I've had the same sin and struggle my whole entire life—that I care to the point of worship what people think of me, and I have most of my life. I want to be accepted, and I want to be liked. I grew up in a home where it was difficult to find that approval, and I didn't know how to find it in the Lord because I wasn't a believer until I was older, so patterns of seeking people's approval became bondage. Some addictions are so obvious and lead to rehab. But no one knew my addiction—people cheered me on for it. I was living a pretty good life from the outside, but my heart was surrendered to people, not the Lord.
I didn't realize the extent to which I had been living for the approval of others until I read Katie Davis' blog. Then everything changed. Here was a young woman living for God with all her heart. It wasn't Africa, or her girls, or the hundreds she feeds—it was Katie saying, I'm not going to live for anyone else but God. In that moment, the Lord God spoke to my heart. He said, Jennie, I love you, you're going to get to heaven and you're good with me, but you're missing everything I have for you here because you love people more than you love me. It was a really hard night, but it was a freeing night. There was this peace in letting go of my bondage to anxiety when I decided I wanted God more.
Trust and obey
Through surrender I obey, and through obeying I keep being forced to surrender. It's a cycle. The obedient walk of my life has come because I surrendered. As I'm living it out, it's costly, difficult, and scary, so I keep re-surrendering and coming back to my need for Jesus. I'm a big believer in obedient risk—not for love of adventure or personal recognition, but for the sake of obedience. I need him. He has moved me deeper into risk since surrendering to him, and I'm not alone. I've seen it be true for everyone I know.
We're all prone to wander, and we would build vain, ambitious dreams if it were up to us. When we say, God, you've got me and all of my life, I believe the Holy Spirit blows and moves into that. That's what's happened as I've embarked on launching the first IF: Gathering. There's no competition for who's running the show. God is running the show, and that's humbling.
The weight of glory
Scripture's pretty clear that everything will pass away besides the souls of men and the glory of God. On the bathroom floor that night with Katie, I looked at my life and said, I know I say I believe in you, and I believe I believe in you, but I'm not living like it—I'm building my kingdom and comfort here. That's the shift that happened in me and what drives me to cheer on others: If God is real, let's live like it. Let's not just be slaves in the kingdom of God—let's be co-heirs
We are not our own. We were bought with a price, and it's worth it to live for God. If we believe God is real, there's not another way to live. Our first step is that prayer of surrender—I'm in, I'm yours, take me, use me—and then hang on. Most of the sacrifices I'm making right now are quiet and unseen, and that's how it'll be for a lot of us. We won't know until we get to heaven the impact we have on people. If we believe he's working, we've got to start with surrender—to wait and allow God to move in us as his ambassadors.
Daily surrender means being terrified almost every day, but going to Jesus without fear and allowing him to comfort me, believing that whatever I thought was gain I now count as loss, and every trial and difficulty will ultimately be redeemed for his glory. Some days I'm not thankful because life is difficult emotionally. And yet I don't want another life. I want to run the race set before me, and when I get to heaven, I want to face God and be out of breath. I want to celebrate with him what he did in my life for his kingdom. That's all that will matter.
I desperately want to see our generation unified, spending our lives for the glory of God together, and cheering for each other instead of tearing each other down. This desire is what gave birth to the IF: Gathering. In working on this event, I've felt such a sense of community in our leadership. We've become deep, dear sisters through this first year's planning process. It's been hard because a lot of things have come against us. There's been conflict and lots of tears have been shed, but through our prayers together I see this sisterhood forming as we help each other run our races.
This is a picture of my vision for women—that we'd come together, dream about how we'd spend our time as individuals supporting each other, and also as our mission together as a generation. I'm sure every woman of God in her generation has wanted the same thing, but I have faith in what God has done around me, and I believe we're going to see it happen. I think other people do too. It's a beautiful, weighty, and terrifying moment, but I think we could be a part of something in our time. It's not like this has never been done before—God has restored his people to himself in a lot of means, and it's fun to have a seat in that stadium.
Jennie Allen is a regular blogger, author ofRestless: Because You Were Meant for More(Thomas Nelson), and founder and visionary of theIF: Gathering. She graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary with a masters degree in biblical studies, and is blessed to serve alongside her husband, Zac, in ministry. They live in Austin, Texas, and have four children.