As I have embarked on this journey of health one of the BIGGEST impacts to my overall health has been my renewed priority of reading GOOD – life-giving books.
Growing up in the Christian, home schooling culture that I did, I had a constant diet of “Christian Living” books. Books that were very specific on a topic like Contentment or The Holiness of God or Suffering and they were helpful…some even life-changing. However, in my circles there is a heavy emphasis on the fact that everything is in God’s control and in His hands. This belief, coupled with the belief that God is gracious and his grace covers all of our shortcomings created a mis-guided apathy for me in my life.
I know that properly understood, these doctrines (or beliefs) should NOT produce this kind of living, but in my personal life that was the effect. I knew I had weaknesses and short commings, I knew that learning more about God was good and He could do amazing things. So I just kind of kept learning about HIM and waiting for HIM to ‘change me’ and ‘transform my life’ if I just prayed and waited, it would *happen*.
I would fail and cry out to him and feel a sense of relief, knowing that He fully forgave me and his *grace* was sufficient in my shortcomings, but personal growth seemed extremely slow (and almost non-existent in several areas).
It wasn’t until I started reading secular “self-help” books (which I had been raised to think were straight from the devil and full of evil heresies – how could one help himself when we are evil and depraved people – entirely dependent on a gracious God to pull us out of our sinful muck?) that I realized there was a missing piece in my beliefs on personal growth.
Although I fully believe that I am in need of God’s grace I am beginning to learn that I am also made in His image and capable of powerful and amazing things. I am learning that there is potential within me to DO something about my weaknesses, to CHANGE, and that change is not something that will happen to a passive, hopeful couch potato. Feeling bad about my weaknesses will get me no where. I must WORK and take action steps and have a plan and chart a course for change and I CAN be a pro-active, work my butt off, get in the game powerhouse. Not defined by my weaknesses but empowered by action and growing in skill.
In order to do this, I believe you have to be a reader, and some of those books you have to read are books that take a look at YOU. Help you evaluate who YOU are, take stock of your strengths and weaknesses, show you where YOUR actions can be powerful tools to move you forward. Give you hope for Personal Growth. I don’t think of these books as “self help” books anymore, but personal development books.
I still read my Bible *everyday* and read gospel filled books, BUT adding personal development books has opened my eyes to the spark of the divine that is with in me and the amazing potential that I cary and the RESPONSIBILITY I have to take action and look at myself and devise plans and set up goals and GROW.
If I could recommend one book to you it would be The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. The truths I have discovered in this book have rocked my world and set me and my husband on a journey to re-think and approach EVERY aspect of our lives with a renewed purpose and focus and excitement. We are refining our lives being intentional in a new way and taking control of OUR actions – while still trusting in our gracious God.
I know not many of you share my upbringing and background, but wherever you are coming from, I cannot overstate the importance of value of reading books that will challenge you and give you the tools to be the BEST version of yourself that you can be. We were designed by a gracious God to do AMAZING things and to be INCREDIBLE people. We are made in HIS image!!! Apathy, Discouragement, Hopelessness, Destructive Patterns – does that sound like the image of God?
Don’t be afraid to take some time to dig deep into WHO YOU ARE and learn tools that you can implement to take steps (even if they are baby steps) in the direction YOU want to go (and grow). Value yourself enough to invest in yourself…you are stronger than you think.