Sounds like a title for a Sci-Fi book, doesn’t it?
But what I’m actually referring to is the moment when my school world and my church world came face to face…and then overlapped…and then became entangled. And while I could have used different verbiage, I needed to get my point across. The merge was not without difficulty. (At least it wasn’t until I made sense of it all.)
It’s kinda like when you are in school, and you learn something in one class and then you hear something related, but yet not quite congruous, in another class. It takes a while to synthesize the information.
I am currently taking part in a leadership program requiring me to create a value statement. In order to accomplish this, I need to identify my core values, and determine how they were formed. This will allow me to understand what is ‘non-negotiable’ in my life. (Totally a Karen type activity by the way.)
I was given a deck of value cards, and instructed to place each value card into one of five categories: Least Valued, Seldom Valued, Sometimes Valued, Often Valued, and Always Valued.
Here are the cards (In no particular order. I don’t want you to waste time trying to analyze me.):
Now there was a catch. Only three value cards could be categorized as ‘Always Valued’.
Yikes. Game changer. Because, well, you know, ‘always’ means consistently, invariably, regularly, habitually, unfailingly.
You know…like as in all the time.
My first time through the deck, I stacked 20 cards under ‘Always Valued’. That was a problem. After a lot of deep thinking, I whittled the stack to eight cards.
As I struggled to further reduce my pile to three, I was prompted to ask, “Does each value have a story?” Was there a moment in my life I associated with that value? If not, the card needed to find a new home. It didn’t belong in the ‘Always Valued’ pile.
It was in this moment I realized that just because I wanted something to be a value in my life, didn’t necessarily make it so.
With brutal honestly, I went through my cards one more time, until I was left with only three.
I didn’t like what I saw.
And this troubled me.
So I summoned the courage to ask:
“Can your values be changed, or are they fixed?” (In other words, AM I STUCK WITH THESE FOR LIFE?)
Apparently, your values are the culmination of your life experiences. And yes, your values can change, but only when something significant (TRAUMATIC) occurs.
Not really the answer I was looking for.
I felt guilty that my values were what they were. I wanted more meaningful values.
I struggled to write my value statement.
Eventually, I gave up, telling myself I would get back to it when my brain was fresh. So I tucked my messy piece of paper full of crossed out words and phrases into my folder for another day.
And then I forgot about it. Until…
The Daniel Plan entered the picture. (This is the church part.) My first post about my small group prompted two people from my church to send me a link to view the following:
“Words to Live By” by Craig Groeschel of Life Church
Groeschel’s message? Our lives move in the direction of our strongest thoughts. He shared his struggles with explicit honesty. And then he explained how he transformed himself:
Nothing has changed about what I do. What has changed is the way I think.
He then posed the following questions:
“Your life is moving in the direction of your strongest thoughts. Are you excited about the direction your thoughts are taking with you?”
“Do you like your inner dialogue?”
No. Quite honestly, I don’t. Not always anyway.
After listening to the whole message twice, I realized I needed God to help change my thinking, because I haven’t done a very good job of it on my own. I’ve grown a lot in recent years, but I struggle when it comes to positive inner dialogue. I hate to keep going back to that whole ‘perfectionism thing’, but it significantly affects my inner dialogue. It’s really tough to feel good about anything you do when perfection is the measuring stick for success.
A key point:
“It’s not what happens to you. It’s about how you think about what happens to you.”
Ah…I started to make a connection. This was the whole growth mindset thing I was reading about in my leadership class. (Mindset The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck)
My values were what they were; however, the way I thought about those values could be changed.
I started thinking about that messy piece of paper in my folder. (You know, the one lacking a value statement.)
Maybe it was like the game Settlers of Catan.
(Totally irrelevant info: A Hovie Christmas Eve tradition. After candlelight service at church, we get into comfy clothes, pour some beverages, gather around the table and play into the wee hours of Christmas morning.)
In order to better your chances of winning, you need to focus on the resources you have. Wishing you would have put your settlements in different places at the start of the game is a waste of a wish.
Likewise, I needed to shift my focus on making the most of the values I had.
And that’s what I did.
So here it is. My value statement.
I am an instrument of God, striving for optimal health through ongoing personal and spiritual growth, while providing hope for others.
***momentary sigh of relief***
Aaaaand…back to feeling troubled. (You did notice the momentary part, yes?)
What about “My Words to Live By”?
I dug back in.
What negative thoughts are dominate my thinking?
What spiritual truth will demolish these thoughts?
I knew what I needed.
I needed my thinking to be consistent with God’s truth.
I needed to identify my struggles.
I needed to identify what God’s truth was for me.
I needed…to retrain my brain.
Identifying my struggles was easy. Limiting them to a doable number, not so much.
What is God’s truth? Should have been easy, but I really like to complicate my life by overthinking. (It’s a gift, really.)
So I began with this:
Because of Christ…
And ended with:
This is what I declare. These are my words to live by.
And between, there was a lot of thinking. A whole lot of thinking. So much thinking that I am not yet feeling 100% satisfied and each and every time I read it, I make revisions.
Each day, I say it out loud even though it feels ridiculous. Each day I say it out loud even though at the moment, it doesn’t feel true.
But I’ll commit to saying it until I believe it.
One day it will be automatic.
One day it will happen.
One day, I’ll say the negative and my brain will immediately go to my “Words to Live By”, because:
Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.