Challenged by the Process

Christy JohnsonIn the last two weeks, the Touchstone class has afforded much opportunity to reflect more deeply and specifically regarding my call and natural talents. Two interview assignments and that of taking a reflective look at my results from the Strengths Finder assessment and Core Clarity packet proved challenging yet effective in allowing me to see how God is at work in my soul as I consider my sense of call to his mission in the world. Currently, that call for me is to be a safe presence for people in my realm of influence.

Inherent to this idea of “safe presence” is the need for empathic listening, reflecting and responding. During my first interview with a woman from another culture, I was fascinated by her story and perspective; however, while reflecting on the interview in writing, I found myself struggling to communicate what she actually said, without tweaking it to fit my world view. This caught me off guard, especially considering my experience overseas as a missionary-teacher in Honduras, my self-perception as being open to others, and others having told me that I am “easy to talk to.” Through this experience, I realize my need to better receive people as they are without bias or misinterpretation.

Another challenging aspect of “safe presence” lies in the reality that my efforts to show compassion may not (and in some cases will not) be reciprocated; nor will they allow me necessarily to see any results. During my second interview with a person pursuing God’s call in the non-ministry-based setting of a hospital as a nurse, I found that I could relate to her struggle to fully embrace her sense of call. For me, this comes in the form of conflict between my deep desire to love well and my desire to know that I have loved well. I want to feel successful in loving others, but loving well (or not) doesn’t automatically make results apparent. What comes to mind for me is a quote by Thomas Á Kempis, whose work I reflected on more closely during a time of Lectio Divina as part of the Touchstone class. He says, “Study…to withdraw the love of your soul from all things that are visible, and to turn it to things that are invisible.” Through this interaction with my interviewee’s story and my own, I am more aware of my need to more fully embrace this call and surrender its fulfillment to God, regardless of my ability to see any outcome.

Being a “safe presence” requires me to know myself well in both my strengths and my propensity to fail. As part of the Touchstone Class, students are required to take Clifton’s Strength Finder assessment and interact with its results using a Core Clarity packet. As a “learner,” I am loving the opportunity to read, study, and acquire new skills, at present in the areas of learning enough of the Greek language and how it functions to better understand scripture, as well as gaining more tools for personal integration and reflection, like the interviews mentioned above. In fact,
as a learner, the very task of writing for this blog excites me. Also as a learner, I need to humble myself to be changed for the better in the process. In the area of “responsibility,” I find myself wanting to put 110% into everything all of the time, but there are only so many hours in the day. With my current responsibilities of work and study, I find myself not performing at the level of understanding or completion that I desire (a bit of “achiever” comes into this mix also), and I can easily feel deflated and frustrated. Some of my spiritual practices, like observing a day of Sabbath each week, have gone out the window as I’m trying to keep on top of everything and am finding it difficult to do so. Also intersecting with this is that I desire more space in the week to spend time with my husband and other friends (there’s the “empathy”). Needless to say, I can be just a bit intense in my expectations of self; and I find that the Enemy of our souls is jumping on this struggle to highlight my failure and sin as a way to discourage and shame me.

With all of this in mind, I’m finding that my need to be intentionally reflective on a more regular basis as part of the Touchstone class is helping me to figure out a way to work this out. Not only am I taking a closer look at my priorities, but I’m taking steps to see that I set aside that Sabbath day. What’s refreshing is that my reflection, though unsettling and frustrating, offers a gift of grace, in this case by motivating me to find space to find rest in God and enjoy the blessings of the beautiful people he’s put in my life. While living out of my strengths has potential to stir up feelings of joy and satisfaction, not
living out of them as fully as I’d like can stir up quite the opposite. In order to fulfill my call as a safe presence, I’m exhorted through this experience to be more intentional about living out of my strengths.

I still “love” this class, though the last two weeks have been more of a love-hate relationship. I believe, though, that God is certainly at work to shape me more into the person he’s created me to be, specifically in the context of my call. Re-stating and reflecting on my sense of call is making me more intentional about following God in it, more aware of my struggles, failings, and successes, and better able to imagine positive change in the process.

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