The New Rules of Community

The funny thing about new experiences is that you’ve never had them before.

Our experiences build up and we start to think, “I know what I am doing.” But then one day, poof, you encounter something totally different and new.

Recently for me, this newest experience is community after college.

I thought if I had learned anything in college, it was how to do community. You just roll up to the event being hosted so that you can make friends with people with similar interests, say “we should get coffee sometime”, and then boom: one million best friends.

Turns out that isn’t how the world works. First of all, people are older than you and younger than you. They have jobs that are nothing like yours. They have different backgrounds and beliefs. They can have a lot in common with you but they can also be literally grandparents. And suddenly, all of these people are a part of your community.

And you have no idea what to do with that.

Can I trust you with my hurts? Can I be of any help to you in your struggles? Do I have anything to contribute to your life? Will I be rejected after I have invested in you or will I be rejected if I don’t invest in your life?

The clear, concise rules of community were stripped away and instead you are left with a host of what if’s and how to’s. And that can be really scary. When I found myself in that place, half of my heart said, “just give up, you can make it if you stick to the surface. Keep your cards close and play what you have to.”

But that isn’t what God had intended for us. Over and over I heard, “Loneliness is a gift that calls us back into community” or “Press into these relationships and seek opportunities for vulnerability.”

I had preached words like these before to people. I have written blogs about vulnerability and belonging. So why has it been so hard for me to be intentional and be myself? Why was it so different this time?

I think ultimately, I couldn’t place myself and when I couldn’t place myself, I thought the community didn’t have the room for me. I was isolating myself before I had the chance to be isolated. I wasn’t willing to give it time to organically grow either. I was desperate for those deep, three year friendships three weeks in. In case you were wondering, that is impossible.

Luckily, God didn’t let me fall into a trap of my own self-doubt and insecurity. Starting at work, I grew into the community with my co-workers. Sure they valued me as a part of the team, but they loved me too. That is rare. That is a big deal. And I love them too. Deeply. Just like I had with my roommates and committee members. I got to do life forty hours a week with people I love. It is something I won’t take for granted.

Then I had a foundation I could build from. And it gets a little easier once you know you can make it out there. So now I have to keep risking awkward silences and small talk to get to the bigger, deeper connection.

The way I see it, we are all human beings. Whether we admit it or not, we are all afraid of the same rejection and disappointment. But we have the opportunity to step out and do as Christ commanded us, love God and love our neighbor. When we live in accordance to God’s will – and God wants us to love and live in community – He will help us get through the unknown and connect our hearts. You can endure the “get to know you” because it’s the only way to become fully known.

So brothers and sisters, as we keep on living in this crazy world, let’s trust God in the process. Pressing in when things get hard, and giving thanks when things are easy.

A Love Given Freely

I spent a lot of my time hustling for love. I could write a book full of ways that I have tried to earn love. It would be a very bad book, though. You would read it and cringe. Here is a small sample of ways I have attempted to earn love, but read these at your own risk. I will not be held responsible for any vomiting or nightmares.

  • I sang “You Belong With Me” to a boy who already had a girlfriend. One that I was friends with.
  • I took ballroom dancing lessons in case a boy asked me to dance in Middle School.
  • I took tennis lessons for a boy that wasn’t allowed to hug me.
  • I started drinking coffee black to impress boys in college. (So brave!)

I have done hundreds of awkward, weird things to earn love. I still know a lot of people who are trying to earn love like me. A lot of you are incredible. You are usually beautiful, funny, and completely worthy of love.

I thought that maybe my problem was that I needed to get married so that I could always have someone to love me. Or maybe I needed a boyfriend so that people would know how likable I was. Or maybe I needed more friends so that people could pay more attention to me. I sometimes thought maybe, I just wasn’t worthy of love.

 

But there was always a flaw in these theories: Jesus. 

I had heard one thousand times that Jesus loved me deeply. That He was willing to die for me. That He chose me before anyone I knew was born.

But for some reason, that love never felt the way I wanted love to feel.

Did you catch that? If you did I am impressed, because it took me 21 years. That love never felt the way I wanted love to feel because love – true love, from the creator of love Himself – is not a feeling. 

It is a choice that spurs us to make similar choices. It all comes from one place. There was one model we should follow: God’s love for us. It wasn’t a love we had to ask for. It was a love given freely.

The key to being loved isn’t saying please, it’s saying thank you.

