Happy Friday, friends! So excited to introduce Kayla Petty to you this morning! We met two years ago in college & became fast friends. Since then, she’s become one of my favorite people in my little Lynchburg community. We both love coffee, honest writing, & all things Jennie Allen.
This year, especially, I’ve watched her walk through some seasons of incredibly tough transitions — and I know she’d be the first to tell you that they were difficult. But I’ll be the first to tell you that I am proud of her for handling them with grace, for leaning into the hard moments instead of running from them. Kayla is teaching me so much about the idea that who you’re becoming is more important than what you’re doing, & I can’t wait for you to hear her story, too. Friends, meet Kayla!
During my senior year of college, I was under the most stress I’ve ever been in, juggling a TON of tasks and responsibility. Besides having hard classes and the pressure of graduating, I also had a part time job working 18 hours a week, was an RA trying to minister to over 50 girls, was planning my wedding from 500 miles away from our venue, AND applying for jobs for after I got married and graduated. Oh, and trying to go to the gym, eat healthy, and sleep occasionally when I wasn’t trying to spend time with my friends. So, ya know, nothing too crazy.
I was running a hundred miles an hour, trying to keep track of everything to complete on my to-do list. I became numb to most emotions except stress, constantly working to complete every thing I needed to do. Even if what I needed to do was a good thing – to encourage a friend, prepare a Bible study for my small group, or pray for my fiancé – my attitude was “just get it done and check it off the list, and move on to the next thing.” My relationship with God became another task to complete on this never-ending list. On days when I didn’t quite get to spending time with Jesus, it was added to tomorrow’s list.
I didn’t realize this at the time, but the feeling of “doing” things was driving me because it gave me a sense of value, love, and importance. I couldn’t pass over any of these tasks or ask someone else to do them for me – only I could do the job, and this made me feel worth and purpose. This lifestyle kept me from going to the Lord to define my worth. With my physical accomplishments to fulfill me, my heart didn’t feel a need for the Lord’s voice to speak truth over my identity.
The thing is – life isn’t a constant stream of tasks to accomplish. This was an incredibly stressful and busy season in my life, but (thankfully) it was only a season. So when I got back from my honeymoon and that busy season had ended, I was lost. I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have a wedding to plan, I didn’t have school to work on, and I didn’t have a hall of girls to look after. I went from sprinting a hundred miles an hour to a dead stop.
For months I desperately looked for ways to fill this new time I had on my hands. I went running for hours, read books, applied for jobs, and even picked up painting as a new hobby. In all these activities, I was really just looking for another way to define myself and feel valued. I thought that what I did would earn my value and purpose. But that’s not the case in God’s eyes; who you are is more important than what you do.
When my world stopped spinning long enough to really look at my life and the state of my heart, I realized that I thought what I did was most important. Without the roles I had been fulfilling through the last year, I felt purposeless. I wasn’t an RA, I wasn’t an office assistant, I wasn’t a college student, I wasn’t a wedding planner…so who was I? I didn’t know what to do or who I was when I wasn’t doing anything.
God, in His grace, began a journey to show the biggest lesson I’ve been learning in the past year: be is better than do.
Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” The command is to be still and know God – that’s it. Not “be still and know by doing ________.” Just be still and know. Because I didn’t have any deadlines or tasks to carry out, I could stop making my time with God a task I checked off of a to do list. My relationship with God became my purpose and the only thing I “did” because simply being with Him was enough. And as I ignored the world that told me to work harder and do more and be better, I found true rest for the first time in a long time.
God allowed me to have a season of “be” out of college because I needed to learn that the “do” part of my life didn’t define me, and being still in Christ was most important. I’m STILL in this “be” season, and I have a lot to learn. In my task-oriented mind, I often find myself looking for a way to cross “be” off my list and move on. In these moments I’m leaning in closer to God, reminding myself that you can’t do the be.
We are human beings before we are human doings, but our world has that backwards. It’s harder to simply be when we’re surrounded in a culture that places significance on the work that you do. But its better to be grounded in Christ and who He says you are than what the world says you should do. Your roles and jobs will change, but your identity in Christ is immovable.
Doing things, whether its school, ministry, work, or another activity, doesn’t define who you are or what you are worth. It doesn’t make you any more valuable than you are by just resting and simply being in Christ. So if you’re clutching your never ending to-do list and feels like you can’t stop performing, working, or running, know that to be is better than to do.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” – Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)
Kayla lives in Lynchburg, VA with her husband, Tanner. She’s learning to be rather than do, figuring out newlywed & post-grad life, & mastering latte art at Starbucks. Her new website launches this week! Join her here. You can also connect with her on Twitter & Instagram.