29 January 2007

Passion, Purpose, & Calling

Leap, and the net will appear.
Zen Saying

The glory of God is man fully alive.
St. Ireneaus

Have you ever heard the voice of God & knew without a doubt that it was Him speaking to you?

There have been few times in my life where that has been the case, but I know beyond a doubt that it’s happening now. A friend noted the other day that I am more driven now than she has ever seen in the years she’s known me. A co-worker described me as “tenacious” just last week. The Lord is moving in my life in a mighty way. It is both exhilarating and frightening.

I realize now that I have known since I was a child what I was called to do & who God had called me to be. I have taken a few detours along the way (I like to think of it as the “scenic route”) and simply thought “God must be crazy”, trying to resist His pull and stay where I thought it was safe and secure. “Not me, Lord. Are you sure?”

I am meant to be a writer. He has also wired me to step out as a leader. The possibility of what this combination could mean is overwhelming until I remember God is behind it.

Scary? YES!! If you know me & find this surprising, you’re probably not the only one. On the other hand, I may not have been masking any of this as well as I thought!

Sometimes I think He must be crazy. After all, He trusts us to represent Him here on earth and He uses us, imperfect as we are, to be His hands and feet in a lost and broken world. But God’s wisdom exceeds our own. What seems perfectly insane to us could very well be the wisdom of God in action.

His word to me has come through clearly in sermons, in a class a church, through my boyfriend, family members, & His voice has resonated loudly in my own consciousness. He’s calling me out of hiding, urging me toward that for which He formed me. I can no longer hide behind cubicle walls or pretend to lose myself in Excel spreadsheets. The detours are over.

The written word has been my primary passion since I was a young child. My mom recently uncovered stories written when I was five or six years old, penned in green marker or scribbled in crayon. One was about a magical “fireplace fairy” and the other a dramatic retelling of the holy family’s flight to Egypt (“let me tell you, it is a VERY scarey story”). Throughout my elementary and middle school years, I would write more such stories for fun. In high school and college, I grew to love essay writing and poetry; I loved doing research on topics I cared about; I loved forming theses and proving my point. Never do I feel more alive and in the right place than when I can express my thoughts in written form.

At church, I am taking a class called
Outfitters. It is a course designed to help people hone in on their personality, passions, talents, & God-given gifts in order to find their fits both in ministry and career. I’ve been learning in this class that our gifts are not in perfect form. For example, we are born with our muscles, but training is required to develop them to their optimum strength. Our gifts, the instructor says, are the same way. That was a light bulb moment and a burden lifted: you mean I’m allowed to perfect my gift? I’m not expected to be perfect at it the first time I try? I shouldn’t be discouraged when I am rejected or fall flat on my face?

To hear someone else say it, it seems so terribly obvious that I wonder how I missed it before. With the burden of perfection lifted, I know exactly what I need to do. I need to go into training. I have decided 2007 will be all about getting my feet wet & getting some good practice in. Read, write, & join a local writer’s group. They’re everywhere around here, all ages and levels of experience.

Another aspect of this class is discovering personality type. On the MBTI scale, I’m an
ENTJ (I’m actually low on the E scale; I’m as close as you can get to the middle of the E/I scale without actually being in the middle. The instructor said it is likely I may also display INTJ tendencies. The E/I part may be borderline, but the "NTJ" part is solid). My personality type is specifically geared toward leadership. This personality type makes up a scant 1-3 % of the global population, with women making up the minority of this 1-3%.

My instructor says that the church often misunderstands women with this personality type since ENTJs are abstract thinkers, tend to process information with logic rather than feeling, & also are decisive, structured people. These are typically seen as “masculine” traits. This explains so much: why leadership in my previous church told my Dad I needed to be better controlled (after I wrote a letter to the board regarding some dishonest practices on part of the leadership), & why at times I felt so completely out of place as a woman at Biola, being told by a very few (but memorable) individuals that I needed to be “more feminine”. I wondered at times, what is wrong with me?

I was skeptical, questioning if I was truly expressing my God-given personality or if I was being rebellious & sinful. Now I can say with certainty that though not a “typical” female personality, this is really how I’m wired. I cannot try to bend myself into a mold I was not meant to fill.

Trusting the Lord’s leading, I picked up the phone late last week and ordered a customized laptop, printer/scanner, and digital camera. I was fortunate enough to get a substantial discount on the cost through an employee purchase program through work. I knew my dinosaur of a laptop (purchased in 1997) was going to need to be replaced if I am going to accomplish what the Lord is asking of me. As such, I trust that despite my major-purchase anxiety, this is a decision that is blessed by the Lord & one that was made at His prompting. I am thankful He has provided the means for me to acquire the tools I will need on this new adventure.

Though some things are changing, I’m learning I haven’t really changed at all. God is peeling back layers of a false self I had draped over myself so convincingly that even I thought this is just the way it is, this is who I am.

