Jennie Allen is a Bible teacher and the author of Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard.” Jennie shares how her need for approval from others led to emptiness, and how she found fulfillment in the affirming words of Christ. Kristen Hatton is a Bible teacher, author and mom whose latest book is called “Face Time: Your Identity in a Selfie World.” Through teaching a Bible study to teen girls, Kristen began to see a destructive pattern of comparison; a standard of trying to live up to an unrealistic ideal of perfection. Kristen’s desire, through her book, is to help young women see their identity in Christ, to live for Him, and to let go of trying to be something they’re not.
Nothing Compares to the Love of Christ: Jennie Allen & Kristen Hatton – Jesus Calling Podcast Episode 53
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling podcast. Today we visit with two women who talk about living up to impossible standards that we put on ourselves, which often are a result of comparing our lives to others. Jennie Allen is a Bible teacher and the author of “Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard.” Jennie shares how her need for approval from others led to emptiness, and how she found fulfillment in the affirming words of Christ.
Jennie Allen: My name is Jennie Allen and I am blessed to have four kids and be married to Zach Allen for 20 years now, and we live in Austin, Texas. Over the last few years, we have had the pleasure of getting to lead an incredible team at IF:Gathering, and that is an organization that exists to serve leaders within the church, to give them tools to disciple people; to make disciples.
I grew up in Little Rock Arkansas, and my parents went to church and loved us, and they loved the church. They taught us to love God, but I don’t think through those years of growing up I ever saw how much I needed God for myself.
It was a lot later that I actually saw my need for Jesus, and a need for a Savior, and that I saw my own sin. So all those years I think, I probably appeared to be following Jesus and loving Jesus, but I don’t remember a real relationship with Him. Through those years, I remember being fearful that I would let people down. I had a real desire to please everybody around me, specifically my dad, and I think that that became such a burden, because I was needing something from him. I was needing something from people that would never actually be enough for me.
The Power Of Loving God More
When I was 17 years old, I was at Kanakuk Camps in Branson, Missouri. They do something every year; they have the three crosses, and they reenact Jesus’s death. I never processed that I had been a part of what put him on that cross until I was 17 years old.
I was just absolutely broken. I remember just crying and crying that night, and just really saw a complete life shift in me at that point. I came back home, and I immediately started talking about God in such a way that I think it was annoying to my friends. I just was so enthralled with Him and I was so moved by what he’d done.
So after, of course, my friends were done with my ridiculous, obnoxious passion, I found some girls that were two years younger and started teaching them the Bible. What’s so funny (and the reason I believe that was the point I was saved) even though I grew up in a Christian family, is I really saw my gifts come into play at that point.
I think the grace of God is to reveal all the places that we depend on ourselves or things in this world more than Him.
I wanted to teach the Bible. The first thing I wanted to do when I got home was to teach the Bible, and so I did.
That’s just been the thing that I love to do. That’s the passion of my life. I felt called to give my life to that. It’s cool. I do believe that He is so gracious to reveal our sins to us at different places. At that point, I still deeply loved and cared about people’s opinions, and likely was even controlled that.
If everybody’s happy with us, if we have what we need, then all of a sudden, we don’t need God. I think the grace of God is to reveal all the places that we depend on ourselves or things in this world more than Him. He wants a relationship with us, ultimately. So what draws us back to that a lot of times, it’s our need for Him and our recognition of these things that we chase, are not actually satisfying us.
The power of loving God more and embracing Him more than the earth, is that I actually have his approval. Not because of my performance or good works, but because of what He’s done for me, and my security in the work of Christ. That is just such a freeing way to live.
Realizing God’s Radical Plans For Your Life
One of the ways that approval had caused such disruption in my life, was that I was very controlling about my gifts and how I used them, because I wanted to be right with people. So I never would brave being in front of more than seven people, because seven people I could keep tabs on. “Do they still like me? Are we connecting? Do I have their approval?”
So, I just always taught the Bible to about 7 people in my living room from about the time of 18 to 30 something. I mean I just did, that’s what I did for years and years and years. I realized, when I was confessing that sin of people pleasing, it was specifically one night that I had a break through with that. It was with Katie Davis’ blog, who moved to Uganda, really against her parents’ wishes, against her friends understanding. At a very young age, she moved to Uganda, and actually started to adopt girls off the street.
It was such a radical story, and reading it I just realized, “gosh, I could never do something like that.” If God called me to do something like that, I could never do it because I care too much about what everybody thought, about what my parents thought, everybody’s opinions. I really saw that as a limiting force in my life and that night, I confessed that, and really woke up the next day a lot more free. I’m not completely free of it, but largely since that day, people’s opinions have not been my greatest stronghold.
Jesus so often talked about, have no other love before God, and said, “pick up your cross and follow Me.” He said to the rich man, “you can’t love God and money, you’ve got to choose.” I realized, when I just really surrendered the thing I love more than Him, He was just all of the sudden loud and clear; leading me, and moving, and showing us where He wanted us to be, and what He wanted from us. It wasn’t written in the sky and it wasn’t a voice in the sky. He definitely began to work in really powerful ways in our lives.
