I looked across the table into the eyes of my student. He was mid-sentence, pausing to articulate the thoughts running through his mind.
He was facing for the first time in a long time – perhaps the first time ever – the question of his morality; what he truly believed was and was not acceptable in his life.
The response to this prompt question initially came easily for him. But as he pressed in, he realized his answer, if he were to be honest, wasn’t so clear. Did he in fact believe what he was quick to spout off? And if so, did his life show it?
He wrestled with this out loud in a state of raw vulnerability, allowing the rest of us to go there with him.
I glanced around the room and saw heads nodding ever so lightly as they too felt the weight of this inward reflection.
You could see their minds churning. How did their own lives hold up to the picture they wanted to paint of themselves?
Admitting inconsistency would require one to make a decision; ignore the incongruity, and by effect choose to be okay with it, or take an action to pivot one’s path towards change?
Neither choice would be easy, but each would have a lasting impact. Which would they chose?
Every time I meet with a new group of students to coach and support in the process of working through their life missions, I feel like the luckiest person alive.
Over and over, I get to spend my evenings wrestling with purpose and life with these amazing people who inspire and challenge me.
And I often leave feeling on a joyful high and also like I’d just had my ass kicked. Because over and over, I too, am challenged to look inward and ask myself the hard questions of who I am. Sure, my vision for my own life is clear to me, but each time I examine my life a little closer, I see inconsistencies. And the question continues to dangle in front of me; is it worth it to me to change?
Without failing, there is usually at least one participant in every group who throws out the challenge “what would I want to teach my future family? What example would I want to set for my kids?”
Every time I hear that question, something stirs within me and a little voice says “To fight. Teach them to fight.”
Fight? Strange concept from someone who hates conflict. Fight for what?
Yet in some peculiar way, the more my eyes are opened to my inconsistencies and short comings, the louder the voice gets. And the hotter the passion and anger for it burns within me.
Fight to overcome. Fight for strength.
You see, these past few years in particular have forced me to take a deep, hard look at many things in my life I did not want to see. Spending the majority of my days working from home alone in a quiet, small place, day after day, has had a way of making me hear what can only be heard in the still silence; of seeing my soul on a level that only surfaces when I have no where to run and no where else to look.
It has forced me to see what I was hoping was not there; my selfishness, my idols, my weaknesses… my sin that does a great job dressing itself in camouflage.
These years have been an interesting dichotomy of adventurous and fabulous, yet gut wrenching and tumultuous. And I have seen my terrifying potential for selfishness and self-destruction while also looking destiny and opportunity square in the face.
And in all of it, my eyes have been opened to the truth that a life of richness – one of purpose and reckless abandon to all God’s called me to – will not be easy. Yet knowing that, more often than not, I haven’t been ready – or willing – to fight. I haven’t wanted to accept it… perhaps out of fear of what it will require me to give up. Ignorance is extremely attractive to us in that way.
There have been many moments where I’ve chosen to hide rather then step out; to justify rather than to own up; to serve self rather than to sacrifice; to sell myself short rather than to seize opportunity; to build my own narrative rather than to see reality. And perhaps the biggest risk in it all is what I’m not seeing; the war that rages against my soul.
It’s a war that rages against all of our souls. And that small voice we hear in the moments when we feel like we’re drowning, or growing cold and hard from the inside out, is our soul speaking out for our attention; trying desperately to be heard. It’s sending up one last SOS message saying I am your soul. And I am dying.
You see, death to the soul does not come when we breathe our last breath. And a soul does not only exist within the context of eternal destination. Your soul is what makes you, you, and it begins living the moment you are created. And we allow it to flourish within us, or decay slowly over time by neglecting to protect and care for it.
I look at the amazing women and men around me who seek purpose, and all the work there is to be done in this world, and I feel fed with up my ability to ignore that voice in me that feels like it is dying, gasping for air. I feel angry at the inconsistencies that get the best of me and the strongholds that bind chains around my heart and mind.
And I’m moved to fight. I’m moved to say enough. This is life that I’ve been given, and I refuse to allow comfort and self-preservation to be my story.
I hear my student’s words again in my mind; “What example do you want to set for your kids?”
And I know without a shadow of a doubt that I want my life to teach them to fight…
Fight for the strength to live by what you know is true and right rather than what feels best, familiar, or most convenient for yourself.
Fight for endurance to live true to the calling God has given you, in a culture that will make you feel at times very alone.
Fight for humility to admit when you’ve been wrong because pride will eat away at all that is good within you.
Fight to keep your heart open, refusing to allow hurt to construct a shell of self-protection. Fight to remember that the joy that comes from giving and receiving unconditional love is always worth the bumps and bruises endured a long the way.
Fight for boldness to face the demons that know you by name and breathe down your neck; because you refuse to live bound by their chains any longer, and victory will not be theirs.
Fight for willingness and grace to turn the other cheek when you’ve been wronged; because bitterness, hatred, and anger will consume and rob you. And you were meant to lively freely.
So fight for it. Rising before the dawn; face to the ground, on hands and knees, praying and begging for the strength you need one day at a time. Because a life of greatness does not come easily, but we are called to rise to the occasion and to live above the fear.
I watch each participant who gathers to work through their life vision come to the conclusion, in their own way, that they can’t change the world without first changing their world. And their world starts with their heart and their soul.
So who will we then be? And how will we then live? Call it. And fight for it with everything in you.