It’s recognizing that when we pour love into others, it is because God has filled our cups. It’s knowing that love isn’t ours to keep. It’s not a feeling we find. It’s a choice that chases us down for thousands of years until we are brought back home.

Now when I “feel loved”, I feel gratitude, joy, patient, kind – all of the things I was told that love could be. I don’t want to keep love for myself, I want to share it with those who don’t have enough. This is because when we know God’s love, we are able to become that same love. We are able to step into choosing Him and His people over ourselves. Love wasn’t cheap, but it is given freely.

 

What are you doing with your life?

So I graduated from college. You know what that means… I get asked 278,342 times a day what I am doing with my life.

Every time I get asked that I want to turn to sand and blow away in the wind. Or shake the person and ask them what they are doing with their life. I want to say several different things like, “having this conversation with you” or “if I told you I would have to kill you.”

But the reality is that right now, I work in retail. At first, I was really ashamed. It isn’t fair to be ashamed of my job, great people – thousands of people, have jobs exactly like mine. When the question inevitably pops up in conversation, I would feel like I was letting the interviewer down, even if they were a complete stranger. I felt like everyone expected me to do something really great right away. After all, not everyone graduates from college at 20. Surely, if anyone was going to start off as a CEO right away it would be me.

Friends, family, that right there is some nasty, toxic pride. In a way, I think God very intentionally placed me where I am right now because if I am being honest, I have let people judge me by my performance since day one. It worked for a long time, too. You could ask me about what was going on or how I was and I could provide a three minute explanation of how busy I was with so many great things.

I was doing great things, but too often, for the wrong reason.

I thought the only way that I could serve God was if I did everything, perfectly. Jesus would have gotten the internship with the non-profit that saves babies right? He would have immediately been promoted to Director? He would still sleep eight hours and get coffee with his friends and followed the Whole 30?

First of all, no.

True, Jesus did amazing things, but his life wasn’t so extraordinary that the kings felt inferior compared to his resumé. (He was also the perfect son of God and I am the daughter of a navy nuke guy.) Jesus served God by the way he lived. 

He took time for people, he prayed, he taught, he celebrated others, he made time for family and disciples. He did not compare himself, brag about miracles, turn loving others into a start-up with a cool logo, forget about his Father.

Jesus and his disciples model a life that reminds us that fisherman or tax collector, the most important thing about your life is how you are living it. That is something I missed in my busy-all-star-greatness. I am not saying that I was an all-together garbage person the past three years, but there was an undue anxiety to prove myself as a worthy servant of Christ.

Jarod Noel said at the Focus conference when we humble ourselves in our communities, we are able to focus on God’s will being done instead of whether or not God is using us. Humility doesn’t keep score. Along that same line, Tim Keller said in Every Good Endeavor, understanding work as being the hands and feet of Jesus “elevates the purpose of work from making a living to loving our neighbor and at the same time releases us from the crushing burden of working primarily to prove ourselves.”

Do I need to say that again? Understanding work as being the hands and feet of Jesus releases us from the crushing burden of working primarily to prove ourselves. 

When we frame work that way, it becomes clear that every detail of our ordinary lives adds up, and should ultimately paint a much bigger picture. Work proves that Jesus loves our neighbor, not that we can do great things. We then have the opportunity to make room in our lives for the pieces that the world may not value as much as our Creator does. Learning these lessons in my post-grad season may not have done much for my resumé, but has helped heal me and brought me a new peace I am excited to take into the next season.

I have hope that God does have a bigger plan for my life than the answers I can give you right now. I hope that He will make me a teacher and wife and aunt and mother and bridesmaid and secretary and so many other things. But through it all, it is so important that I remember the most important title I can ever adorn is “loved daughter of the Heavenly Father.” The works I carry out due to my faith in God are the most important and most valuable.

You Are Not You

I sat in the waiting room with a clip board and a pen. I checked box after box.

Strongly describes me. Does not describe me at all.

I was pouring out my heart and soul on an intake form and it felt… weird.

That kind of vulnerability in such a medical way was the first step on a long journey to discovering how mental and emotional health play a role in my life. I didn’t feel like someone who was supposed to be in therapy. I wasn’t crazy and I wasn’t going through any kind of trauma. I was just a 19 -year-old girl with a little too much on her plate and a lot of questions about her future.

Choosing to start therapy was more of a utilization of a tool than a necessary step to help prevent my imminent destruction.

And honestly, it was great. I learned a lot about myself and how I handle emotional situations. I learned about shame and blame and all that jazz. I stepped away from the process confident that I could handle the problems I had going on without the weekly meetings with my counselor.

