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Can You Define Fully Alive?

“The glory of God is man fully alive.” – St. Irenaeus

Which begs the question, what does it mean to be fully alive?  

For many years this question wasn’t even something I had time to ask myself. Lost in the busyness of life; four small kids, a full-time job, and stuck in people-pleasing and perfectionistic behavior. The question was more how do I stay alive rather than how do I become fully alive.

Thankfully, we have a God who loves us and who constantly pursues us. So, even when we don’t know what we are missing, He finds a way through. He makes the way.

How did He find me? Well, I was invited to attend an intensive leadership development course at a leading business school. One of the assignments was to draw a picture that represented what we wanted to achieve through our attendance of that course. I’m not known for my ability to think on the spot, nor as a matter of fact for my artistic skills, and so I sat rigid with fear. Unable to think of anything, I silently prayed, “Dear Jesus, please inspire me with something to draw.”

And little did I know then that what I would draw that day, now more than ten years ago, would start me on a journey of discovering who I am and what it means to be fully alive.

So what did I draw? I’ll show you…

As you can clearly see, drawing is not one of my strongest gifts, so let me explain.

You will notice three smaller women each with a different dress (well triangle skirts!) and then one bigger woman. As I explained it to the group, there is “Anne the mum and wife” with her four little girls, there is “Anne the career woman”, and there is “Anne the friend/community/parish woman.” In each of these areas there is a different set of expectations and responsibilities, each represented by a different dress – the dress that I think will be perfect and will please in that situation while still juggling the other parts of my life. It was exhausting.  Then I shared that what I want to discover is who I really am – the woman with one dress. One dress that is hers. One dress that is comfortable. One dress that fits her well. I want to live as who I was created to be, not who I think I should be!

Jesus had my attention now, and so I made a decision to go daily to the church at lunchtime and sit quietly, asking Jesus, “Who am I?”

I was hoping I would hear a long list of all the talents and gifts he had given me, but instead, I heard Jesus say,  “You are my Beloved Daughter. You are mine, and I am yours.” This continued for many many months and slowly over time, I became more peaceful, less tired and more aware of my unhelpful thoughts.  

For so long I had believed that trying to be perfect and trying to please everyone were noble pursuits. (Now, I am not suggesting that trying to do our best and helping one another are bad things. These are good things – really good things!) I am talking about the kind of perfectionism that keeps us bound in fear, stops us from trying new things or speaking up, and stops us from being fully alive. This kind of people-pleasing keeps us so focused on others, that we lose sight of ourselves, our needs, our wants, our desires – our unique calling and contribution to the world!

Both perfectionism and people-pleasing keep us bound in unhelpful thoughts, such as, “I am not good enough” or “I will be rejected and abandoned.”  These thoughts lead us to emotions which lead us to actions, which stop us from being fully alive. Why? Because we are not focused on becoming who we were created to be.

Since I drew that picture well over ten years ago now, the Lord has been slowly, tenderly, and compassionately inviting me into something new – a new way of being, of seeing, of understanding. And He has used many people and tools along the way.

Not too long ago I discovered the Metanoia Catholic Academy, the journal, and the Purgative Way Coach Training course. I had already completed a secular life coaching course, but Purgative Way brought the missing element to coaching and taught me how to uncover unhelpful thoughts, interrogate them in light of the Truth and to choose new thoughts that align with who He is and who He says I am.

When my thoughts are aligned with God’s truth, the truth that each of us are Beloved Sons or Daughters of the One True King, then I know I am good enough and that He will never reject or abandon me.  

When I can stand in the truth of who He is and who I am, then I put on my dress – the one that is mine and no-one else’s. The one that allows me to be fully alive, because it fits and is evident that it is mine. Is it pristine, and perfect? No. But it’s comfortable and unique and it’s the one He designed for me, so it allows God’s glory to shine.

So, come and be coached! Discover your unhelpful thoughts and behaviors, and allow Jesus to cloth you in your own unique garments.