The Dance of Living for Him

For the past few months I have been intentionally praying about what it looks like for me to follow God and partner with Him in the purposes He has given me. In my past perspectives, following God looked like me dying to myself over and over again; sacrificing my wellbeing for others, remaining faithful to what I thought the Lord had asked of me time and time again. Though He had called me to certain missions in my life, the missions were never meant to plummet my intimacy with Him, my intimacy with others, and connection with myself. In present conversations with God, I have realized  that the motivations, the mentalities, and the images I clinged to in thought of "following God" were not an accurate description of the Father heart toward me. The depictions were too narrow and honestly filled with self-condemnation and a life sucking punishment mentality.

It's almost as if I was hearing a broken record playing over and over again in my mind when thinking about my purpose and following God: "If you do not do ____________, then ________ will happen." Or, "if you choose ________ then the Lord's favor will not rest on you."  To be honest I am still in a process of relinquishing some of these false ideologies from my thought life. One of the major ones that comes to mind is also:  "Do not trust your desires, follow God; take up your cross, die to self, surrender, etc, etc."

It's amazing how even the word of God can be twisted in our minds.

Though the Lord asks us to surrender, to take up a cross, and to lose our lives to find Him, the way in which I interpreted these words from the Lord was through my own false perspectives of His nature. Not to mention, my life has always been deeply rooted within self sufficiency, independence, and mistrust of good things.

The image in my mind of following God and Him working out His purposes within me consisted of myself walking up a mountain with just a little food, a little water, and a little energy in the middle of a dessert. I would never say that I believed this perspective fully, but my life felt like it mirrored this image almost perfectly.  I thought for years and years I would be crushed until I reached the top of whatever mountain was in front of me to find Jesus sitting there waiting and would say, "You finally made it, what took you so long?" And then, maybe just maybe, I would be able to live life to the fullest; I passed the test! With a short celebration, I then would be scaling another mountain again.

While, yes, there will be mountains in this life that the Lord has asked us to venture, He will never ask me to do it alone. And most importantly, He will give me everything I need and abundantly more than I can imagine to do it well and to produce the wine of His Spirit for the world to drink from.

His grace is always sufficient.

To be frank, the image that I don’t like to admit I spent the majority of my life living from is not completely my fault. It was the result of much disappointment, trauma even, and misunderstanding of who the Father is to me. After years of deconstruction, I now understand that this mentality of life is actually from the pit of hell and not a representation of the Father's heart for anyone.

In fact, it's a representation of a bigger issue: shame.

Shame likes to cause people to perform and "self-suffer" to make them feel like they appear more "holy" and "righteous" before God.  

Give, give, give until you die and maybe then the Lord will approve of you….

It's heartbreaking and not the gospel.

In fact, living life with God is not a whip and chain, but instead it's a dance. It's also a really messy journey through a world that is very imperfect, but more beautiful than we can even begin to understand.

It's love.

We follow Him because we love Him and we know that He is good, not because we are meant to die to our purpose in life. We are actually enabled to come alive to our purpose in life through Him!

I think one of the keys He is constantly reminding me of as I pursue His calling and the legacy I want to leave on the Earth is that He died, so that I could live-- and help other people live, too!

So what does it actually mean to live fully alive and to follow Him?

What does it mean to carry our cross and surrender to Him?

Well, I think He would invite us to His table and have a conversation with us. In this, we get to know Him and we get to know ourselves/what He has created us to do in the greater work of His world.
 
I imagine Him saying, "Emily, you know I love you right? You know I want the best for you, right?" After years of establishing trust, I would then say, "Yes! Of course!" I would then begin the venture to the High Places with Him, knowing that He will guide me through every valley, every storm, and every river of life.
 
I imagine Him then talking to me along the way, asking me about how I am doing, strengthening me when I need strength, and encouraging me through who He sees me as; His royal daughter. 
I see Him asking me questions throughout the journey: "Emily, what is it that keeps you up at night?"

