I grew up thinking of myself in terms of my potential - my talents, gifts, skills, accomplishments. That's pretty scary, because it made me think of myself way greater than I actually am.
It was the opening in one of Pastor Steven Furtick's sermons that woke me up from this delusional idea about myself; I am more accurately defined by my patterns over my potential.
I'm going to be very vulnerable here and share this painful realization with you.
In regard to potential, my inner circle of elders and friends often confirmed with me on my gift in teaching.
While I understand that teachers will be judged more strictly (James 3:1), I love to teach the Word of God, because I always gain new insights and personal spiritual growth every time I share the Word of God with people.
But when I started assessing my past patterns - here's the painful part, I was shocked to realize that I have been falling short in many ways.
I hate to be a hypocrite, and I never want to be someone who doesn't walk her own talk.
I sincerely mean it every time I share about God's Word and the teaching in the Bible, and I really want to live out the Word of God.
Yet I could be encouraging the ladies about bearing with one another in love, and still easily be triggered to get upset and angry with those I love the most at home.
I could be genuinely sharing about tithing and offering, cheerfully giving even an insane amount of money for a good cause, inviting friends over for meals at home, yet become reluctant when someone wants to borrow our car - it's not even an expensive car!
I realize I have been selective in blessing people, and I feel so awful about myself.
Still I could be so on fire and edified to know that I am the daughter of the King of kings and the LORD of lords, yet I also find myself choosing to stay stuck in this frequent self-pity pattern. Like in the drama, you always want to be that most pitiful heroine.
God's Word Says It Best
Let me show you a Scripture. This was mind-blowing to me when I understood it in this whole new perspective.
The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:2.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.
This has been one of my most quoted Scriptures in my devotional journal.
I love to meditate on it and study deeper about it whenever I am seeking to know what is God's will for me at different seasons of my life.
What always stood out to me was to "be transformed by the renewing of my mind" through meditating on the Word of God.
Until lately, when I was studying about this Pattern Test, I came back to this Scripture again, because there's this word 'pattern' in it. But this time, I felt moved to continue reading the next verse, and then I was blown away.
Let me put them together:
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. (Romans 12:2-3)
I am not to think of myself highly because of my potential, but to think of myself with sober judgment considering the ungodly pattern that I have been subscribing to, those sticky old unpleasant habits that I just couldn't shake off for years.
The Word of God has been speaking to me, don't conform any longer to the ungodly pattern - my old self, but be transformed by God's Word, so that I will be able to know God's will.
The reason we always find it so hard to test and approve God's will for our life, is because most of the time we're stuck in some worldly patterns, which are so hard to realize and can be so painful to admit, because we always think about ourselves in terms of our potential, which could be exactly the opposite of what we really have been in terms of our past pattern and actions.
The Pattern concept illustration
Let me illustrate this Pattern concept so you really get it.
We may have a great writing potential, but if we couldn't discipline ourselves to actually sit down and write throughout last year, having that writing potential doesn't make us a good writer.
Or we may say that health is everything to us, but if we couldn't get ourselves to do even a 10-minute exercise in the past 6 months, we don't really care that much about our health.
It's like, when we say we repent, people should see change in our way of life.
When John the Baptist started preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, he said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "Produce fruit in keeping with your repentance." (Luke 3:3, 7-9)
And we know from the Book of Galatians that "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23)
In all honesty, I do not consider myself to have attained all these. What really matters is for me to produce fruit in keeping with my repentance.
Say, in regard to love and patience, maybe I used to be easily angered for 10 times in a week.
To produce fruit in keeping with my repentance, I work my way to choose not to be so quickly angered.
The next week, I only got angry for 3 times. Then the following week, back to 5 times.
That's okay, I tried again to control my anger and only got angry twice the next week.
See, it's a constant process of changing our actions, our pattern, producing fruit in keeping with our repentance. We don't always change immediately.
It's about denying ourselves and taking up our cross daily to follow Jesus (Luke 9:23).
It's all about the tangible actions that sustain through time - pattern.
Now that I have looked into my past pattern, and painfully realized the true me, I am working humbly to live with consistent actions that are aligned with the Stephanie that I truly want to be.
Your Turn to Try
I am sharing this to encourage you to use this Pattern Test to discover the true you and re-align your actions to become more like whom you want to be.
You can ask yourself these questions to test your patterns over the last year:
How you used your time?
Where you spent your money?
How you treated your loved ones?
What did you always talk about?
What good fruits you have been bearing?
Here are some other ways you can apply this Pattern Test:
When considering to appoint a project leader or a team member, instead of deciding based on the candidates' potential, learn about their working pattern in the past (e.g. Their commitment to the work delivery, their timeliness in meeting the deadline without jeopardizing quality, their people skill in nurturing healthy work relationship among the team members, etc.).
When deciding to start a serious relationship with someone that could end in marriage, before you get impressed by their potential, take time to learn about their patterns in the recent years (e.g. Are they dealing with some major issues, how have they been treating their family, how is their spending behavior, etc.).
Of course, it's wise to note that people change from time to time. I do not share this Pattern Test to encourage judgment and condemnation towards one another because of their past. After all, even a prostitute can be made righteous by Jesus Christ by faith the moment she repents and follows Him (John 8:3-11).
This Pattern Test is meant to be a powerful tool to help us understand ourselves (and others) deeper by studying our past pattern.
I would like to end this writing with two quotes from one of my great life teachers, Ramit Sethi:
"Your past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior."
"Show me someone's calendar and their spending, and I'll show you their priorities."
What's your shocking realization?
In the comment below, share with me what is one shocking realization you have after applying this Pattern Test to understand yourself deeper.
And if you want to bring it to the next level, share the 1 thing you will start or stop doing to re-align your action with your desirable character and personality.