It is freeing & energizing to begin to realize my true self. I know there is a lot of work to do in terms of acquiring training & practice. I know I can expect a variety of challenges & obstacles. On the other hand, I also know that if this is who God made me to be, pursuing this will be the most natural thing in the world and the work I put into it will give energy back to me instead of taking it away (as sitting in a cubicle processing refunds does). I can be tenacious & I can be driven where my passion is concerned.

But OY … here is the rub: it will be a couple years before I can abandon the “good” job that is ultimately the one of the worst possible fits for me (in terms of a career satisfaction). It is a temptation to do what I really love instead of doing the job I am paid to do, so I will need to be leaning on the Lord & trusting Him to help me remain responsible and committed to the work He has me doing for the time being.

That being said … HERE WE GO!


  1. Kirsten, wow. Thanks for sharing all that is going on in such an honest, unpretentious way. I am so excited for you. I love to see and hear of God breaking into the humdrum of daily life, especially when it is the life of someone I know.

    I think it is interesting that both you and Christianne are such talented writers and that both of you have come to realize recently that writing is indeed your calling. As a reader, I can confirm that both of you have an exceptional way of expressing yourselves in writing and that as I think of each of you, nothing seems more natural than to think of each of you as writers.

    You will be in my prayers as you venture forth into God's will. May He richly bless you, and others through you!

  2. YAY! (This is what I screeched out loud in my house when I happened upon the "thesis" of this post.)

    Ohhhhhhh, this gets me so happy and stirred up and excited inside, and for so many reasons.

    1) It blesses me to no end that God is wonderful in revealing Himself to you.

    2) It blesses me to no end that what He has revealed is that you get to WRITE for the rest of your life -- what a privilege, for both you and those who get to read your work!

    3) I have thought many times upon reading your posts, "This girl has got to be a writer. She just needs to be."

    4) Upon learning what you've been doing for your life's work in recent years, I couldn't help but hearken back to that girl I saw blossom into more of herself junior/senior year of college -- with English, not Biochem. (Am I remembering those details right?) I wondered what was up with that girl I just knew was in there still.

    5) It will be fun to have you as a friend on the road, as we both explore this calling and what God wants to do through it into our respective worlds.

    6) By the way, I'm an INTJ, but my "I" has been easing over toward the "E" side in recent years. Weird.

    Who the HECK told you that you need to be more feminine??? They're wrong, dead wrong. I've always found your femininity absolutely stirring and alluring. It's irresistible and undeniable!

  3. To both Rebecca & Christianne: your words have blessed me SO much. Thank God I have a box of tissue nearby. I am so fortunate to have gotten back in touch with you!! I feel tremendously encouraged.

    My NTJ-ness was failing me when it came to posting this. I was hemming & hawing, wondering what putting this out there in the world for do. Would people be receptive? Would people laugh?

    When I got this job in finance, it was with the understanding that it would be to take a break, start paying some bills ... and here I am 6 1/2 years later. It is a good job in that it pays the bills & gives me benefits that allow me to have a fairly comfortable life (which is why it's been so difficult to considering giving it up, unsatisfying as it is). God is gracious though. He let me get to the place in my journey where He wasn't screaming it at me, but allowed me to see it distinctly and clearly for myself.

    Honestly, I am touched. What you have both said & written has blessed me more than I can adequately express.

    Christianne - I am incredibly THRILLED to be on this journey with you too. It promises to be an exciting one!!

    And may I echo, "YEAY!!!!!"

  4. I am shocked! Not that you are called to be a writer and leader. That makes perfect sense. I am shocked that you still have that old laptop. Didn't she have a name? I do remember she is definitely a she. I recall accusations of computer PMS and threats of flight out dorm room windows. I am truly shocked that she has lasted this long.

    As for the rest, I am excited for you. I look forward to reading whatever comes out of that beautiful curl-topped head. As someone who sat in awe watching you joyously delve into research and write page after page of brilliance, while I sat and wrestled painfully over drivel, I am thrilled to hear you know your calling.

    And, whoever said you need to be more feminine, needs to go back to enroll in remedial sex ed. You may not be a girly girl, engaging in hysterics at the sight of a bug, but you are far from "Pat."

    I can't wait to see and read what you do next.

  5. Ah yes, the premenstrual laptop. She is still around, but not doing much besides taking up precious space in my tiny apartment. I'll occasionally pull her out to play free cell, but she's not good for much of that anymore either. Powerless unless connected to a power source, and sometimes she is no good even then (unless the power cord is yanked sharply to one side). Sweet memories. I do look forward to putting her into retirement (or throwing her onto the ground from a height and seeing how many thousands of pieces it can break into).

