This week’s Celebrating Strong Women contribution comes from Kinita Kadnar Schripsema, author of I Am Hagar: Forgotten No More. Kinita was born in Pune, India; grew up in Ontario, Canada; and currently resides in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She is devoted to her husband, Ken, and their four children. As God writes her story, she writes about her journey with Him in an inspirational blog kinitaschripsema.com. This post is an excerpt from I Am Hagar, which released earlier this month and is used with permission.
Several years ago, I heard some fascinating and intriguing family stories that really got me thinking. Since some of the stories might bring disappointment and sadness to some family members who might be reading this, I will choose not to share them. Suffice it to say that through some of those stories I came to understand that I come from a very long line of dangerously strong women.
As I got closer to my fortieth birthday, I discovered that a turtle represented a “strong woman” in the Native American culture (of which I am not, for those who don’t know that).
Right away, I knew what I wanted for my fortieth birthday. a tattoo of a turtle. Now that you’ve recovered from the shock that Kinita has a tattoo, like most tattoos, this one has great significance. It is a turtle with its head cocked up set at the foot of a cross. You see, God and I had a little chat and through reading Scriptures and godly counsel, it became clear that I would have to surrender some things in my life. Sounded doable. I also learned that I would need a more concrete reinforcement, thus the tattoo. Little did I know what was going to happen over the course of the next few years.
That was a busy year. That year I learned a lot of things, sometimes simultaneously. I learned that I had a toxic strength that only a loving God would accept me with. Eventually, he would use his gentle and holy strength to mold me and shape my strengths so they would be more useful to him. After reading a book called The High Cost of High Control by Dr. Tim Kimmel, which led to another (secular) book called Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham & Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D., the second book gave me a task to take a strengths test. On the computer, I would be required to answer several questions that would eventually “diagnose” my strengths and give me the results of my top five. For not being a lover of tests, this one was great. I walked away with a “diagnosis” that would look like this: Connectedness, Responsibility, Activator, Belief, and Winning-Others-Over (in short CRAB-WOO).
Just by themselves, they are a great list of strengths that help me develop in confidence, not only in ministry but also in parenting and my marriage as well. When I stopped and took a deeper look at each of them, it became quite clear that a couple of those strengths really required some tempering. In the Christian life, as we grow to become God-glorifying believers, Scripture teaches us to be “weak,” to make less of ourselves so God can become more in and through us. There are thirty-three verses that help us unpack “weakness” in the Bible. Strengths are good for us to have. But they also have a hidden side that could cause us to develop a hard heart, or grow a belief that “we don’t need others, we are strong enough by ourselves.” I’ve learned (through several situations-gone-bad) that the best results come when we can acknowledge our weaknesses in the midst of those strengths.
Over time, it became very clear that I was having trouble managing my Responsibility and Activator strengths. Responsibility was the strength, but had the potential of presenting as Control. Activator was a strength that was going to take a little more work to subdue. To not activate in a situation would require me to grow self-control (which happens to be a fruit of the Spirit). I learned that with surrendering Responsibility to the Lord and the work of the Holy Spirit, he would give me responsibilities of his choosing. By surrendering my Activator strength in the same way, it would allow God to grow self-control and patience in my life. Both of which are fruit of the Spirit that I needed in my life. (I just didn’t know it.)
Let me give you an example of how that played out in my life. My firstborn broke me in by way of his stubborn, strong-willed, defiant, disobedient, and hard heart. However, I think I did what any good mother would do. I took my responsibility seriously. So seriously that the lines between what was important to discipline and what wasn’t were quite blurry as he approached his teen years. As God addressed my strength of responsibility, he made it very clear that I was to surrender my son, just like Abraham brought his son, Isaac, before the Lord and laid him on the altar. No I didn’t build an altar made with wood, and I didn’t hold a knife over him. (However, sadly, some of the words I said over him might have looked like knives, they were so sharp.) I came to an understanding that even though I was being a responsible parent in most things, the job of my son’s heart was in God’s hands.
So I closed my eyes and stretched out my empty hands before the Lord. I imagined that I was standing before the cross, as I sat in my living room. I envisioned my son lying across my hands as I lifted him up in surrender to God. That day I chose to let God be God in my son’s life and I would go back to being his mother.
An Activator is a person, who lives life with the following question at the forefront of his or her mind: “When can we start?” Over the years I have been known to be impatient for action (my husband need not respond to this). Okay, so sometimes I still am but right now, you are the one wondering when I’m going to make my point, right? Just saying.
In the book Now, Discover Your Strengths the authors put it very clearly for us Activators, by saying, “Action and thinking are not your opposites. Action is the best device for learning. You make a decision, you take action, you look at the result, and you learn. This learning informs your next action and your next. How can you grow if you have nothing to react to? Well, you believe you can’t.”
The next part of their explanation conflicts with my faith and belief in a sovereign God, but I’ll share it anyway, so you can perhaps hear why. The authors go on to say, “You must put yourself out there. You must take the next step. It is the only way to keep your thinking fresh and informed. The bottom line is this: You know you will be judged not by what you say, not by what you think, but by what you get done. This does not frighten you. It pleases you.”
If I were to write that portion of the definition from a faith perspective, it might sound something like this: “You must wait on the Lord, allowing him to show you the next step. Stay in prayer and allow the Holy Spirit to renew your mind while you wait. You know you’ll be judged by what you say and also by what you think. You don’t want people just to see what you get done. It frightens you to live a life that doesn’t please God.”
God has been gracious and very faithful in my life, every step of the way. I am nothing without him and I mean everything to him. Every door has been opened and closed by him. If I’m really honest, not every request has made it to the pages of my journal. Some have remained in my heart. Sometimes wondering if the request was really worth praying for or worth God’s time. Yet my Sovereign God remained faithful and time and time again answered those prayers as well. However, almost always not in the way I was expecting, but in the way I needed.
For the last several weeks, I have started to feel like that turtle. Humbled and blessed. But I know God isn’t finished with me yet. I’m just celebrating his goodness. I’m okay with that. If I get too far ahead of myself, then this Activator is going to get a serious time-out!
How do your strengths and weaknesses impact your journey of surrender? How and when have you seen your strength become a weakness?