Vertical Pursuit: Character

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We live in a society of instant gratification. We’re bombarded from the moment we wake up with messages about all that we need to be, to do, to achieve and to acquire. Just look at the headlines on magazines by the supermarket checkout stands: satisfaction with any facet of life is quickly and efficiently yours if you follow 5 easy steps. 

About 10 years ago, a book and movie called “The Secret” came out. It was all about thinking and “manifesting” the future you wanted by visualization. Very new-agey. You visualize your wants and desires, make vision boards, have a good attitude and you magically manifest your desires in your life. I was a baby Christian at that time; I’d attended church my whole life but never read the Bible or studied what Jesus said about His plans for us. So I watched it and followed all of the things it said to do to the letter to achieve my bigger, better, brighter future, one where I’d have my “dream” marriage, a “perfect” job, a new car, etc.

I probably don’t have to tell you this, but it didn’t work. None of it. My marriage was still a hot mess, my career was stagnant and it all just left me feeling empty. All of those goals were based on envy, selfishness, greed and desire to appear like I had it all together. No matter what I did or how hard I worked at achieving those things on my vision board, it didn’t work.

A year later I attended Bible Study for the first time in my life. We were studying the Fruits of the Spirit and how the Holy Spirit works in us, molding us to be more Christ-like. Through the Holy Spirit’s work in us, we begin to exhibit the Fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. So, what did I do? I tried to find all the information I could to achieve a more Christ-like character. I read books and articles on how to be more patient, how to grow my faith, how to derive more joy out of the moment, etc.

Needless to say, none of that worked, because you can’t work your way to new character. All the information I consumed to learn to be more Christ-like was head-knowledge – not heart knowledge.

God has used the past 6 years to get a hold of my heart and begin reshaping my character. In 2011, when my second child was 3 months old, my mom was diagnosed with non-operable lung cancer and received a poor prognosis. Due to a series of truly miraculous events, she survived and is now cancer-free.

Emotionally, it was a brutal season of grief. Physically, it was an exhausting season: traveling extensively by myself with a toddler and an infant to help care for her. That season was excruciatingly lonely to walk through and for the first time in my life I was forced to lean into my faith in Jesus Christ. Since that time, life has just kept coming at us fast and furious, culminating two years ago with the loss of my husband’s leg after an unexpected aneurism [Robin shares that story here].

Romans 5:2-5 says: “…And we rejoice in the hope and the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”

I can honestly say that while I would never have put any of the events of the last 6 years up on my vision board a decade ago, the Refiner has used His fire to work on my heart. He has used the last six years to erase a lot of my shallowness as He worked on my patience and my faithfulness. I have NEVER been a patient person, but through His work, I am becoming more patient and have learned to pray for patience. I’ve learned to step back out of God’s way and let him lead me instead of trying to take the lead and control every aspect of my life. I’ve learned to have faith that His way is better than my way. My way usually ends up in frustration, anger and a pile of self-help books from the library and Amazon. His way is rarely easy, but it takes our lives in a direction of joy and is infinitely more satisfying than all the garbage we could ever think we need.

wp_20160704_11_03_15_proRobin Whittaker-Martin has been married for fifteen years to Mark. Together, they have three spunky kids and have attended Grace Chapel for the past four and a half years.

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