Exemplify Exemplify

Posted by Guest Blogger on March 21, 2019 in Faith, Guest Blogger, Unite, Build, Live

In many ways, our culture would like us to believe that we don’t need anyone. To exemplify the superwoman in all ways! But is that really what God calls us to?

God calls us to exemplify HIM; to shine HIS light into this broken and human world.

Living this out in real life requires great trust in a God who cares more about the condition of my heart than the number of followers I have on Twitter. While the world would have us believe that we are more connected than ever with others through technology, the reality is that we are drifting further apart. We are truly living in isolation without authentic relationship, and it is a dangerous place to be.

It is not how God created us.

The Bible talks repeatedly about how God created relationship for those whom He loved. Often, the leaders God chose were sent in twos or in groups. Moses had his brother, Aaron; David had Jonathan; Rachel had Rebekah; Martha had Mary; and even Jesus had his disciples.

God doesn’t ask us to do hard things alone, though oftentimes we expect that of ourselves. Instead of investing deeply into real relationships, we protect ourselves inside bubbles out of fear that someone might see our vulnerability – or worse, our failures. We touch-up photos and decide what we’re willing to share with the outside world. We hide away inside our homes or cubicles at work so that others can’t see how lonely, isolated, fearful, or just confused we really are on our own.

I have a tendency to live this way, too.

I come by it honestly after growing up with a single mama who worked hard her whole life (and still does) to make ends meet on a paycheck-to-paycheck basis. As a result of her struggles, she imbued the importance of not relying on ANYONE for our needs: not friends (who were unreliable), not employers (who weren’t always loyal or honest) and most certainly not men (who would come and go, and most often just took for themselves).

I learned her lesson well, and grew up confident in my own abilities to take care of myself.

When I got engaged nearly 17 years ago, I truly believed I would get married and life would continue the same – two independent people cohabiting and sharing a last name. I’d still have my own career, be able to provide for myself, maintain my own bank account (you know, just in case…), pay my “half” of the bills, and keep doing life as I had always done. And that is exactly what I did for many years.

It wasn’t until my second daughter got kicked out of daycare at 12 months old that I realized something had to give. I couldn’t do it all. I felt I was failing as a teacher, failing as a wife and certainly failing as a mother to my two young daughters.

Nobody got my best; least of all God.

I didn’t even have time left at the end of a day to really take care of me, let alone any of the relationships that were important in my life.

After a gut-wrenching conversation at the kitchen table with my husband, who openly encouraged me to stop working and stay home with our girls, and despite feeling that the load I carried on my shoulders would lighten, I sobbed. Out came all the years and all the pressure of keeping up the image that I had everything under control on my own.

It was ugly crying, y’all.

I cried, because I was scared to lose the income I felt we needed to carry on. I cried, because I was the only one of us that had health benefits with my job and if I wasn’t working, we would have none. I cried, because I believed my worth was built around this career that I had allowed to define me, and without which, I would lack identity and purpose.

I cried, because I knew God was asking me to do this, and my human willfulness was wrestling with obedience.

Can you relate at all? Do you feel the pressure of the world to be everything all by yourself? To not need others and to be relentlessly independent?

Looking back, I can plainly see the path I took that led to my resistance letting others lean into me. It was cut by my fearless, independent mother and watered by experiences that made it clear I had to do it ALL. BY. MYSELF.  

In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul beckons the people to follow his example, “Follow my example just as I follow the example of Christ.”

This is what had been missing in my younger life: grace for imperfection and Christly models for living.

I had learned to live out of my own means and figures. At some point I’m sure I trusted adults and peers, but over the years most of them proved unreliable and untrustworthy. As a result, I laid all my eggs into one basket — me — and convinced myself I was the only one who could get the job done. I built a life that didn’t “need” anyone. It was my protection at the time, my fortress. But this is not what God had called me to.

We were not created for isolation or to live life in a one-man vacuum.

Thank goodness!

