What are some truths God has revealed to you about your identity that you hold onto?
Whenever I’m asked how God speaks to me, I’ll often respond with answers like; “through open and closed doors,” or “an inner dialogue” or, if I wanted to sound hyper-spiritual I’d drop in an A.W. Tozer quote about how God, being the creator of our personalities “...communicates with us through the avenues of our minds, our wills and our emotions.”
I’m obviously not a person that claims to hear audibly from God on the regular. In the past, when asked if God had ever spoken to me in that way, I would skirt around the question knowing that He hadn’t—but, still believing that He could.
While praying in bed one night, a year removed from leaving everything and everyone that I had ever known to start my life over in Brooklyn, I heard a single, unmistakable word.
I froze, contemplating if I had just heard God speak. His voice wasn’t thunderous or mystical, like maybe I would have imagined it to be. It was distinct yet, strangely familiar—far off and all the same right beside me. “Released?” I uttered back, hopeful to hear more. But, that’s all He said.
It was only while on the phone a few days later with one of my dearest friends, that it’s meaning became more coherent. A couple years prior, we had journeyed through hell together, experiencing unthinkable grief and broken hearts. As I listened to him recap the weeks since we had last talked, I was stunned as he recounted hearing a single word audibly spoken over him just a few days prior. It literally took everything within me not to frantically interject as he began to utter the word—“released.”
When he finished, I scrambled to explain how I too had heard that exact word on, what turned out to be, the same day and (we think) at the exact same time. In our haste to uncover its significance, we both agreed that it likely meant that God was releasing us from the aftermath of that which had happened to us during those hellish times.
Although true, as I look back now over a year later, His purpose was so much deeper and profound than I could have ever initially calculated. Since that moment, God has continued to show me the significance of what He actually meant when he told me that I was “released.” It’s become clear that He wasn’t just releasing me from something, but instead, that He was releasing me into something.
In that moment, I believe I was released into a new revelation of my true identity that God would continue to show me over the next several months.
He’d reveal the boldness that was buried deep inside, setting free an uninhibited exploration of the infinite depths of God’s character and love. With confidence, I could explore new measures of creativity and capabilities I’d never considered. I’d soon realize that the shackles of timidness and insecurity had, in fact, been unlocked all along and that I had willingly kept myself in them.
During this time, God would lead me outside the perimeters of uncertainty and into a new dimension of clarity and vision. He began to disclose how he would use my past to provide a future—that I was released to release others. That He would build me up to provide shelter and shade for those needing a place to rest on their individual journey with God beyond the walls and entrapment of false identity.
How does forgiveness help you to hear the voice of God more clearly?
That I, in the past, have carried heavy unforgiveness is one of my deepest regrets. Deafening confusion, anxiety and fear undoubtedly parallelled the unforgiveness I was inhabiting during those times. I allowed Satan to freely skew my perspective—without a fight. Looking back, it seems silly that I chose to remain imprisoned in bitterness, resentment and anger with doors of escape wide open through forgiveness.
When I think about the time I forfeited and the energy exhausted during those seasons of unforgiveness—I’m brought to tears. What a waste.The plan of the enemy is to cripple and allow our pride to rise so that we remain stuck in captivity. To deceive us with fabricated illusions of revenge and entitlement in order to redirect us from the freedom that lies behind a sincere “I forgive you.”
Satan loves to appoint us as the prison guard and helps us justify the captivity of our offender as retribution. With them locked within a cell of silence, slander, aggression and spite, we wait for their pleas of forgiveness idly, sneering as we tauntingly brush the door keys back and forth across the steel bars of their cell, like a musical instrument of sorts. We’ll forgive them, but only if they ask first. So often, unforgiveness becomes a weapon as we attempt to use the debts of others as ammunition against them.
In more recent years, I’ve learned to forgive early and often no matter the wrong that’s been committed against me. It’s not always as easy as that sounds, but with an eternal perspective I know I can’t be prideful in those moments when, without Jesus, I really have nothing to be proud of, or for that matter, to hold against anyone.You know those times when you have a brief falling out with one of your best friends or family members? We won’t talk to or interact with them for a few days or even weeks at a time yet, eventually, we reconnect and laugh it off as we ask, “What were we even mad about again?” Most of the time, we just liked being mad simply just to be mad, even as the origin fades from our memories.
I think we’ll have a similar enlightenment one day as we party on the New Earth, consumed with pure joy and laughter. “What were we mad about again?” we’ll ask each other, realizing how duped we were into believing that the grudges we held within our fallen flesh were worthwhile. We will at last have a full understanding of the unconditional Grace extended to us by our Heavenly Father, grateful for the thousand “second chances” He gave us. We’ll grasp what it truly means in Matthew 6:12 to “forgive our debtors” and at once, finally understand our equality.
Unforgiveness keeps our focus here on the fallen earth, it keeps our focus on ourselves and consumed in self-pity. It’s impossible to hear the voice of God, already still and quiet, within the cloudiness and chaos of resentment. The quicker we can forgive, the less time it gives the enemy to assemble a case against the person who has wronged us—with the potential to fill days (or, even a lifetime) with inner torment.
“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” Philippians 4:8
As a creative, how do you continue to build God's Kingdom instead of your own empire?
There has never been an empire that has transcended the movement that Jesus started two-thousand years ago. Seriously, can you name one? The Roman Empire? The British Empire? Enron®? Fallen, fallen, fallen. If we want to place an emphasis on building God's Kingdom above our own empire, then it is imperative that we believe and embrace the great redemption story that we're all a part of. We need to understand God's motive—to restore all of His creation—and with that, humanity. When we do, it will inform our motives.
However, as Satan continues to feed us lies about how great we are, how capable we are of building our own empire and how life is all about us, relinquishing our desire to be an emperor can be a grueling journey. What Satan doesn't tell you is that in order for God's Kingdom to be fully present back here on earth, every other empire needs to fall—and that includes yours and mine. None will outlast the Kingdom of God.
So, now believing with conviction the motive of God, my calling as a creative and entrepreneur is simple. Not to mention more peaceful, freeing and, of course, fulfilling.
Throughout scripture, we begin to understand that humanity was never meant to operate outside of God’s Kingdom—we read time and time again of how incapable we are as leaders and visionaries without God. In fact, we were designed to live and create within the Garden under His rule and reign in harmony and relationship with Him. The thought of living any other way never even crossed Adam and Eve’s mind. That is, until the “crafty” serpent fed them the lie that caused all of creation to fall. It wasn’t their idea to eat from the Tree of Life, against the orders of their Maker—it was Satan’s. Clearly, he's pretty good at telling us how capable we are without God.
God, immediately after confronting Adam and Eve about their defiance, boots them from the Garden taking humanity with them— beyond the walls of Eden, outside of God's presence and outside of our calling. Enter Jesus. Jesus is God's great plan to fix this. Jesus is God's plan to bring his Kingdom back to us and us back to Him - and we're invited to take part.
I want to spend my time and creative energy reclaiming our humanity—both directly and indirectly. It's in this conviction that I feel creatively responsible to make things that matter. If my job doesn't allow me to directly bring life to others, then I want to use that platform and those resources to develop a skill set that can in turn be used to help people in need—perhaps outside of work, through a side project. I want to build digital products that aid in solving humanitarian issues. I want to make art that replaces the blight of a fallen world. I want to create music that shows God as the greatest source of creative inspiration and points people back to a Savior and not inward upon ourselves.
Lastly, I want to speak words of life into others, believing their lives are a work of art. God’s masterpiece and my ultimate canvas.
"For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen." Matthew 6:13