I’ve been reading some great books by an author who uses the word ‘resistance’ to describe why we don’t do all the things we want, should and need to make our lives what they were meant to be. One such fantastic book is called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I believe it is true that we meet resistance in any worthwhile pursuit. This could be anything really … writing a novel, going on a diet, exercising, spiritual disciplines, becoming an artist, starting a new business, just to name a few. This resistance is especially true of those things that lift you out of the masses and set you soaring high above. As a believer in Christ, we were all created to bring glory to God. That is our first job! From there it gets a bit more specific as to how we are to accomplish this in our individual day-to-day lives.
Why are the most basic elements in life the things we struggle with? Take eating for example. I have done this everyday of my life; yet, it is the bane of my existence. I know what to eat, how much to eat and I know what not to eat to be healthy. It isn’t hard. It’s a very simple concept. Allow me to save you some money on purchasing diet books and such. Here is a summary of all the diet/health plans ever written. Drink lots of water, eat protein, take in only good fats, eat fresh fruits and fresh vegetables, don’t eat empty carbs like sugar and breads, don’t eat past full, and exercise. That’s it!!! People have made millions of dollars selling, packaging and repackaging this concept. We all know the information. I, personally, don’t need any more information! I have decades worth of information. What I need is to be punched in the face until I do the right thing everyday. I’ve tried everything else and I’ve come to the conclusion that is the only thing that will work for me. So line up — I’m ready to take it!
A basic element in the Christian life is prayer. We have been taught to pray from the time we were young, if raised in a Christian household. We say things like, “I’ll pray for you, or I’ll pray about it.” When making life’s decisions we pray for guidance. Praying is a foundational principle to our lives as Christians. But why doesn’t it seem to change us, as it should? Why do we seem so powerless? Why do we keep falling backwards into sin? I think it is because we don’t really stand up from our praying and act like anything different is going to happen. We say, “Lord send revival … now, pass the potatoes.” It shouldn’t be separate from the activities of our day — it should be why we are doing the activities. However, we all struggle and we fight against resistance – namely, the world, the flesh, and the devil.
“Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm…” (Ephesians 6:11-13)
Sadly, many times, when we finally get around to realizing that the power we have in prayer can change our lives, we have already been jaded from varied life experiences, we’ve formed our own manmade biases, opinions, expectations, rules, motives, decisions, hurts, offenses, predicted our outcomes, the things we will and won’t do, and thereby have removed the possibility for the power of God to freely work in our lives. “Prayer is not designed to change God; it is designed to change us! Prayer is not blessing our activities. Rather, prayer takes us into God’s presence, shows us His will, and prepares us to obey Him.” (Experiencing God devotion)
When we were little, or when our children were little, our parents (not all, but the encouraging ones) would say, “You can be anything you want to be.” My dad said it to me and I said it to my children. This sounds like a great thing to say … but, the truth is, you can’t! We were created for a specific purpose. Our little beings were already who they were from the “get go.” We grow and learn, but the basic psyche that is embedded into our DNA is not ever going to change. I was NEVER going to be a great mathematician or scientist or doctor — EVER! I was a people person from the start. I’d bet the farm that, as you reflect, you could see where you thought you were headed from your earliest memories. Most of us never see all of our dreams fully lived out because, somewhere along the way, we gave up on them in lieu of a practical need, like paying the rent. But if you look deep into your soul, that dream is still there. The good news is that it isn’t too late to realize your dream.
It won’t be easy but it is doable.
Pressfield says, “We’re not born with unlimited choices. We can’t be anything we want to be. We come into this world with a specific, personal destiny. We have a job to do, a calling to enact, a self to become. We are who we are from the cradle, and we’re stuck with it. Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”
Some people get right to it and never miss a step. Others of us meander along the edge of our dream, wasting years giving into the resistance that pushes us further and further away from the calling, until we are almost unrecognizable to ourselves. We beat ourselves up for the missed opportunities we know were presented years earlier, but we let resistance stop us. We instead stand outside our dream looking in while we haul around luggage from the bad choices, the scars we endured at the hand of another and the useless things we collected along the way… left wondering what in the world happened.
Look at the greatest men and women in history. They defied the crowd by pressing on without much encouragement to do the unimagined. After they accomplish their goal we all love them and applaud. But when it is in the embryonic stage, the crowd laughs and belittles their dreams. Walt Disney failed umpteen times! He was flat broke but couldn’t be stopped. He overcame the resistance. Aren’t we all glad he did!? The people who refused to be held down created every great invention in our society.
I hate to break it to you but, if you think you will get encouragement from your family and friends, think again. They are usually the ones bursting your bubbles and throwing ice water in your face while pushing you to stop the foolish talk and do the practical thing. Most of the time, they are unaware that this is what they’re doing, but nevertheless, they are. People innately want to keep each other from rising to the top because it leaves them standing alone. Even more basically, we are all selfish and sinful. I believe this resistance comes from the fact that we are fallen creatures living in a fractured world, strapped with this rotting body of flesh and an enemy who wages war against us. It takes a resolve that many can’t sustain to do the extraordinary, undiscovered, and unusual things in life. These are the ones others look at and say, “I wish I had done that.”
When I was in seminary I worked at a Christian camp. Honestly, that was one of the best things I did as I was striking out on my own. I was in my element. I developed my own material to teach a class for teenage girls that addressed all the ways they could achieve the full beauty God had given them. When I got home, I was asked to go to churches and speak to girls about this subject. It was a great start for my journey. I was pretty naive — but did you know that, most of the time, naivety is your best ally when working creatively. You don’t know enough to realize that what you’re attempting is a hard thing with a statistically unlikely outcome.
When we returned from the camp, I decided I would write a book on the subject. So I did. I wrote the entire manuscript in a matter of months. I sent it to Broadman Press, which has now become LifeWay Christian Resources. The editor accepted my manuscript and we worked for months writing and rewriting. After a few months of back and forth with her making suggestions and me doing rewrites, I decided I didn’t like the direction she was taking my book. I got frustrated with the editor — and I’m cringing when I say — I gave her an ultimatum (‘yikes’ face emoji here). I had no idea what a big deal it was to get an editor at a large publishing house to even consider you, especially a young unpublished author. So, the painful outcome was, she kindly sent back a note that said maybe I would be happier to work with a different publisher. I didn’t handle rejection well, and I was devastated, then, furious at my arrogance. I covered up my typewriter and walked away for a long, long time. I was 24.
This is a difficult story to share because I lost a life-changing opportunity at the beginning of my adult years simply because I wasn’t willing to do the work required of me. I surrendered to the resistance in my path. I thought I knew more than a major editor. Wow, we can be arrogant and stupid at the same time when we’re young! I plunged myself into ministry with my husband and finished my master’s degree. A few years later, we were blessed with our babies and life went on.
The point is this; even if you are way down the road of life and feel like you missed it, you didn’t. Start pursuing your passion now. You certainly may have missed some opportunities but, as I understand the scripture, it is in the ‘finishing well’ that God seems to say is a pretty big deal. So you fell? So did I … over and over. But the one thing that distinguishes us from the tragic is in getting up. Grant Taft was the football coach when I was at Baylor University. I heard him once say, “Don’t let defeat kill you. Take it and slam it to the ground and use it as stepping stone to victory!”
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:4-10)
Get up and beat the resistance!