As I grew in my understanding of the gospel and of Jesus’ perfect love, I slowly let go of my own fortress and allowed God to be the walls of protection and peace in my life. As my spirituality matured, I built new paths and relationships based on healthy boundaries, instead of continuing to build walls around my heart. I also found Jesus-loving mentors who exemplified God’s love to me in beautiful, humble ways.

Through their teaching and modeling, I learned to trust again, starting with trusting the man I had married. I had to believe he cared for me and had committed to me as God instructs – wholly and fully. I needed to experience his protection of our family and allow him the opportunity to provide for us in ways I thought he needed me to help with.

It’s a lot like how we tend to “trust” God — Here, God, here are the things I don’t think you’ll need my help with! HA! And what happened?

In learning how to trust my husband to care for us (and he cares for us very well), I grew in my trust of God and His provision for our entire family. Though His plan for my life was not what I had been expecting or even wanting, it was the better plan! In so many ways we are a much better team and family unit, because I am more available to be present and more in tune with the needs of our family rhythm.

My trust in others continues to grow, too. And as it does, I find myself reaching new plateaus with friends and those I do life with.

Though my introverted side still prefers re-kindling my spirit in quiet moments alone, I know that I am far better in community and in relationship with others. The gifts God gave me are MUCH greater when paired with the gifts others bring to the table. My fears are quieted by the wise counsel of Godly women who speak life and sometimes hard truth to me. I think the very essence of my fears enabled me to believe that, because I wasn’t supposed to need anyone, then no one really needed me either.

I saw myself as less valuable than God defined me to be.

With my still-developing courage, I can vulnerably ask others for help. I can also reach out and ask them if they need help, with an open heart ready to follow through.

A dear friend recently shared with me that I had hurt her, albeit unintentionally. I had not included her in an experience, because I had assumed she wouldn’t want to be bothered with it. In reality, she strongly desired to be included, as many of us women do. And in my apology to her, I confessed something very important, and sometimes still difficult for me to say out loud to others:

“I need you. I need your friendship. I cannot do life alone. I need the love and laugh-out-loud joy you bring to my life. And I need your understanding that has developed as a result of knowing me in times of pain and grief.”

Try saying those words out loud to God.

The more we practice them with God, the easier they flow out to others as well. With time and trust, I catch myself reverting to old habits a little less frequently, and I’m able to allow grace to correct my path more quickly.

There is no achievement I can grasp on my own (without God) that glorifies God. Proverbs 6:23 reminds me that reflecting God requires starting with God, the source of all light:

“For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life.”

The fruit of relationship with God, and of relationships rooted in God, is where our strength lies; not in doing it all on our own.

Aimee Eckley—Aimee Eckley

Aimee is a wife, mom, teacher, writer, editor, co-curriculum developer of Courageous Girls, and champion of grassroots movements. She has spent two decades working with youth in many capacities and has a heart to help build strong and resilient individuals, as well as stable and healthy families. After ten years in a public middle school classroom, Aimee made a decision to teach from home while nurturing her own two young daughters. Last year, Aimee partnered with Terra Mattson to launch a Courageous Girls site for moms and daughters, and is currently developing curriculum and content for Courageous Girls groups. When she is not at PTSA meetings or volunteering with Embrace Oregon, she enjoys baking with her girls, reading, catching a good movie and organizing. Though she does not consider herself a risk-taker, she does hope to learn how to fly on a trapeze (before she is 80), and looks forward to traveling adventures with her family. Aimee is driven by her calling to share hope with others, lead boldly, and develop authentic relationships.

3 comments... (add a comment)

  1. Kristen Steele

    Loved “In Courage” and I’m excited to look through The Courageous Girls curriculum! I desire these Godly relationships and have 2 girls as well. Thank you for your words of truth!

  2. Pingback: Exemplify - Blog at joyofit.org - Courageous Girls

  3. Connie Armerding

    Aimee,
    I resonated deeply with your words. I too, have wanted to find value and significance in what I am capable of accomplishing in my own strength. I love the kindness of God in revealing to us that we NEVER have to work for His love or approval. Thank you for sharing your heart and story with our community!

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