“And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].” Romans 12:2
This scripture has always been my favorite. I know… it’s the Bible and we’re not supposed to play favorites, but I do, and this is mine. I’ve always loved this scripture because it’s been an anchor- a constant reminder of where to reposition my focus. It’s been an anchor when I’ve had to stay firmly rooted in my convictions against the opinions and expectations of others. And what I love most about it is that it declares transformation by the progressive renewal of the mind. The scripture says “renewing”- That means this process is active, it’s dynamic and continual for transformation to manifest at different stages. The main reason I’ve always loved this scripture is that it has provided a confident hope to not conform. This can apply to such an extensive list of things, but the biggest takeaway for me, especially as I’ve been challenged to practically apply this scripture in my life, is to not conform (or compromise) on my convictions.
Why not? Because if they are truly convictions, that means that our minds, our hearts, our desires, are not the source. Our convictions are never really ours but are the things that God places inside of us to live the lives we were created to live… for Him! Which means that our convictions ultimately belong to God (like everything else, but that’s not the focus of today’s blog). I know, I know, you wanted to start that business, and help those kids, because it makes you feel good and you’ve always had a heart to help people... but you’ve always had that heart not because you’re just a good person but because it’s the heart that God gave you, and it is the person God created you to be. So, to compromise on our convictions is to dishonor the very God who thought highly enough of us to give us inspiration, and dreams, and goals, and visions to pursue in this life. To compromise on our convictions is to selfishly steal the glory from God, because we choose in that compromise, to make it more about us and not about Him.
So following our convictions should be easy, right? Like, God if this is you then everything should just align and work out because that’s how purpose is supposed to work, right?! But, how do we respond when what we’re hoping for doesn’t manifest in a “timely” manner? How do we wait well, for the promise that God has given? What if in pursuit of that conviction, things become MORE challenging and you run into MORE roadblocks? What if not conforming, requires a strength and boldness that you’ve never had to enact before?
“God, I don’t need you to clarify, I need more courage to do what I already know to do.” -Pastor Steven Furtick
When I started my PhD program over 3 years ago, I knew that I was here because God allowed it to be so. I knew that I was brought here for a specific purpose. I’ve since realized that a huge part of that purpose was for God to do some of the things internally that I spoke about in my last blog. But I also knew that a part of it was for the work itself. I knew I wanted to work with people, for people… my (His) people. I knew that at the heart of my interests to be an engineer, was an unshakeable desire to use my skills, access, and resources to serve people, particularly those from marginalized backgrounds. In a nutshell, I wanted my research to reflect this idea of “social justice engineering” that motivated me to pursue a doctorate in the first place.
But being in an engineering program, pursuing work that is more focused on people than systems wasn’t an easy battle. I had people, even those with my best interest at heart, discouraging me from pursuing this type of work for my doctorate, and encouraging me to wait until I became a tenured faculty member (assuming that was where I’d end up after graduation, and well… that’s also another post for another day). Others didn’t think it would be scientifically rigorous enough, or that it even had intellectual merit (yes, I’ve encountered all of this). And if I’m honest, there were times I at least considered taking their advice. Because pursuing this work was more difficult. It required (and still requires) more ingenuity and ambiguity, because there’s isn’t much of a precedent for integrating environmental justice and environmental engineering in academic research. There were times I hit countless dead ends and had to restructure my research goals, and although this is typical of the PhD experience, it’s even more difficult to navigate with minimal support for your project. But I kept revisiting why I KNEW I was brought here, and even how I was brought here, which was God’s way of letting me know that it was undeniably Him. This is a SN, but I think that God, in certain situations, makes sure that we have an incontestable confidence in His word and His hand in the situation, so that we have something to revisit and keep us firmly planted when things get tough. Because He knows some of the difficulties we’re going to be up against, and knows that otherwise we would waver in the assignment. My girl Sarah Jakes Roberts preached a WORDT about this a few weeks back (Sarah Jakes Roberts-We Have to Do Better).
This proved to be true for me, because when things hit the fan, when I was doubting myself and my work, when it felt like I was making no progress in my program and started questioning why I was here, I had a word, a testimony to revisit. And I was reminded of WHY God brought me here, even when it seemed like things weren’t going to work out. I chose not to compromise, and to follow through on my convictions, even when I couldn’t see where it was taking me. Fast forward to a few months ago, I started to get clarity in the direction of my project. I was given the opportunity to go to the largest water conference in the world, WEFTEC, and given the opportunity to speak on my experiences on a podcast where I spoke openly about my research in social justice, equity and water management. From that podcast, I received an invite from the President of the Water Environment Federation, to speak with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago about my research in environmental justice and stormwater, last Friday.
Why do I share this? Because although it is small, in me being true to who God created me to be, in choosing not to compromise on what I knew He brought me here to do, He presented me with an opportunity that brought into alignment who I am, what I do, and who I am becoming, personally and professionally. It was a moment that reminded me of this truth: God wants to, and will use you, the rawest most authentic form of you. The form where you don’t have to be anyone other than yourself. The form that goes beyond the pretty wrapping and requires the uncovering of the experiences, interests, and passions that ONLY YOU, can bring. And in being courageous enough to not compromise, He will present the opportunities needed to set you up for what He has called you to do, and who He has called you to be.
“Since we have such a [glorious] hope and confident expectation, we speak with great courage…”
– 2 Corinthians 3:12
“Be strong and let your hearts take courage, all of you who wait for and confidently expect the Lord.”
“Wait for and confidently expect the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for and confidently expect the Lord.” – Psalm 27:14
These scriptures remind me that confidence accompanies courage. And I’ll be honest, I don’t always feel confident in myself (me and God are working through that). But these scriptures also remind me that the confidence that accompanies courage is not in myself, but in expectation of the Lord. Our courage is fueled by confident expectation in the only source of true confidence, and also reminds me to not misplace my confidence in my own abilities, but in the God who has given me the ability to walk out my convictions.
I entitled this post “courage through…” and not “courage to” or “courage in” your convictions. I did that because I’ve realized even for myself, that living out conviction is active. It assumes that having the courage to walk out your convictions is not void of fear but requires work through the fear, the doubt and the disbelief. It’s one thing to have the courage to believe your convictions. It’s another to have the courage to act and pursue through your convictions. What has God told you? That defies reason, and expectation of everyone else? What is that small whisper that you just can’t shake about who it is you were created to be? Chase that, relentlessly until you collide with that destiny. It may not make sense to anyone else, even you. You may feel like you’re stuck, or in a rut. Keep chasing, keep dreaming, keep toiling, keep pursuing your convictions and never compromise on them. Because it’s that courage, it’s that dream, it’s that purpose, no matter how ideal, or seemingly inconsequential, that can transform the lives of so many souls.
God, we thank you that you are the God of courage. We thank you for unwavering confidence in convictions. Lord, we ask for strength and boldness to pursue the things and be the individuals you have created us to be. We thank you that through divine enablement and living courageously, you provide clarity to continue walking in purpose. Lord help us to be strong and immovable, even when things seem like they are not working out, to cling to your truth, your promises to not only have courage to believe our convictions, but to walk them out in this life, giving back to you EVERYTHING that you have given to us. In Jesus’ name, Amen!
“Let your eyes look directly ahead [toward the path of moral courage] and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you [toward the path of integrity]. Consider well and watch carefully the path of your feet, and all your ways will be steadfast and sure.” -Proverbs 4:25-26