My morning routine typically includes opening the blinds in the kitchen and gazing out of the windows onto the Colorado Rocky Mountains that starkly stand out in my backyard. This morning wasn’t any different except for the clouds that hid the peaks from my view. For those of you who do not live here, when this happens it is impossible to tell that the mountains are there until the clouds lift a little and you see the stark outline of their majesty.
In relation to this, I have been praying and asking God to remove the cloud cloaking my perspective surrounding this new year and to not only give me the gift of having an eternal perspective, but also show me practical steps that I can take as I walk into the call He has given me.
As I have prayed this prayer, God has shown me seven things that He wants me to focus on in this New Year. Through showing me these seven things, He has also impressed upon my heart that these qualities exist in the lives of most culture changers and need to become not just habits in my life, but they are needed to become completely integrated into the core of who I am.
Pride is something that I struggle with on a daily basis. Not only do I struggle with holding onto the comments that boost me up or desiring the most likes on social media, I also struggle with the comments that tear me down. Often I find myself thinking about how I can be better in what I do to not only promote myself, but also prove to people that I am better than my history. In the midst of this, though, Jesus has been working on my heart and has been showing me that the opposite of pride is humility and humility is one’s attitude of obedience and recognition of where one stands in relation to a Holy God. The truth is… all I have, all that I am, and all that I accomplish is from Christ alone (Philippians 2:3-11). Humility is recognizing this and giving Him the glory that is due to His name.
2. Pursuing Holiness
One cannot live a life of Holiness without recognizing God’s standard of Holiness, the power of God’s sanctifying work, and obeying God’s call to “Be Holy, because I am holy” (cf. 1 Peter 1:15-16 and 2 Timothy 1:19). Although pursuing holiness has many different facets and can look differently for each person, for me, God is convicting me that pursuing holiness includes bowing my will, my pride, and my humanity at the feet of Christ and asking Him to not only purify me and my motives, but also asking Him to show me what it means to know Him in deeper intimacy as He changes me more into His image (Imago Deo). The pursuit of Holiness isn’t about me, it is about Him and the desire to have nothing come between me and my Redeemer.
3. Choosing to Believe
The act of choosing to believe is the foundation of faith and promotes stability as we place complete trust in Jesus Christ who remains the same yesterday, today, and forever. It means that I am not only acknowledging Jesus Christ as Lord in my life, but it also means that I am receiving the gift of who He says He is and am diligently challenging the areas where I am struggling to believe (cf. Mark 6:6, 9:24).
When I take the time to look over the lives of men and women who have changed our culture in the past, I see individuals who have strong levels of belief in God that He would not only fulfill His promises and provide for all their needs, but also trust that He would direct their steps and guide them. I want to have the courage Amy Carmichael had when she went to India to build a safe place for the young girls who were prostituted in temple worship (in 1941 she also helped end temple prostitution). I want to be able to take steps of trust like Gladys Aylward who was a missionary to China and during the war in 1938 lead a group of Chinese children to safety over the mountains. I want to have the faith that George Muller (1805-1898) had when he sat the kids down at His orphanage and believed that God was going to bring food to feed them – after praying, the baker and milkman stopped at the door and gave them their next meal.
4. Seeking Wisdom
Throughout the scriptures, we not only see definitions of wisdom and formulas to gain wisdom, but we also see the pursuit of wisdom and the value of wisdom (cf. the book of Proverbs; James 1:5-8, etc.). Since this is not a detailed study on wisdom (there are whole books written on that) we won’t go into all of the aspects of this topic, but I think it needs to be noted that wisdom is built around the quality of knowledge and discernment one has and pursues. It is my prayer that I would grow in wisdom and also grow in the ways I search for wisdom this year. Several ways that I can practically pursue wisdom is by reading and studying the scriptures, pursuing the fear of the Lord, and asking God to be my teacher as He illuminates His word in my heart.
5. Walking the Road Less Traveled
After escaping my human trafficking situation, I often stood out as the odd person in group settings. I didn’t know how to interact in social situations and either said something really funny without meaning to or didn’t know how to act to meet the situation. During this time, I disliked the way it felt to not fit in and all I longed for was to be normal (whatever that means). As I have gone through my healing and have grown into the person that God has created me to be, I do not stick out in a group situations anymore, in fact many people approach me after I speak or lead trainings and tell me that they would never have guessed that I was survivor of human trafficking. Over the course of this journey, I have learned to embrace the aspects of me that are abnormal and have learned that culture changers are typically leaders who walk the road less traveled to pave the way for the people behind them and typically they are okay with not fitting into the crowd so they can lead the crowd to change.
6. Delaying Gratification
In today’s culture, the quality of delaying gratification is most talked about when children receive a sum of money and are given a choice between saving it for the new toy that all their classmates are talking about or spending it immediately on a favorite candy. But as adults and culture changers, this is something that we need to make a habit into our lives as well. We need to change our perspective to see the power of delaying gratification not for the toys or candy, but for the effect on the future that we long to have. Over the course of a year, this might take on the form of learning to enjoy simple things, being okay with wearing styles that are a few years old and changing my “wish list” to a gratefulness list.
7. Becoming a Risk Taker
My trauma history makes risk taking hard as I like things to be stable and predictable. But as 2017 unfolds in front of me, risk taking is becoming something that I am having to become okay with as my husband and I sold our house last week and will be moving to a new city in a few days to continue our education. Although these changes are good, steps like this require taking risks and giving up a lot of things. To be honest, it is scary to not know all the details, but if we did not take this risk we would always be stuck in the “what if’s,” we would never know our full potential, and we would not see the miracles that lie ahead. There is comfort and safety in being a risk taker that lets God lead and direct each step versus trying to control all of the situations around me.
Over this next year, I want to grow and mature. I want to be available to the ways that God wants to use me to not only bring glory to His name, but declare Himself as my Redeemer. I long to be a culture changer!
Can I challenge you to ask God to remove the clouds covering your perspective of this New Year and ask Him to show you what it means for you to be a culture changer?
Jessa Dillow Crisp is the Blog Manager and new addition to the speaker’s team at RBI. In addition to writing and speaking, Jessa is working on her M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She lives in Denver, CO with her husband, John, and loves climbing mountains for fun.