But around the end of the school year I started to feel different. My fears and insecurities felt so big and I felt so powerless. Suddenly I wasn’t myself. Sure, I was joking around and smiling at strangers. But every action felt empty. I didn’t want to see the people I loved and I didn’t believe that they loved me. I felt like I couldn’t take the next step in my career or just function like a normal human being. I was tired. I was sad. I was not me.

As I would later discover, I have clinical depression.

It wasn’t this dramatized, glamorous thing where I just laid in bed and cried. It was me, trying to function, and feeling it wasn’t worth it. It was all those little voices saying “you’re not good enough” but instead of it being a small whisper, it became a coach with a bullhorn, ever present and working over time.

It got bad. I thought it was what the rest of my life would be like. But somehow, by the grace of God, I had the wisdom to say something and go to a doctor.

It was not an instant fix. There is no magic pill to take to make your life perfect. Sometimes it takes chemical regulation and a change in diet and conversations of vulnerability and wisdom from your mother and the liberation of saying “I am never going to be perfect and that is okay.”

But that journey is the difference between life and death and that is not an exaggeration. I am writing this not because I want to let you all know that I beat depression! My life is perfect now! Because that is not true and I am still very much in the midst of my story and it took me months before I got the courage to sit down and write this blog. I am writing this because I didn’t know that I was not alone. I didn’t know there were ways to live with depression. That there would be good days again when the darkness could be hushed and I could celebrate being alive.

I am writing this because when you are not you anymore you need to get help.

Because not only is your life worth fighting for, it is infinitely valuable. I wouldn’t wish this journey we are on for anyone, but I will say that fighting has given me so much insight into who I am and how God created me.

Even when you are wired for struggle, your life will not be absent of the blessings that God has promised to you. You can still have a future and a plan to prosper. But please. Don’t just sit idly by. Get the help that you need to feel like yourself again.

Just because you can’t put emotional and mental health in a cast and try to reset it doesn’t mean it doesn’t need a doctor. Just because you feel low doesn’t mean that you are weak or worthless. The most dangerous lie that you can believe is that things can’t change.

So be patient and take the first step on the journey. If it is a crippling weight or just a little too much on your plate, therapy, chemical regulation, and vulnerability are tools God has given us to make sure we are able to live our lives with joy and stability.

So please friends, if you are not you, fight to get your life back.

Enough is Unattainable

One of the words that I hate most is enough.

Enough feels like a chain around my ankle that keeps me from coming up for air.

I will never be beautiful enough. I will never be smart enough. I will never be funny enough. I will never work hard enough. I will never be loved enough. I will never have enough energy, money, or time.

Sometimes, the weight of the pressure to be enough for myself – not even for others – is crushing. It is always present when I walk into a room of new people or even when I sit down around a table with my friends. When you factor in the expectations that I perceive that others have for me it will always be a losing battle and I will never be enough. If I have to be enough, then I can look forward to a lifetime of getting home and feeling sick as I analyze every part of my day to see where I didn’t measure up.

Because recently I realized that for me, enough isn’t even perfection. Enough is being better than the absolute best. It means comparing my worst parts of myself to the best of others. It is collecting all of the good things I hear people say about others and working day and night to make sure that I go above and beyond to make sure I can be more than that.

When I am not enough I am a failure.

This practice of measuring up is not only unhealthy, it goes against everything I am actually trying to be according to the gospel. When you have to be enough there is no room for humility. There is no grace or gratitude for your gifts or others. Instead of seeing the kingdom all I can see is my own perceived brokenness.

I believe lies in the “enough competition” like “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” actually means “If you are doing enough others will do unto you”. I believe God stops fighting for us when we don’t sit down for a Instagram worthy daily devotional. I believe that I have to be an invaluable member of the team in order to take part at all.

But all of these beliefs are lies. They are standards that can’t be reached and they prevent us from hope, joy, and love. They breed competition and insecurity. They make it impossible to be the person I really want to be, a person with faith and hope for the future.

I wish I could tell you that it is easy to just stop the “enough competition” with a simple prayer or just being aware. But it’s a fight that takes everything you’ve got. Prayer and awareness certainly help. Vulnerability is a key player. Gratitude can go a long way. The most important thing is that we keep fighting together. I still don’t have an easy fix for you but I promise to be vulnerable along the journey.

I hope that is enough for you.

Almost Dun Aengus

I was not ready for this year.