"What do you think I have given you to give other people?"
 
"Where do you long to see my presence and my hand moving?'

As I give Him what I know, the purposes that burn inside of me, He leads me in confirming, solidifying, adding to, and taking a way from what I say. Maybe there are things I desire that are not no's, but they are not yets. For example, a not no but not yet for me is marriage and having a family one day that I can raise up to know and love God.

Or, maybe there are some things that He is a little weary of and knows that they wouldn’t be the best for me so He says no, because He has something better. In my life this could look like the ending of certain relationships or a transition from one season of purpose to the next season of purpose (kind of like leaving my last year at Wesley to go to another city and embark on a mission/equipping in that place).

I think the foundational believe system that followers of Jesus need to embrace when desiring to please Him with their lives and even having the most basic level relationship with him is believing that HE IS GOOD.

What kind of relationship would it be to have someone tell you what to do constantly with scowling, constant feelings of not being good enough, and no gain from your efforts?

That is called slavery, not freedom.

Satan wants slaves-- Jesus wants friends.

The truth is, some of your desires are Jesus's too. In fact, what if He put them inside of you when He created you?

The most simple example I can think of in myself is my desire to help heal the broken.

Isaiah 61, it’s a life verse for me. I have had it since I was a little girl. I knew it was in me and have the giftset for it. I have cultivated dreams for what it could look like and when walking with God, I always told Him…"When I am ready, unleash me to do the work."

Practically speaking, after college I wanted to pursue counseling or work within a ministry where I could quite literally help heal people. However, the Lord had different plans for me. He was giving me opportunity to work with the broken, but honestly, during college and for three years after college, He was working on me. He was showing me who He was for us, and then for the people that would come into my life after.

I am surrendered to the process with Him-- messy, imperfect, and I embrace the failure that it takes to discover the purpose in which He made me for.

And all of this process is truly just to know Him.

I was recently listening to a podcast that Clay Kirkland, the creator of the internship at Wesley, and he was speaking on callings and following the Lord within them. The one thing he said that I remind myself while pursuing a legacy of any kind is that I am actually called to The Caller. That is foundational and if we skip intimacy and head straight for anointing and appointing, speaking from personal experience, the weight of self sufficiently and striving will crush you.

In retrospect, He isn't asking you to carry this weight of your purpose alone. Jesus didn't even do that-- when He was carrying the cross, someone else was with Him to help Him carry it because the weight of it was too heavy to carry alone.

The same is true about the purposes God has given us-- we simply cannot do it alone.

John 15: abide and we will bear much fruit, do not abide and we will not bear much fruit.
If not, we will be tired and weary humans walking around trying to lead other really tired and weary humans. Hear me out, weariness and weakness is not a bad thing-- Jesus says that the weak and weary are blessed. However if we do not invite the holy spirit into the weak and weariness then we try to strive out way out of it, push down what's going on inside of us, then leak whatever is wrong or disconnected everywhere we go.
 
That is a life of walking up a mountain with no food and water.

So I encourage you… drink the water of life and allow yourself to sit at a table with God. Have a conversation about the desires inside of you. He wants to partner with you in them, even if they are as simple as getting married or having a little house next to a river one day to host people. That is the heart of the Father.

Or, maybe you want to lead people from a stage, write books, and travel, that is also the heart of God. The following comes with the sowing. It comes with the development of patience inside of you, the process He wants to work in you, and the healing that He wants to continue in you. He doesn't' want the weight of your purpose to crush you, He wants it to bring life to you.

So trust a Father that knows what is best and ask Him, is this for now… or is this for later?
 
What is now and how can we do this together, like a journey through the forest, through the valley, maybe up a few mountains to see the view, or down by the river.

You are not meant to be crushed forever, follower of God. The wine will come and when it is poured out the crushing is over for a time. A new season awaits and there is purpose there too. Enjoy the journey.

Here is the podcast about callings if you want to take a listen: https://overcast.fm/+TvdSSrxZw

Author | Emily Helton

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