The Secret to Living a Big, Bold Life
At the moment, I’m in the middle of organizing my goals for the year. It’s going well but the process I’m using is different than in previous years. Never have I ever sought God as much as I am now.
Dreaming up, setting up, and accomplishing goals has been a passion of mine since university. In high school and earlier, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do so was content living as a dreamer. I was still young, I wanted the moon … how to get there, well, I’d figure it out later. In university, on my journey of self discovery, I explored / changed majors, joined a sorority, quit the sorority, and then during my senior year, in the midst of worry about what on earth I was going to do after graduation … I met a girl. In a Political Change in Greater China course (or something like that). Who spoke about Jesus all the time. Somehow, every single class, Jesus would come up and in the most natural, respectful, not at all weird, matter of fact way. She wasn’t nervous about life after graduation. And I wondered why I didn’t know Jesus like she did. After all, I was a Christian too. Right?
So we became friends and she introduced me to Campus for Christ. I joined a women’s bible study who prayed with me through all the senior year anxieties and praised God with me when I got a life changing internship that would take me from small town Canada to the glittering metropolis of Singapore. Never mind that I had never been to the city and didn’t know anyone there beside a friend of a friend. I felt I had confirmation from God and besides, it was by far my glossiest option. Do a paid internship in a big city or start life as a grad student … well, also in a big city but Toronto was only an hour from home. Singapore was halfway around the world … the perfect spot for a big eyed dreamer like me.
A few snaps from life in Singapore from 2011-2015
This is pretty much how I saw the whole experience. Yes, I felt God made a way for me in Singapore and still do. I’m confident he also brought me to my current city of Hong Kong. But I was living for myself, asking for his will but resisting (mostly unconsciously, I think) if it didn’t match what I wanted. Each January, I would faithfully sit down and outline my goals for the year but … it was more about me thinking about what I’d like and then asking God to bless it. Many of the goals were focused on achieving what the world said was valuable … while I wanted to be myself, I wanted approval more. If God had asked me then, I wouldn’t have been open to bravely accepting God’s mission 100%, come what may. A bold life was what I wanted but within the confines of my own definition.
So my twenties were basically spent experimenting and trying to find my purpose.
This journal entry from October 2015 gives some insight into my headspace as a 26 year old:
Moving to Hong Kong has been wonderful but not the picnic I imagined. It’s busier and less warm than I expected. There really is a ‘playground’ sort of atmosphere with the partying in fancy dress. At the same time there’s a big keeping up appearances vibe. I’m not really down with either. I don’t want to go clubbing and flirt with foreign men. I want to work out and sleep early and work on my goals. I want to pray and have regular quiet time and make something of myself. At this point, one month into my Hong Kong journey, who knows how things will play out. But I’m determined to stay true to myself and transform into who God wants me to be … While I’ve achieved a number of goals and in many ways my life is better than I imagined, I haven’t figured out my true identity / purpose in life.
God has graciously allowed me to experience some of my wildest, boldest childhood / teenage dreams in the four plus years since I wrote that entry. But even a year ago, in early 2019, I was largely still in the same headspace when it came to my purpose … I was experiencing wonderful things but still trying to make a purpose fit. The closer it got to my 30th birthday, the more obsessed I became with trying to write my ideal narrative. I reasoned that I had a great career in publishing and was finally living out my childhood dream of making children’s books, nearly done with my Master’s degree, in a serious relationship … the only things left to do in life were to become a bestselling author and start a Christian kids press. These things would glorify God and seemed to make sense. Right...?
For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:8, NLT)
Months later, two weeks after my 30th birthday, life threw me a curve ball and now I’m not even mad about it. Because when my shoehorned plans fell apart, God showed me the joy of giving my whole life over to him. Last July, he told me it was time to start writing about and sharing my faith publicly (even though I was still dealing with fear of rejection and shame) and I was scared and nervous but felt I had ‘nothing to lose’ and soon realized he was giving me everything. Spending every moment I could praying, reading the Bible and Christian books, listening to sermons and worship music brought joy like I’d never experienced before. I was so in love with God, so amazed by his truth and just pouring out. As I obeyed and God revealed more, as he poured out new blessings and dreams, as I sharpened me and I surrendered again and again … I started to see how God really does use our past experiences and mistakes for his good. And how my desire to write and share authentically is so natural when I’m sharing about my love for God ... what makes my whole soul sing. Finally, I believe I’m walking in my God-designed path for life and it’s absolutely the most satisfying and freeing thing ever. I may not have the whole picture but can relax and rest in the arms of my Father who will get me where he wants me to go.
Now may the God of peace— who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood — may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21, NLT)
In my 30 years of life, I’ve learned that the big, bold life we desire doesn’t always come like we think. The timing might be sooner or later than is seemingly ideal. The look and order might be different. But surrendering to God and following his lead is the only way we’ll obtain true satisfaction which is what I think the big bold life is all about anyway. The joy and knowing that we’re doing what we’ve been created to do.
So if I had to distill all this down into one word, the secret to a big, bold life, I’d say it’s...
Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. (Luke 9:23-24)
Obedience to live life the way God’s word says. Obedience to his voice. Obedience to do the hard thing, the annoying thing, the inconvenient thing because he says so. To move forward, to go backwards, to sacrifice, to seek to be a servant just like Jesus.
A few days after I wrote the first draft of this blog, I was reading Charles H. Kraft’s I Give You Authority which speaks of the importance of obedience:
One rule we may miss in Job’s story (and in many other biblical stories) is that God had great opportunity to work in Job’s life because of Job’s allegiance and obedience to Him. In fact, it was Job’s obedience that lay beneath his righteousness and that engendered Satan’s animosity to him … Through human allegiance and obedience to one or the other, God or Satan gains greater authority to work in human affairs (p. 134)
I think we all get what obedience means but it also helps to see it spelled out sometimes. Kraft says it includes:
Committing ourselves to Christ
These things enable God to carry out His will both in and through us (p. 135)
All we need is God's love
Life in 2020!
Thank God for his amazing love and desire to partner with us humans to carry out his plans. How wonderful it is that he made us with purpose and has set aside tasks for us to do that he knows will both advance his kingdom and give us deep satisfaction. God is so good to us! I pray we ask God to help us stay sharp, alert and hard working for his kingdom’s purpose. What a joy it is to finally realize there is nothing bigger or bolder than living for God.