I am not ready to graduate in December. I am not ready to sit down with my parents and look at the next 10 months and how much it is going to cost and where I am going to find a job and where I am going to live and how I am going to make it out there in the “real world”.

I was not ready to try to balance two jobs, a leadership position, and being a full time student. I failed a lot this year at all of those things. I missed days at work and turned in papers I was not proud of and repeatedly let down my team and my organization.

I am not ready for right now. While my roommate packs her boxes and my best friends write graduation speeches and I stand in front of people that I love and tell them goodbye when I feel like I only just said hello.

The tension between here and now is something that I have never experienced in this way before. I have always been ready for what is next. I was ready to move to Tennessee. I was ready to go to Lee. I was ready to start the new jobs. I was ready for everything because for so long God’s plan for my life seemed to come with an instruction manual. First grade, second grade, middle school, high school, college. Then this time comes where we don’t get to know exactly what that next step is. You have to wait. It reminds me of Dun Aengus.

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Dun Aengus is a battlefield in Ireland on the side of a cliff on the Aran Islands. The trip up to the cliff was pretty brutal for me. I may seem like a wilderness explorer, but I would say my comfort level in the great outdoors is about the same as your average 7 year-old. I hiked up this big hill over slippery rocks as slowly as I could. Clinging to walls and my friend Graham the whole way. I was terrified. I hated it. I wanted to cry and I was so out of breath. I just kept praying that I would make it without falling.

And then we got to the top. It was so incredibly beautiful. I walked out to the edge of the cliff and I looked at the powerful ocean.

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I stood there and I thought about how God called me up there. He calls me out there into the powerful ocean that absolutely no sane person would ever willingly travel into. There is no boat or equipment that could help prepare you for the rocky cliff or choppy waters. I know “Oceans” is basically a joke at this point but I just kept thinking, take me deeper than my feet could ever wander. 

And while this year has felt like I have been climbing up cliffs and falling in the waters I know that God has called me to come out even deeper. That is what graduating early means to me. Post-grad at 20 is a giant terrifying cliff that I hate climbing but the life God has planned is an incredible, beautiful view that I can’t experience any other way.

I can’t complain, because even though so many times through out this journey I couldn’t catch my breath, people have never stopped cheering me on. Even though I was not in shape to make this journey God has placed the people and support that I needed in order to make it through this year. Just because it wasn’t easy to get here, doesn’t mean I didn’t make it to the top.

I think the mistake I have made at this point is that I thought that finishing this year meant that I had to stop, get off the path and make way for someone else. After all, I am done with my leadership position and I only have one semester left. What good can come of one semester anyway?

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Well, this is what it looked like from the top, just before you go into the battlefield where you can see the ocean and the cliffs. This is where I am right now. It is so beautiful and I fought so hard to get here but I still have one more battlefield to cross. God isn’t done showing me where I am going yet. This next part is scary, but we are all going there eventually. And when I get there I am going to be glad that I fought to get there.

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So with that I say:

2017, what do you have for me next?

 

Share Your Joy, Share Your Pain

I struggled this week with the same ole weaknesses and fears. The same doubts of my worthiness. But through it all I have refused to avert my own joy.

I don’t think I ever expected to be sitting where I am right now. Not physically, I mean, I am in my bed which makes sense because it is 1:30 A.M. But emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. I never knew that my heart could be both so heavy and so light.

It’s one of those weeks where you look back and think “Am I even the same person I was seven days ago?” The answer is honestly no for me. Usually these weeks of exponential growth come after I receive a big ole yes from a job, a club, a class. That isn’t actually the case this week.

In fact, this week I have gotten a few no’s.

I sat across the table in a coffeeshop and wrestled with vulnerability and God’s timing.

I picked up a test with a grade I was not excited to see.

I sat in the car after a long day of deciding the leadership for the organization I love so much. Realizing that this would be a team I would not be a part of. That I had just replaced myself with one of these incredible leaders.

I struggled this week with the same ole weaknesses and fears. The same doubts of my worthiness.

But through it all I have refused to avert my own joy. Averting joy is an idea I learned from Brene Brown, an author who has specialized her research in shame. The idea is that whenever we approach a situation where we have to risk failure or rejection we cannot downplay our emotions, but instead we revel in the joy the opportunity presents. She writes in The Gifts of Imperfection,

“It’s only been in the past few years that I’ve learned that playing down the exciting stuff doesn’t take away the pain when it doesn’t happen. It also creates a lot of isolation. Once you’ve diminished the importance of something your friends are not likely to call and say, “I am sorry that didn’t work out. I know you were excited about it.”

