I stumbled upon Amy Simpson's books and I am so thankful that I did! Amy Simpson--author, speaker, coach--gives a refreshing and honest perspective on the reality of living in a broken world. I found out in the final chapter why I love her so much: She is an INFJ on the Myers Briggs, and I'm an ENFJ. She is also a perfectionist and has moved a lot, just like we have. She quotes from Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Princess Bride, some of my favorite books and movies. We have similar theological views so it has been so encouraging to hear someone speak out against the complacency and happiness-goal of the American Dream. I highly suggest any and all of her books. Her two other books--Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church's Mission and Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry--are next on my list of books to read!
I have started by reading Blessed Are the Unsatisfied. This phrase caught me off-guard and I knew that I needed to read it immediately. Simpson challenges readers to take a hard look at the way they live--are Christians really living Biblically? The basic premise is that we live in the "already but not yet Kingdom." Jesus has already come but we are still waiting for Him to come again. There is this dichotomy of living in the joy found in Jesus, while understanding that our joy will not be made complete until we are in His presence. We are not fully satisfied nor dissatisfied. Instead, we are unsatisfied, accepting the reality of this world, understanding that a better one awaits us in Heaven, and living in light of those two things: propelled to share the gospel.
There are 1,000 quotes I could share, or sections that I could talk about. But one that stood out to me the most was from her chapter on pleasure. She says,
"Pleasure can sound like a dirty word. But it's not. Pleasure is a gift of God, and kept in its appropriate place in our lives, pleasure is an important element of living well while awaiting full satisfaction."
In this chapter, she goes on to discuss the ideas of hedonism and asceticism--living to fill our lives with pleasure vs. living in complete absence of pleasure. Healthy Christianity finds its place in the middle, in the now but not yet. We have pleasures and gifts from God, that God intends for us to enjoy, as well as pleasures that we are called to abstain from. Simpson also discusses the pleasure that comes from deep, godly friendships. Friendship is one of those God-given gifts that we can enjoy while on earth.
From my own study, God has revealed a few key things on friendship:
Friendship is a gift from God--As we live in the now and not yet Kingdom, we need other believers around us to love us, speak truth into our lives, and hold us accountable to overcoming sins. I am part of a really wonderful Women's Accountability group with some women from my church. It has been a HUGE blessing to me. I have prayed my whole life for friendships like this. The others in the group feel exactly the same way. What a blessing it is to have godly, female friendships!
Healthy friendships are magnetic--As others see our group and the depth of our friendships, they want in! This is exactly how the early church was: everyone shared everything with any who had need, miracles were being done, and everyone wanted to be a part of that. What a blessing it is to be part of a group that is living out the gospel and is open to everyone!
Satan will try to attack those friendships--A major part of our time together is rooted in vulnerability and testimony. We share our life stories, including all of the hurts, traumas, sins, and addictions. There is this small voice that tries to tell me that my story is not worth sharing or that I will be rejected if people knew who I really am. That couldn't be farther from the truth. Through vulnerability and the power of prayer, we are seeing major sin-burdens being removed. What a blessing it is to witness my friends overcoming life-long sins and to experience that freedom myself!
People outside the group may not be supportive--I have had multiple experiences being outside cliques and felt that people inside the cliques were wrong for not including me. Now that I am inside a deep friendship group, I realize that the peers of my past were not intentionally trying to hurt me; they simply didn't know that I wanted in! Looking back, I wish I had been more bold in asking to be a part of the groups that I felt excluded from. In all likelihood, I would have been invited in with open arms. I want to be more intentional about inviting everyone to be a part of my friendship circle, but also making it very known that it is not invite-only--the circle is open to all women. What a blessing it is to go without friendship, so that I can appreciate the blessing of true friendship!
Jesus modeled friendship in His time on earth--Jesus had the crowds (acquaintances); followers (social media); 70 disciples (church/women's group); 12 disciples (Accountability/small group); and his top 3--Peter, James, and John (3 best friends). In studying Jesus' life more, there were certain things that I found curious and strange, as an extrovert. For example, Jesus had a constant desire to be in solitude, He only chose 12 disciples, and He selected a top 3. Reading these things about Jesus has helped me to recognize that being an extrovert has its pros and cons. I like to think of Jesus being exactly in the middle, having the best of both worlds, being both an extrovert and introvert. He was able to speak publicly, meet the needs of many in the crowd, and invest intensively in 12 people (like an extrovert), but He also valued time with his top three and enjoyed time in solitude with the Father (like an introvert). In trying to follow His example, I have been attempting to do the above five things and it has been so life-giving! I feel like I am able to bless lots of people, but also have true, deep friendships. What a blessing it is that we have Jesus' perfect example to follow!
Blessed Are the Unsatisfied is a theologically solid book that will challenge the way you do life as a Christian. If you are not a Christian, it would be a very interesting book to read to help you learn what Jesus actually says about the Christian life. Her book title is based off of the "Blessed are the..." Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12, a passage in which Jesus challenges the world's values and flips everything upside down. So for anyone who is mourning, meek, hungry, thirsty, merciful, pure in heart, peacemaking, persecuted--all the things this world labels as weakness--there is hope for you. You may be unsatisfied with the pains and limitations of this life but, in the Kingdom of Heaven, all the pain and limitations will fall away and we will be fully satisfied. Until then, we can enjoy the gifts God has given, share His hope with others, and live in expectation of Heaven.
I am reminded of the lyrics of a classic hymn, Blessed Assurance:
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
Perfect submission, all is at rest. I in my Savior am happy and blessed. Watching and waiting, looking above, Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.
This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long! This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long!