When I was introduced to Tom Rath's book called Strengthfinders a couple of years out of college, a mental light bulb came on. Tom's argument is boiled down to this: Focus on operating and investing in your strengths rather than your weaknesses.
Finally, someone had given me permission to embrace the fact I was never supposed to be a business or math major, because all those classes were never playing to my strengths and my GPA reflected this reality.
What I now know is:
1). A gpa is not the end all be all for determining where you will go in life;
2). When you figure out what your strengths are and submit those strengths to the holy spirit, a degree and a 4.0 from Harvard cannot compete with what God will do in your life;
3). Pay attention to the tension. It is a cliche term but if you feel constant friction in your job, the kind that is more than just a result from a busy, stressful season, chances are you may not be operating in your strengths.
But it takes time to figure this stuff out. For some people, they start operating in their strengths right out of college. Bless them! But for me, it took a lot of digging and working a lot of jobs that made me want to poke my eyeballs out.
Tapping into your strengths
When you get to the place where things start clicking, and you're operating in your strengths, you will know it. It does not mean you won't have to work crazy hard but it will feel as though you are working with the flow instead of paddling against it.
And if you keep your head down and keep investing and operating in your strengths progress comes. Influence comes. Increased responsibility happens. People start to call out those very strengths you worked so hard to tap in to. They start to affirm the fact you've got something other people don't.
When this happens, it is easy to claim these strengths as our own. Because after all, they are ours, right? It is easy to pat ourselves on the back and take credit for the progress. For the promotion. For the increased influence.
If you're a believer, it is usually around this timeframe you start to feel a new kind of friction.
It is more of an internal, spiritual tension. You've found your lane, you know your strengths, but something is missing. Something is off.
What is the tension?
Several years ago I heard a woman asked what she wanted to be most remembered for. Without missing a beat, she responded with something along these lines:
I want to be someone who knows how to be first loved.
Let me explain: my whole life I have been a doer. I am a girl who just gets stuff done. And I own that strength.
My greatest challenge: it is being still.
I hate being still. Because when I am still, I realize all these strengths are not my own. They are God's. And I realize God is asking me to submit those very strengths to Him.
What I produce is good in my own strength, but man, when I get quiet, and submit my getting done skillset to my heavenly Father, that's when the real magic happens. That's when I get in sync with the holy spirit and watch him invade my work in a way I could never claim as a result of my own doing.
So, you know what I've learned?
I've learned I will always be a get-it-done kind of girl.
But what I want to be remembered for?
I want to be the girl who is remembered for knowing how to first go to her heavenly Father on her knees in full submission of the skillset I'd like to call my own.
Because it is not my own. It is His and it is a matter of stewardship. If I want to operate at my full potential, I've got to get really good at knowing how to come to Him and be loved before I can go out and do my little heart out.
Can you hear your refrigerator?
Seeking quiet and stillness is countercultural. Our world screams to go and do. Resist slow.
A couple years ago in an interview, I was asked if I could hear my refrigerator.
The man asking me said if you can't sit still in your house and hear your refrigerator running, then chances are, you will never be able to hear from the Lord.
That refrigerator question has stuck with me. Because the majority of my life I have been running at a pace where I could never hear the soft hum coming from my kitchen.
I've heard glimpses of that distant sound, but it was sporadic at best.
In full honesty, it took a miscarriage and a lot of sitting still for the past month to hear my refrigerator on a consistent, daily basis. It has taken laying flat out on my face in submission begging God to open my eyes to His goodness. It has taken an endless amount of ugly cries and physical exhaustion to get my heart back to hearing from God.
Because the thing was, I had gotten too comfortable operating in my strengths. Things were running just fine. Work was good. Money was good.
But I felt that internal tension. I knew God was tugging on my heart, begging me to come and submit my strengths to Him...but I didn't want to.
My heart had grown lukewarm. I was high off indulging in the comforts my strengths had provided. And all the while God had been in the background, whispering right above that refrigerator hum:
Won't you invite me in to your strengths? Won't you submit it all to me? Won't you take those skillsets, lay them at my feet and then watch what I can do with them?
As my daughter, I love you too much to let you keep going. I heard your cries for revival. I heard your cries for intervention. I know all you feel is death and loss, but Daughter, I am doing a new thing. I want to bring you back to life. I want to consume you like a fire.
Let me. You don't have to do a thing. Just be still. Just trust. Just stay on your knees in submission. And then watch what I will do through your strengths.
In A.W. Tozer's The Crucified Life he writes the following:
"It is important that we understand how dangerous it is to trust our good habits and virtues. Only God can bring us to the point of understanding that our strength is indeed our weakness. Anything that we rely on or trust can be our undoing. We do not realize how weak we are until the Holy Spirt begins exposing these things to us."
I've often thought about what God might say to me when I enter heaven and He asks me to give an account of my life:
You spent your whole life building things and doing things. Things that to the world looked so good.
But you missed it. You missed me.
Why didn't you invite me into your strengths?
Why didn't you do the very work I called you to do?
Why didn't you submit to me?
Oh the things we could have done together...
No one knows what will be said to us the day we leave this earth and enter heaven. But what I do know is I want to get the answers to these questions right.
When I kneel before the Lord and give an account of what I did with my strengths, I want God's response to be:
Well done, my good and faithful servant. You invited me in. You submitted your strengths, you let me love you, and look what I was able to do in and through you.
Because you sought me, because you pursued stillness, because you actively submitted, I was able to use your strengths for my glory.
Well done, my Daughter. Well done.
Friend, don't let severe grief or a crises drive you to getting this right. You can start today. Lean in to the stillness. Fight for the quiet. Submit those strengths. Figure out what it means to be first loved before you go out and use your talents.
And then watch what follows when you are able to hear the sound of that hum from your kitchen on a daily basis.
If any of this resonated with you, please watch this fourish minute video, it is pretty powerful.