What 2017 Taught Me About Following Jesus

2017 taught me about grace, a closer walk with God, and what that growth looks like.

Following Jesus requires a relationship and willingness to follow him. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit empowers us to do it. It should produce a certain effect in our lives. This comes from a daily surrender and the transforming of our minds (Romans 12:1-2).

One thing I learned about following Jesus is it’s a life of ongoing repentance. Acknowledging what you did wrong in the moment, and asking forgiveness for it. It’s recognizing our brokenness while we’re being pieced back together. We can’t gleefully and willingly sin. Morally compromising ourselves catches up to us in the end.

Through our walk with Jesus, he teaches us with grace. He slowly puts the desire to do good in you and reminds you not to do wrong. The big word for it is sanctification.

Remember, none of us deserve saving. It’s harsh, and it’s why grace–God’s unmerited favor–is required. Grace isn’t fair, it’s generous.

The Law is a confining cage that crushes the sinner; to the follower of Christ the Law doesn’t crush but frees us. Why, because we let it crush Jesus in our place. It pays to never forget our brokenness, so we don’t cheapen our salvation.

Embrace the Faith, experience it by experiencing the Bible in daily life. Then express the truths of the Faith to others. Listen to God, love everyone, and walk and yield to the Spirit. Don’t let your heart and mind disconnect. Study the Bible, think critically about how it applies to your life. Also look at what it reveals about the character, person, and heart of God and how He sees you.

Your Faith is either a part of your life or all of it. Don’t disconnect from the source of life.

2017’s One Big Thing Was Compassion

At the start of last year, Pastor Rod challenged us to let God pick our resolution. So I did. It was so successful that I’m going to do it again.

To recap, here are the questions.

What one thing do you desire from God?
What one thing is missing?
What one thing do I need to let go of?
What one promise do you need to hold onto?

The Four Questions Answered

My desire for deeper relationships? It happened. My circle grew a little, but the ones who were already in it I grew closer to.

What was missing? Compassion. I was doing things mostly from duty, not moved by emotion much of the time. Cultivating compassion was my one big thing and led to fulfilling my desire for deeper relationships.

What did I need to let go of? Non-restorative distractions. Podcasts took up a lot of my time. I cut them down to what I enjoyed or needed to learn.

The promise I need to hold onto? That I was being prepared for something. All through 2016, there was a sense that I was in training. People were saying I was growing fast.

If you read the last post, this past year turned out to be the year of preparation. Preparing for a greater role in Deaf Ministry on the leadership team and teaching people in the class on Sundays.

How Do You Measure Compassion?

When I made the resolution I kept it secret from all but four people. The test is if people who don’t know see it. By July I asked Pastor Jaime if she was noticing anything.

I was getting concerned. She said that compassion is something that works deep inside and takes time to reveal itself.

Nevertheless, since the start of the year, every quarter I was evaluating my compassion levels based on this questionnaire that was done by a study. Yes, I have embraced my nerdiness. It was on a scale of 1 to 7.

At the start of April, I was at 4.76. Better than 50%.

July I was at 5.09, very little growth. Yeah, I was worried.

By the time October arrived it had exploded to 6.19.

The Progression

It started with empathizing and sympathizing. Matthew 9:36 was constantly coming up, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” It became the verse of the year for me. I was mourning the world and the broken people in it.

God was enabling my heart to break easier and more often. So much so that He burned out my emotional reserves. I went from wondering if I was feeling to asking Jaime and Daisy how do I manage while feeling so much.

That was the month where I saw so much brokenness and pain that it cracked the shell of my sociopathic tendencies. I was seeing people as people, feeling for them, and overwhelmed trying to help.

I had to start finding ways to balance out. Relearning how to set boundaries and not be naive. Searching for the balance between mercy and justice, assertiveness and meekness. Still working on that.

Emotional Chart

Looking at the year’s insights, I began tracking what I called emotional events. These were the times I felt enough to write about it in my journal. I tracked by the week and averaged by the month.

That first week…3 emotional events. The last week…33. The all-time high is 39.

The monthly average in January was 5.25. In November it was 30.2.

God took an emotionally stunted individual with sociopathic tendencies and made him blossom with empathic tendencies.

Why Is This Important?

Life’s more vibrant now for one. Secondly, leadership is influence, influence comes from relationships, and no one cares what you think or knows until they know how much you care. I can’t positively impact people if I didn’t identify with and feel for them.

God knows that wasn’t my nature, and to prepare for 2018 He had to supernaturally change my nature. I’m definitely looking forward to what’s next. Try it, prayerfully go through the questions yourself to see what your one big thing is in 2018.

