Years ago, I was walking through a particularly difficult season and, in a moment of clarity, I wrote a letter to myself that was massively helpful in staying grounded in truth.
A new year presents new opportunity.
We often perceive a new year as a clean slate—a new chance to recreate our habits and our realities. Scripture says that God’s mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-23). So, every single day is truly an opportunity to recreate our habits and our reality. But in order to recreate ourselves, we have to become aware of ourselves.
Awareness creates renewal. Renewal is a necessary aspect of growth. When people, businesses, or ministries don’t step back and evaluate their current reality for the distinct purpose of course-correcting and growing, they become stagnant and, in some cases, die (Blockbuster, anyone?). So, growth takes the information from the evaluation and begins a renewal process to become better.
After five months of being part of the staff at Pure Desire, I’ve resolved that 2020 is going to be marked by a daily commitment to renewed awareness.
A renewed awareness starts with the understanding that “people do the best they can with what they have.” This is one of those phrases we say a lot at Pure Desire.
The idea is that each one of us has a specific set of skills (insert Liam Neeson’s voice), resources, knowledge, and understanding which help us manage life, navigate situations, and process our daily reality.
This implies the very real existence of blindspots in each and every one of us. No one is exempt. By God’s grace, it is in community that we become aware of these blindspots and are now held responsible for addressing them so that we can improve the best we can offer.
Over the past five months working at Pure Desire (PD), I became aware of several of my blindspots and began to work toward healing. I’ve been faced with internal and external challenges that would have knocked me out if I hadn’t stayed grounded in God’s truth. I didn’t see this coming and often felt unprepared, but if I could write a letter to help ground my pre-PD self, this is what I’d write.
You don’t know it yet, but life is about to get hard. Not in the sense that you might be thinking though. Nothing extra will happen. In fact, by all accounts, things are about to slow way down and some aspects are going to be really, really good. You’re going to quit the job you moved across the country for. More than this, you’re going to step out of a career you’ve been building for the past decade. You’ll take a break from your Master’s program and you’ll start saying 'no' to good things so that you can say 'yes' to the best things. You might come back to some of these good things but it honestly doesn’t matter right now.
Just go with it. Do it. I know you’re afraid of what this season holds, but this will likely be the best thing you ever do in your life. In the stillness of your schedule, you’re going to have a lot of time to think. In the community you keep, you’re going to have tons of opportunity to talk about your feelings. Out loud. I know, I’m shuddering too. But you will be so grateful you did the work and fought for your health.
In this season of renewed awareness, you’ll begin to make connections you never realized were there. From something you feel in a room, to something you hear on a podcast, to something you remember from your childhood, to that time when…dots, themes, connections, you never thought belonged together will begin to create images in your mind and in your heart. These images will tell a story—your story—that you didn’t even know.
Without you knowing it, these connections have programmed your response whenever you stepped into different situations.
Your renewed awareness will all start with learning the simple truth: 'People do the best they can with what they have.' This is simultaneously encouraging and scary. On the one hand, you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing you’re doing the best you can. On the other, is the implication that what you have to work with might not be enough. In the safety of your community, you’ll realize two life-altering concepts: first, YOU are enough. Second, you don’t HAVE enough.
Realizing you don’t have enough isn’t all bad though. It’s quite literally the condition of every human ever. We all do our best with what we have. Even as these connections begin to take shape, and the unknown and untold story of your life unfolds, you’ll recognize that your family, who played a critical role in these stories, did the best they could with what they had.
As I type these words, I’m reminded of a situation you’ll face in October. Standing in a room with several people who you perceive to be accomplished in their field (they are), you’ll feel this deep sense of inferiority to them. They’re not superior to you and they would never suggest otherwise, but this is how you feel. You’ll be quiet and go about your business. You won’t interact. You won’t be loud or fun. You won’t be 'you.' Days later you’ll remember the moments as a child when you were expected to be 'seen and not heard.' Though the intentions of this statement weren’t malicious, the story it told your young mind was one where your presence was unwanted.
Honestly, a renewed awareness has more to do with what you do with the information than it has to do with the details of the information itself. In fact, in some cases, you may not have sufficient memories to discover the 'why' behind a behavior. So, simply becoming aware of the behavior itself is sufficient for digging into the underlying beliefs and initiating a change.
Once you have connected the dots and become aware of the ways that your past experiences affect your present behaviors, you (and only you) are responsible for learning to manage the behaviors. You’ll do this with help but it is solely your responsibility.
At some point a co-worker is going to ask you, 'Justin, when did you start choosing to be loud?' She asked with pure intentions but it will anger you. Why? Because for as long as you can remember, you’ve been loud and people have responded to your loudness in a number of ways. Some find your volume to be fun and a defining part of 'you.' Others have been rude and hurtful causing you to feel like you’re obnoxious and annoying. So the question you heard was, 'Justin, when did you start choosing to be obnoxious and annoying all the time?' That wasn’t what she asked and it isn’t what was implied.
The fact is, whether you remember it or not, at some point you chose to be loud. Perhaps to be heard or noticed. It doesn’t actually matter why you chose it as long as you are aware of it and can step back in the moment and ask, 'Why am I being loud right now?'
This season will be tough but so rewarding. The answers will (eventually) outweigh the questions. You couldn’t possibly prepare for what your first five months at Pure Desire would stir up inside of you but the images created by connecting the dots of your life will become clearer and clearer over time. You’ll learn to retell your story a bit differently and it will be one of victory, resilience, love, and grace.
His mercies are new for you today. Whatever skills, resources, knowledge, and understanding are helping you manage life, navigate situations, and process your daily reality is not enough. And that’s okay. Don’t neglect it—do something about it.
It’s a journey, friends. Do the heart work and be free.
What are some ideas you have for creating renewed awareness?
Justin is the Media Coordinator for Pure Desire. For 17 years, he has worked in various ministry capacities: several pastoral roles, video editing, and audio/video production to name a few. He is currently working on a Master’s of Divinity through Moody Theological Seminary. Justin is passionate about seeing people awakened to becoming the person God created them to be in all areas of their lives.