With each step I am taking entering into this next phase of work, internships, stepping down from leadership, new relationships, and eventually the impending doom of whatever lies beyond graduation day, it is so important not to downplay these next phases of life. It is crucial that we invite our community into the joy and the pain that these various rejections and acceptances can bring. That isn’t easy. In fact, it is often terrifying to be honest with people about hopefulness.

This weekend I have experienced so much joy by playing a role in the engagement of two of my best friends. Sharing in their love with our community has been so inspiring. Even as I have faced rejection this week I have not walked alone. Just as they invited us into their joy, I have invited them into my struggle. The same goes for those selected for cabinet and those who weren’t. I can be so incredibly excited for those ready to take on this commitment but I can also empathize with those not selected as I get ready to watch these people form a new community that I won’t get to fully be a part of. When we have empathy for each other out of humility we have the same victories and short-comings.

But the joy I feel is not discounted by my doubt. God is not limited by my shallow vision. The community will not let me feel the highs and the lows alone. I am standing in a place I could have never chosen for myself and for that I am truly grateful.

This week I will turn 20 years old. I will get on a plane and fly to Ireland. I will welcome a new cabinet. I will love people well. I will make time to seek God’s will. I will feel every emotion and every fear and I will not allow them paralyze me.

Risk sharing your heart with your community. Risk walking with them. Risk doing life together. See the difference it makes when you share in this journey with humility.

Two Weeks

A reflection on growth from a Summer Honors alum.

If there is one thing that hasn’t changed since 2013, it’s my love for the song Two Weeks by Grizzly Bear. Ironically, since 2013 my life has changed two weeks at a time.

In 2014 I went to Summer Honors for two weeks for the first time. In 2015 I went again. Two weeks at a time I met my best friends, my future sponsors, my future campus leaders. To say that Summer Honors had an impact on my life is truly an understatement. I know this must be getting old, me talking about SH all the time, and if you are getting annoyed then I have good news for you:

I did not go to Summer Honors this year.

For two weeks it was simple. Work. Dinner. Bed. My schedule was incredibly ordinary. I didn’t go to a Braves game or hear Mike Hayes preach about resisting apathy. No devos or break through moments.

But at the end of the two weeks I went to the last chapel for Summer Honors after getting off work early Thursday night. When Jill stood at the podium at the front of the chapel she told the students,

“I hope you have had your life changed by one degree of trajectory.” 

One degree of trajectory? I looked back at the past two weeks and thought about what had happened without Summer Honors.

The work earlier mentioned, two incredible, fulfilling jobs. One with the office of Alumni Relations where we organized an entire picnic for hundreds of people. I had so much fun over the past two weeks buying hundreds of drinks and thousands of pieces of candy. Another with the ANDOR Project where I serve as a full time volunteer building sustainable programming for children facing poverty.

Dinner over the past two weeks was never boring or typical. I ate with my family in celebration of my brother’s birthday, my best friends, at a boy scout roundtable, and with my housemates.

Bedtime was interrupted twice by visits from Ashley, Nik, and Christian. Friends I wouldn’t have if it weren’t for Summer Honors.

The past two weeks have been incredibly fulfilling. I worked really hard, saw a lot of my favorite people, and learned a lot about what I want to do in the future. I think it is safe to say that this summer my life has had more than just one degree of change. I think this summer has taught me a lot about the possibilities that exists outside of the changes brought on by my initial two-week-one-eighty.

The key thing about every two weeks is that we let our goals get bigger. We open our eyes and our hearts to see what possibilities lie ahead. We examine ourselves and see where we need to grow. We build relationships that make the next two weeks even better.

It might just be two weeks at a time, but those individual degrees of change help us to set a trajectory for success. And not just self-seeking success, but relational, developmental, sustainable success.

I am proud of my little two weeks that went by so fast. I think for the rest of the summer I will just take things two weeks at a time. Keeping in mind the present and enjoying that. But never forgetting the trajectory that I am setting for myself.

Choose to Love

Lessons learned from Grama (and God) about Taylor Swift.

In 7th grade I was obsessed with the song “Hey Stephen” by Taylor Swift. One day, I was bopping along at my Grama’s house singing the song, as 12-year-old Halle did. The chorus was all about how you can’t help it if you fall in love with a boy and you can’t help yourself.