    As for the folks who thought I should be "more feminine", those are memories that still stir me up. It won't do to name names but there were individuals (a few students, a staff member, & even a certain speaker from a conference) who, on separate occasions, made it clear that I would do well to refrain from expressing my opinions, especially where said opinions differed from their own. I made the grave error of demonstrating that I was in fact, capable of independent and rational thought and not afraid of expressing it. That is "unfeminine" indeed!

    More specifically, I received these responses when I said that I didn't think that every woman's purpose in life would be fulfilled by getting married and having children. God bless those who are called to this (it is a high & important calling!), but I challenged the idea that this is what EVERY Christian woman is meant for and said that there are other high & important callings that God's children are meant to fill (even if they do happen to be female). SHOCKING, I know!

  6. Having known you for 20+ years now, I can definitely say that i see you are a writer - God brings us to our callings at different times, but of all the ideas that you have told me about (med school, law school, etc), I have seen that your writing has been consistant through it all. I am remembering back about all the HUGE books your read growing up, and how i always thought you were crazy for working so hard in school - but you loved it, and you loved the written word.

    Reading your blogs has shown me why, despite all my questions growing up, we were such good friends. I always wondered how we could be such good friends and yet be so different, and yet i realize that underneath, we weren't that different at all. I want to take the MB again, to find out what my personality type it (i know it, i just can't remember) but the interesting thing is, is that I am an I - who would have thought it? Yes, its true that i'm close to the middle, but i am still an I. Hearing all your comments about your views on women's roles makes me want to stand up and cheer - here i was thinking that my poor friend was getting sucked in to the Biola mindset down there in California, and really you were standing against the flow - you go girl! I was doing it up here in Washington - especially regarding women and mental health, and the churchs view on that.

    You are an amazing woman and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. I just wish i had the words to express myself the way you do, and say what truly needs to be said in such eloquent ways (and i also wish for spell check on everything, because spelling is not my forte).

  7. Okay, I totally loved "listening in" on yours and Christin's banter. Hilarious, both of you are. Especially the part about chucking your she-comp out the window. :)

    Wow about the femininity part, Kirst. That really roils my blood inside, first because they were so pigheaded about it and second because it happened to YOU.

    I've struggled with a similar thing, though, about the having-kids part. Kirk and I aren't planning to have any, and I'm still working out some of my own "voices in the head" about how unfeminine that must make me. But He has other ways of birthing things through us, and I look forward to being a part of them.

  8. WOW. How did I get so blessed in my friends? I want to get you all together & share in a group hug! ;o)

    Ilse: thanks for saying everything you did there. Here I was, all worried about people scoffing at the idea of me being a writer. I've always thought a writer's shoes would be some mighty big ones to fill, which is part of the reason why (I think) I refrained from embracing my calling for so long. Like Christianne said in her blog, being writers doesn't mean we're privileged or anything ... it's just who we are.

    And may I say, I'm so glad that after being in touch only sporadically for the last few years, to finally be connected once again. :o)

    Going to Biola & encountering those challenges to who I am really DID solidify for me my own opinions on what it means to be a woman, a child of God, & a servant in His kingdom. We all have a unique part to play and it makes my blood boil to no end when people seem to think that variety of gifting & ministry opportunity is for men only, limiting women to the ministry areas of child-rearing & teaching Sunday School. I would never say those aren't important because I know for certain they ARE. But not every woman is meant for this. We all know this, I just wish other people were similarly inclined.

    And AMEN Christianne - I am not sure that I'll plan on having children either. I just don't know either way. But I believe there are other things that can be birthed through the work God's children do.

  9. I find it interesting that you had this experience at Biola. It was not my experience. Or maybe I just wasn't aware of it. Or maybe I was just immune to it, because I've always believed that each of us has giftings that should be used to the fullest, no matter what our gender is. I'm totally mystified that you encountered that so personally, though.

    Except I just realized I do know there are some people with some very strong views about marriage and child-rearing responsibilities around those quarters. I just thought it was a matter of opinion, whereas maybe, for them, it was a matter of must-ness.

    Anyway, I'm just glad you have landed where you've landed, even though it hurt a little.

  10. I fear I'm painting a negative picture of my college years! This wasn't my intent at all.

    When I encountered these comments, it was just a few people & over a span of time, so it wasn't an experience I had frequently. Though the times this happened were few & far between, they stood out starkly in my mind (especially one Torrey Conference speaker I spoke with) & sadly, I allowed it to color my college experience and to add a veil of ambiguity to my own identity & calling.

    I thank God this is not a common experience & thank God it's not the prevailing opinion in BU circles!

    I DEFINITELY don't want to make too much of it or paint a negative picture of my time there, because on the whole, it was positive. I only brought it up because even though it was my experience only with a few people, it had a profound effect on me as it came from people who were speakers & leaders and I assumed they knew better than I what God wanted of me.

    I am (FINALLY) learning to trust what God has already revealed in & through me, and am no longer allowing others define the limits of how God will use me. It just took me awhile to get there!!