A Blog by Jennifer Aulthouse

A heart for those who want more of God. A desperate plea for those who don't.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Passions, Missions, and Fears

Here's why I am afraid of failure: so much of it is out of my hands.
Here's why I am afraid of success: so much of it is out of my hands.

As usual, the fear of something is actually about the fear of something else entirely. I've been making lots of lists about myself lately, as I'm in a new phase of life here and I want to be aware of my motives. So here are a few of my fears:

1. Some monster getting a hold of my kids.
2. The kids being lost and my not knowing where they are or how to get to them.
3. The kids having to deal with the death of either myself, my husband, or worse, both of us.
4. The death of my husband.
5. Something coming into my marriage which drives a wedge between my husband and myself.
6. Not having the money to maintain our home.
7. Losing my sight, speech, hearing, or the ability to walk and get around as I have now.
8. Having more children. (Yes. This is a real fear for me.)
9. Being attacked by a man.
10. Relational disconnection from the people I love.

Looking at this list, I'm sure some of these are duplicates for you, some you can at least relate to, and some may seem very off the wall and perhaps even shallow. Of course, no one wants their kids to be harmed, and for obvious reasons: the thought of them being hurt and terrorized would bring monumental strife to the heart of most parents, I would hope. That's completely legitimate to our parental makeup. But I recognized a deeper theme running through all these fears and the many others I have. It's really about dealing with a loss of control. Even a fear of great physical pain . . . somewhere in the midst of it being about pain it's also about losing control over biological peace and functionality. The fear of invasion (home, bodily, symbolically in terms of marriage) is about losing control not just of my sense of safety, but of the freedom to relax. Of having more children? Having to abandon even more of myself . . . losing control of my independence.

Another element of this spiritual archaeology of late is why I really want a writing career. I attended a writing conference about a month ago, and came back with a lot of stuff to sort through in regards to getting started and what direction to take. I know the kind of writing I will most likely end up doing and I know my strengths, but I don't think I had really uncovered why I was doing this, besides believing that this is what God made me for, and that Penn State University gave me a piece of paper that says I know how to do it. I do believe all of this. God's shown this to me in many ways. But I needed to get as specific as I could with myself regarding my motives and what was driving me to head in the directions I desired to take.

One of the speakers at the conference was author James Watkins. He gave a message on the story of Joseph and chasing a dream. One point he made that stood out to me was "don't confuse your dream with your coat". The dream is the vision God gives me of the mission He desires to use me for. The coat includes the elements of status and whatnot that may accompany the dream. I saw that I needed to go back even further and define to whatever degree I could the dream that I have, which honestly, I still wasn't quite sure of. But I did know what I told people it was, so I figured I'd start my digging there. But even this needed dividing.

I want to write. Why? I know I'm meant to.
A. Practically speaking:
1. I've been acing spelling tests and English assignments since elementary school.
2. I have a degree in English, specializing in writing, and I know I've got some talent therein.
3. I have a way with words. Sometimes a destructive and hurtful way, but a way nonetheless.
4. Sometimes I actually even enjoy writing.

B. Spiritually speaking:
1. God brings great clarity to my life when I write. I don't usually even understand what I'm going through myself until I get it down on paper and reflect on what has just come out. It is then that I feel closest to Him as I can feel my spirit being ministered to.
2. I've been witness to how words He's put in my mind and heart have ministered to someone else right where they are struggling, oftentimes without my knowing it beforehand at all.
3. I have a tremendous drive within me to communicate.
4. I have a tremendous drive within me to share myself.

I want to have a writing career and/or write a book. Why? Yikes, this is a bit mortifying . . .
1. I want to have some tangible piece of confirmation that I've done something important.
2. I want to have some tangible piece of confirmation that this indeed is God's plan for me.
3. I want to have some tangible piece of confirmation that I have something special and of value in me.
4. I want to have some tangible piece of confirmation that I am useful to God and others.
5. I want to have some tangible piece of confirmation that someone found worth in getting to know me.
6. I want to have my intelligence and talent validated.
7. I want to feel like my life measures up with my many highly-successful friends' lives.
8. Yes, basically . . . I just want something to point to that says I'm important.

So my dream as it is amounts to finding a way to use my talent to feel better about myself. Somehow I don't think this is what God has in mind when He gives us a vision. It's using Him, really. Here's what I'm good at: now give me a life where I'm filled by basking in my greatness. The needs I'm feeling aren't wrong, but I'm really not trusting in God's love for me if I'm attempting to manipulate Him and the world with my gifts in order to feel loved.

I knew I needed to revise this and strip everything that isn't pure away from the dream. One thing the speakers at the writing conference kept repeating was this need for a "mission statement"; that is, a purpose that anchors my writing. What is my ultimate goal when I write?

I've been stuck on this one. Most Christian writers pick a verse of scripture that is meaningful to them and tweak the words a little to reflect it in a writerly way, and I thought about doing this, too, but nothing was coming to me. I guess I don't really feel the excitement of a mission surrounding me when I'm writing. So I thought and thought and thought about this, and came to the simple conclusion of why we are here at all. Why are we even created? Why does God want to have a relationship with us at all?

To know Him. He just wants us to know Him, to hear Him, and to love Him. The rest of His work for us just stems from these things.

There are three passions that burn within me, of things I just feel like I was made to do and have an irresistible draw towards, even if the processes themselves are hard and loathesome: writing, speaking, and singing. The reasons for the joy I receive when participating in any of these activities are vast and complex, holy, pure, and yet at times diluted and deluded. The draw towards using writing to fill my own gaping emotional holes can also be found in speaking, singing, and doing anything else, too. Your baggage is your baggage, and it travels with you; even if you end up in Phoenix and the bags are in Miami, they are still your bags. The only way to travel lightly is to check the bags with the Lord.

So, while I haven't gotten to the point yet of dissecting the whys and whats behind speaking and singing, I can assume that the patterns will be pretty much the same. But there lies beneath all of this junk a greater goal, a greater passion that supersedes the others, even if some days it takes a strength beyond my own to believe in it. But I do. And that passion is for the Lord. My flesh is stronger than I am, but not stronger than the One who is in me, and I know that because He made me and He deposited a dream within me, whatever vision I have will ultimately be conformed identically to His vision.

I've come up with my mission statement and I've defined my dream. Phil Vischer, creator of Veggie Tales, was another speaker at the writing conference. He spoke on the death of his dream. He learned in the process that if he truly is surrendered entirely to God's dream for him, than "where I am in five years is none of my business".

So my mission statement is simply this: in writing, to know God more; in speaking, to hear God more; in singing, to love God more. And my new dream is to be totally abandoned to His control for all things in my life. If I can stay focused on these, then I am already an amazing success.

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