My Grama looked over at me as I sang and she said, “Halle, you can always help yourself. Love is a choice.”

I’ll never forget it.

Of course, at the time I didn’t understand or even come close to appreciating her words of wisdom. I was 12. All I knew were crushes and feeling helpless. Love was a feeling, not an action or a choice. I knew so little about unconditional love. I certainly knew nothing about romantic love and how that could ever be a choice. I didn’t even know how the love that Christ asked me to show to others was a choice.

But that is a lesson I have learned over the years, especially this year. That love is a choice you have to wake up every morning and make.

You have to choose to love your parents who challenge you to do more with your life than you ever thought you could. You have to choose to love your roommate even when they are having a bad day. You have to choose to love your best friend even if you’re both too busy to catch up. You have to choose to love your professor even when they keep canceling on you. You have to choose to love your acquaintance even if things between you have been weird lately. You have to choose to love that boy even when he lets you down.

But you can just as easily choose not to love. Or what kind of love you give that person. You can choose to love more or less. You can choose to love them unconditionally or to let love go when you’re hurting. But love is your choice.

Now here is the tricky part, because God calls us to love our enemies. That love is a choice. But God never called our enemy to love us back. When we choose to love others we cannot expect them to return the favor. Even if it’s our friend and not our enemy. We have to pour out our hearts without expectation of reciprocity.

You can’t love with the expectation of that same love being poured back into you. When you make that choice, you do it because God first loved you. That is how we should love. When it comes to love, we flinch first. We start out with an accepting love and go from there, not expecting anything in return.

So, you were right Grama. Love is a choice. For me, for them. I decide every morning how I am going to treat others and the attitude I’m going to have. And the feelings can fade when you understand what it truly means to love someone else. And I can always help myself.

Center of the Scene

God first.

Then Family.

Then School.

Then Friends.

That was the order my life was supposed to follow. I have always been told that your time should be poured out in that order. The problem is that this is really, really hard to practically do as a student. Nothing in my life follows a recipe or a schedule anymore. I am making a thanksgiving dinner in drive thru timing. Some days I spend 3 hours playing Risk and somedays I spend 8 hours in the library. Balancing time and commitments is harder than I could have ever imagined. I imagine that as I get older and add my kids, job, and spouse into the mix it isn’t going to get any easier.

How can I keep God at the top of that list when most of the time I just need his strength to get to my 9 AM? How can I keep family above friends when I live with my best friends and my family lives an hour away? How can I keep school below God when I spend hours working for good grades and forget to read my bible so much it is embarrassing? If the rest of my life takes 12 hours a day how can I possibly match that with the effort I put into my relationship with Christ?

This morning my whole perspective was changed when our lead pastor at The Net Church, Ryan May, explained the way we should focus our lives. He showed us a picture of the nativity scene. In the center was baby Jesus in the manger. Jesus was next to his parents, wisemen on one side, shepherds on the other, and of course the animals were scattered around the scene. He said this scene is how we should model our lives. God was there in the center of our lives with everything looking at Him.

The thing that is in the center of our lives should be what is most important to us and where we take our cues from. The center of our life will be what tells us whether things are going to be ok in the future, whether we should be happy or anxious, and how we should behave. We look to that center to make the decisions that effect the rest of our lives. Having Christ in the center of our lives, as we know, means that we will not be anxious, that we will have joy, and that we will love others.

We have to be careful to not replace Christ with any of the other things in our lives, even the good things like family or friends. When we put family in the center, we let our families dictate how we feel or what we do. We put our parents or spouses’ will for our lives above what God’s will is. When we let our friends be the center we seek their approval above God’s approval and unconditional love. Things that fail can’t be at the center of our lives, it just doesn’t work that way.

My life doesn’t work as a list. Family, friendships, school, and service are all equally important to me and without them I wouldn’t be who I am. Above all of those things, at the center of who I am, is Christ. He is there to tell me who I need to be and what I am supposed to do. He tells me how to be a part of my family and reminds me of their importance. He rejoices when my friendships strengthen my faith and help me grow as a person. He teaches me about the plans he has for my future in my studies. He shows me his love for the world when I serve.

Bible study is important, but I learn so much more from God when I don’t limit him to what he can teach me through daily devotion. I live my life for Christ when I put him in the center of it all and take my cues from him. I have the Holy Spirit in me and it serves as a constant reminder that God is with me at all times.

I don’t have to exclude the good things in my life to make time for God. They are all there. A part of the scene of my life. They have a place. It just isn’t the center.