Several years ago, I was feeling stuck in a job that felt safe and secure; I was helping to provide for our family as I always had but I knew I needed to leave. The job no longer aligned with my values and the demands were keeping me away from my family. Still, I was afraid. For more than two years, my husband urged me to return to work with him in our consulting company but the idea of being a two-entrepreneur family crippled me. I was caught in the grips of fear, self-reliance, and pride. Let me tell you, that is not a fun place to be. Maybe it sounds familiar.

Eventually, I broke. My values won over my fear. I knew I had my husband’s support, so I quit. And I was terrified. For the first time ever, I was trusting my family’s livelihood to someone else. It was a leap of faith but that didn’t change how I felt. Still, what happened next has forever changed the way I respond to nudges from the Lord.

At the time, our youngest daughter was in middle school, we had two others in high school, and two more in college. With a slower travel schedule, I was able to spend more regular time with the Lord. He opened my eyes and ears to things I simply hadn’t noticed before. Our youngest wasn’t thriving. As I paid closer attention to her and to God’s promptings, I began to understand that she needed more of me…and God wasn’t done leading me through a season of significant changes. Just three months after I took the leap of faith into entrepreneurship, I found myself doing something I always knew I would never do. I was homeschooling our youngest daughter. We did it my way…our homeschooling experience didn’t look like anyone else’s…and I was, perhaps for the first time ever, flourishing. My family was too.

That was eight years ago, and in the years since the Lord has continued to call me out to challenging choices. He’s prompted me time and again to choose to trust Him over my own emotions; over my own estimations of my abilities. He’s called me to deny pride, self-reliance, and fear and choose faithfulness instead. I’m still learning but, honestly, I’m delighted by the process most of the time. Because the one thing I know for certain is this: His plans are better. His way is the way to joy and flourishing. It’s not without challenges, uncomfortable situations, or hard work but it is absolutely better. It’s better because it’s more closely aligned with His plan and purpose for me…and me alone. All of us are better off–we thrive and draw deeper into the abundant life the Lord promised–when we consciously work to understand and pursue God’s will for our lives. And the key to that is a deeper understanding of who we are.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share a series of posts that I hope will draw you into a closer relationship with our Father and, in so doing, I hope that you’ll begin hearing and seeing more clearly the plans he has for you in this season of your life. I also hope to leave you with a new language and a framework for thinking through ideas and plans you might be considering. First though, we need to go all the way back to the beginning of our story and allow the Lord to remind us exactly who we are.  

Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Genesis 1: 26-27

Each of us was made in the image of God. It’s an important detail shared with us in the very first chapter of the Bible; so important that God felt the need to say it five times over the course of just two verses of scripture. God wanted us to know we are made like Him. He wanted us to understand because this one aspect of our being speaks volumes about our God-given human nature. God made us to create as He created; to do good works with the resources He provides and to rule over those resources and put them to use for His glory.

Maybe you’re not quite sure how this applies to you. Maybe you’re thinking God was talking about Adam and Eve, the first people…perhaps it never occurred to you that you too are made in the image of God; that you too have been given resources to rule over and tame for His glory. But if you’ve ever felt a longing or a dream; if you’ve ever wondered if you could achieve some goal that feels lofty…those are hints from your Father in heaven; reminders of the nature He gave you when He designed you.

Remember the parable of the talents? The master was pleased with two of the servants but banished the third “into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” The difference? The first two took the talents given to them by the master and made something of them. The first did better than the second but both were praised for their efforts. But the third, caught up in fear, did nothing at all to develop his one talent into something more. The consequences were harsh. The master called him evil and lazy and then basically sent the servant to hell.

Talents were a form of money given to the servants each according to their abilities. In giving according to ability, the master was effectively setting reasonable expectations; He was being fair. The consequence to the one servant may seem harsh, but the parable makes sense. Is it not misery to know you have some gifting, but be so wrapped up in fear that you cannot bring yourself to use it? It’s miserable because it’s not how you’re designed. You were made to use the resources and capabilities given you to do good works. You’re made to make something of your life. Pope John Paul II put it this way:

“All men and women are entrusted with the task of crafting their own life. In a certain sense, they are called to make it a work of art; a masterpiece.”

Just as the master in the parable entrusted the slaves with talents according to their abilities, our Father God has entrusted each of us with certain skills, abilities, and resources. He’s trusting us to make something of them. When we’re not doing that, we are not our best selves, and it’s a downward spiral from there. The enemy takes hold and goes to work tangling up emotions, planting lies and blowing them way out of proportion. The good news is, nothing Satan has to say about you is true. And, everything God says of you is true…every word of it. And the more you exercise your faithfulness to the Father’s truth, even if it’s just one tiny step of faith at a time, the more you become your true self, in Christ.

That’s the life I want for myself. Nothing less. I want what the Lord wants for me. Friend, that’s what I want for you too. So, what’s your heart’s desire? What do you value? Do you feel a nudge toward something new? What gift has the Lord given you to develop and share? You need to know that the Lord made you to ask these questions and pursue the answers and your purpose…the one made exclusively for you. I hope you’ll take some time this week to just sit in prayer and listen, giving yourself permission to dream the dreams the Lord has placed in your heart. Write down what comes to mind when you ask the Father what He has for you in this season of life. Write down what He’s given you to work with…your talents, resources, and capabilities. We’ll talk more about this in the next blog. Until then, sweet dreams!

With the greatest of love,

Joan

This is the first in a five-part series on work in God’s Kingdom. Over the next several weeks, Joan will share scriptural insights into God’s divine plan for our lives. She and the Modern Day Mary team will be on hand to answer questions, offer insights, and pray for you. We hope you’ll join us for this journey as we all seek a deeper understanding of and commitment to the unique roles God has for each of us. In so doing, we believe we will know deeper joy and realize the truth of an abundant, flourishing life.

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