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Posts Tagged ‘proving ourselves’

In recent days, as I have begun writing another non-fiction book, I have been thinking about various words or phrases spoken to me that have had a lasting impact in my life. Sometimes, these have been negative, sowing doubts in my mind about my ability to do something or undermining my self-worth. Yet thankfully, I can remember many positive ones too. These gave me hope for the future and reassurance that I could do the things I sensed God wanted me to do and, as I have reflected on them, I have felt so grateful all over again for them.

I wonder if there are some that immediately spring to mind for you from your own experience. Perhaps you remember some things your parents or your teachers said when you were growing up. Perhaps a friend has spoken words of encouragement into your life just when you needed them. How did you feel when you heard those words? And how did you feel afterwards, as they still rang inside your head?

I can remember my father teasing me at times when I was young by saying, ‘Oh Jo—she should have been a boy!’ I knew he was only joking and that he said it just to see my reaction. And I admit I was quite an untidy tomboy at times. Yet these words caused me to doubt myself too. Was I somehow wrong? Was I a disappointment to him?

Much later, in my forties, I remember excitedly sharing with someone that I was heading to theological college. Instead of the positive response I had expected, her words were withering and scornful. ‘What would you want to do that for? I don’t have to prove myself!’ she almost sneered. I was shocked and began questioning my motives—but also wondered why my decision had aroused such anger in her.    

Thankfully, I can remember so many more wonderful, positive words that have encouraged me over the years. I think of a time early on in my writing journey when I was so unsure about my whole approach to creating a novel.

‘Do you think this is all okay?’ I asked my lovely soul friend Joy one day.

‘Oh, I think it’s wonderful!’ she said, so delighted to be part of this new thing I was attempting.

Just a little comment, yet it encouraged me so much to keep going and keep holding onto my dream.

Or I think of an email I received only recently from a lovely new contact I have made overseas. My dear new friend, she had written—and those few, simple words stirred my heart. Yes, I thought, this person values me already as a friend. And, even at my age, I find that so encouraging and reassuring.

I wonder if I have said—or written—any unforgettable words to others lately. If I have, I hope and pray they have been of the encouraging kind, not only because they are the sort I like to receive myself but because these are the sort God wants us to say to one another. So, let’s do it—and may your heart be encouraged too in the process.

… Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. Ephesians 4:29 NLT

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Jo 23There I was, working in my study and only vaguely conscious of the sound of the TV in our lounge, when one particular sentence jolted me alert. It was as if the words I heard were louder than all the others, demanding my attention.

‘She doesn’t have to worry—she’s got nothing left to prove.’

I soon realised the sports commentator was talking about a particular sportswoman at the Commonwealth Games who has won every medal and accolade there is in her chosen field. At this stage, she can simply enjoy the satisfaction of winning and not have to worry anymore about whether she can make it and be the best in the world. It’s what we often say when people have succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations and achieved great feats in their lives.

Why did this statement impact me the way it did? Because I had just read the following sentence in my latest book I am in the process of editing:

I was my own worst enemy in many ways, so prone to taking things too personally, so wanting to prove myself, so easily forgetting who I was in God and so often allowing others’ opinions of me to pull me down.

Yes, in former years, I was very much into proving myself. I wanted to come top of that class in primary school. I wanted to be among those prize winners at our high school speech night. I wanted to excel at uni. This was all good, but I did not realise then that trying to prove myself would not give me that deep sense of worth I craved inside.

I remember well a question someone asked me when I was about to head to theological college in my late forties.

‘So … what are you trying to prove?’

I was dumbfounded—I could not believe anyone would ask me such a rude question. Yes, I planned to put my heart and soul into all my assignments to get the maximum benefit from this wonderful opportunity to study once again—but not merely to prove myself. So I tried to muster up some grace and forbearance and told this person I was doing it first and foremost because I believed God had called me to, which was the truth.

No doubt at times I did fall back into my old ways of trying to prove myself at college. But, these days, I can honestly say that, just like that Commonwealth Games athlete the commentator was talking about, there is nothing left for me to prove either. Not that I have written that best seller or hit the highest peaks of achievement in ministry, by any means! But I know who I am in God. And I know deep inside I don’t have to earn God’s approval—because Jesus has made me totally acceptable, whatever I achieve or don’t achieve in this life. This has given me such a deep sense of security as I continue to write and speak and put myself and my books out there. I don’t have to prove myself—there’s nothing left to prove. All I can do is my best and leave the rest to God.

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. 1 Cor 15:10a

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