I’m going to do it again.

The Year of Preparation

It’s that time of year again. To look back over the previous year to see what prevailing theme springs up. 2017 ended with a shocker that caught me flat-footed. Not God though, He was preparing for it. Let’s look and see what He was up to.

Early to Mid 2017

I did a thought experiment on going back to my old ways. Just the thought of it felt like I was moving upstream against a heavy current. Instead, everything has been moving toward loving others more, opening up to them, and caring for them.

My heart was breaking more for the grieving, more so than before. However, over the course of the year, a new burden was added. To see a large, active Deaf church. I’ll return to this later.

Relationships

My few friendships grew closer and deeper. I gained a deeper appreciation for relationships. One of the important things in life is developing relationships and creating memories. They add color and joy to life.

I also watched people drift away. The ones that remained grew closer together, becoming like family. I love the time with my friends, making sure to capture the memories on paper. They have my heart.

Internal Changes

At the start of the year, I noticed people were opening up to me. I asked my mentor, Jaime, why. Her answer was people noticed the consistent and steady transformation in mine and Casey’s lives.

Then I began to mourn and grieve over people and the world. For a long time, I couldn’t describe it until I read Deitrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship. He summed it up well with this quote:

Such men mourn for the world, for it’s guilt, its fate, its fortune. While the world keeps holiday they stand aside, and while the world sings, “Gather ye rose-buds while ye may,” they mourn. They see that for all the jollity on board, the ship is beginning to sink. The world dreams of progress, of power and of the future, but the disciples meditate on the end, the last judgment, and the coming of the kingdom.

I’m saddened because I can see the negative consequences that’ll happen if people don’t stop. The world and its pain make me sad. I asked Jaime about it, and she said to get it into my core.

So I do, becoming more empathic, and learning to see with an eternal perspective. While facing an onslaught of personal and spiritual attacks, others were noticing my growing heart. That led to burnout.

Every year I go through a season of burnout and fatigue. I was emotionally drained this time. To combat it, I added Wednesday as another day of Sabbath rest. The idea comes from the True Vine passage, operating alone leads to failure. The more you do, the more time you need with God.

Trustworthy With A Little Leads To Being Trusted With More

Our roles grew in Deaf Church. While the Pastor was away she put me, Casey, and John in charge of a Family Bowling Night. On another weekend, she had to be out of town, she entrusted Casey to host a women’s event and me to be the substitute teacher for the class.

Through it all, we were noticed, tested, and given an opportunity to join the Deaf church’s leadership team. It was before all this that the burden to see a thriving Deaf church was already in place. We even turned down an opportunity to lead a 1st Grader class because we didn’t feel led there, but to the Deaf Church.

I still wasn’t completely sure what it would entail at that point.

We proved faithful with little and were given more. It’s an important promotion principle, especially if you’re not even trying to get ahead. That takes the ego out of it.

Our training began, and assignments were given, such as connecting with everyone in the room at events, how to teach a class, etc. These pushed me outside my comfort zone and I definitely needed God’s help. I felt vibrantly alive while doing it.

My strength lies in supporting and coordinating in the background. Thanks to Daisy’s leadership in GriefShare, I learned how to be more comfortable in the foreground. It’s becoming easier to blend what she and Jaime taught me in both ministries.

The church is becoming like a second home and I’m loving it.

2017’s Lessons

As far as my faith this year, I learned about God’s sovereignty, compassion, and discipleship. In areas of leadership, I learned how to see people, create culture, and unfortunately disciplining people along with dealing with critics. I may expand on these in posts this month.

The Shocker of 2017

Then we learned Jaime was stepping down as pastor to focus on her son. Gary stepped into the role officially the day this posts. I didn’t see this coming at all. Proverbs 20:24 was at work, “A person’s steps are directed by the LORD. How can anyone understand their own way?” I don’t think any of us saw this coming last January.

Now What?

Alongside Pastor Gary, John, and Casey, I’m investing in Deaf Church’s future. I do feel the weight of it, people’s eternity is at stake. That thing I’ve felt I’m being prepared for the last couple of years, I believe this is it.

2017 has been the year of finding my purpose. It’s been a year of preparation. The greater appreciation of relationships, an enlarging heart for people, grieving the brokenness, my spiritual and personal struggles have been God at work molding me for the work He has for me. The leadership lessons from work experiences, church, Jaime, and Daisy (not to mention more than a few books); has been training.

2018 is going to take it all to another level. I can feel it.