.
It is only in knowing what we are capable of without God–recognizing and owning our true-false selves without God and our true-beautiful selves with God–that we can claim the lives God gives us–lives of surrender and freedom and joy and hope and fullness.
“And to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19).
I forget how it started–how I had the idea of having the bunch of us, girlfriends whom I’ve known for more than ten years–sit right there in my front room and take the Enneagram test on our phones. You see, we know who we are–that we are loved by God, perfectly made and chosen. But we get mixed up sometimes. We get frustrated with our sin, specifically that particular sin we each head toward more than any other.
So, we took the test. And it was fascinating. And good. And so, so hard.
It is tough to like yourself when you get a glimpse of your sin–what it really looks like, what you are truly like, without God in your heart.
I figured the thing I have struggled with most in my life is pride. I knew it was pride, for instance, that prompted me, at sixteen years old, to consider taking my own life but then the life of my child instead–rather than let people know how I had sinned. I cared more about what people thought of me than anything else. I thought I knew better than God.
Yes, that was pride.
But what I never realized until I took the Enneagram test and read this book and then this one (and then took a free, second test) that what I also struggle with is deceit. For decades I lied about who I was; I cared more about achievement and success, and I was willing to create a false persona rather than be vulnerable, real, honest, and look at the truth of who I am without God.
The Enneagram validated what I had already known about myself, as well as gave me fresh insight into how my personality and predisposition toward certain behaviors affects my relationships with others, and with God.
This was last week. And this information–this self-awareness-has rocked my world. Each person who takes the Enneagram will find that they are one of nine personality types. Knowing your type helps you get a better understanding of your personality: some things about your personality you will think are awesome, and some things will just make you cringe.
You see, I am a type Three, which is classified as an achiever, a performer. (Not surprisingly, I took the test twice because I desperately wanted to be another type than the type I am.) I want to get things right. I want to look okay. I will do what it takes to fit in. Ouch. That is me at my worst. But what I love about being a Three is this: when I have surrendered the desire to play games, be deceitful for the sake of pride, I am filled with hope. I fight for truth. I know I have nothing to prove, and I lead with vulnerability. I am less scared of failure–knowing my God is who catches me when I fall.
It is challenging to take a good, hard look at how we are wired, how we are made, how we are predisposed to fall. But when we see our particular weaknesses for what they are, specific, unique opportunities for God to make us trust in Him, we are more fully equipped to fight that beautiful battle of this day, and the next day, and the next, with our God by our side.
Here is a helpful and short video clip of Richard Rohr explaining the why behind the Enneagram.
Have you studied the Enneagram? What is your journey of looking deeply at who God has created you to be?
This post appeared originally at jenniferjcamp.com