The Call To Adopt And Form A Bible Study
I just believe there were so many places He was calling us. One of those places was adoption. We had an empty bed in our home, and as we said, “anything, God,” it was very clear; we were supposed to fill that bed. Now the process of filling that bed would be years. It would be Him leading us down different paths to get our kid, Cooper, who’s our youngest. But that started it. Then another place; He said, “You have been controlling how you use your gifts, and I want you to open your hands and I want you to just use your gifts however I tell you to use them.”
The first clear way was to open up a Bible study that I already taught in my living room to seven women. It was called “Stuck,” and we opened it up in our young church, and a hundred and fifty women came, and it was powerful.
My husband kind of said, “Jenny, obviously, God is blessing this, (we’re about to be adopting our son–this is over the course of a few years) why don’t you take this to a writer’s conference and see if God wants to use this in a bigger way?” We were already making printed copies for other churches. Sure enough, I went, and there was a lot of interest.
Before I knew it “Stuck” was actually being published, as well as a book called “Anything,” which was just the story of surrender that we had walked through.
It was interesting, because I was scared of more than seven people’s opinions, and now all of a sudden, I was going to be in front of a lot of people’s opinions all the time. I love it, because it still is difficult for me, but it humbles me and it brings me back to Jesus again and again.
Doing Your Best To Be Right With God
I look at David’s life, specifically in the Bible, and at the beginning of his life in ministry, when God had said “you’re going to be King,” Saul was trying to kill him. His men can come for him, at a certain moment, they could have taken Saul’s life and he holds his men back. Then later, near the end of his life, his son Absalom tries to take over the kingdom, and his men come to him again and say, “can we go take over—-let me take him out; Absalom.” He holds his men back. I just think there was a real belief in David, that it was not his job to defend his name, it was not his job to defend his position, and that God would defend his name.
That has given me a lot of freedom to let people say things that may be true and some things that aren’t true. But I can sit at peace and do my best to be right with God.
I think of “turn the other cheek.” What did He mean? That has to feel like the hardest thing in the world.
I thought if my gifting was enough, that if I had enough, if I could be enough, then finally I would have what I need and I wouldn’t feel all this pressure. But the truth is, I’ll never ever be enough for the work that God has called me to be. We’re never going to be perfect parents. We’re never going to be enough for these supernatural tasks that God put before us. The beautiful thing is, we don’t have to be, and that we get to rest in His abundance, and give out of that abundance. The only thing God clearly asks of us, is to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, strength and to love other people well, and to abide. To stay near Him in that relationship. As we abide, that fruit will grow, but not in our own power.
Letting Go Of Our Need To Be Fulfilled
Narrator: When Jennie was able to let go of her desire to please people, she was able to open herself up to what Jesus had to say about her, and felt more drawn to His ways over her own. Jennie tells us how Jesus Calling helped fill her need for more of Jesus’ presence in her life.
Jennie: I do think that we all are craving more of Jesus, and how do we walk near to Him?
I do believe that we are sometimes missing the intimacy that Jesus wants. We can sometimes be so pragmatic about God and even do the theological work around God, but we miss that He’s really drawing us into relationship. I think that’s what Sarah did well with that work, was, “hey, I want a relationship with you,” and that was a clear message throughout the Bible in Jesus’s ministry is; “I’m offering Myself,” and that’s the greatest thing you can have is to be near to Jesus, and close to Him, and not miss Him in this busy life.
Jesus has a backwards way of setting us free. It is through things that none of us would choose. I think of “turn the other cheek.” What did He mean? That has to feel like the hardest thing in the world. The powerful ways of Jesus are that as we lay down our lives, as we lay down our rights, as we lay down what we think we want our lives to be like, He blows in supernatural ways.
Whatever it is that we think we need to be fulfilled–in letting go of it–I believe, is when we experience the peace and joy and the “it is well with my soul” that Jesus meant. We get to walk with Him by still waters. It’s not easy, it’s just absolutely the way we were built to live. It’s how we were meant to enjoy these lives that aren’t perfect.
Narrator: To find out more about Jennie Allen’s book,“Nothing To Prove”, please visit JennieAllen.com. Stay with us for our next interview with Kristen Hatton, the author of Facetime: Your Identity in a Selfie World, right after this brief message from Audible.
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Find your favorite Sarah Young titles, including Jesus Calling and Jesus Always in an audiobook version and get it for free by trying audible.com. Check out a small sample of the Jesus Calling audiobook, featured at the end of this podcast. To download an entire free audiobook today, go to audibletrial.com/JesusCalling. Again, that’s audibletrial.com/JesusCalling for your full, free audiobook. Now, on to our interview with Kristen Hatton.
Your Identity In A Selfie World
Narrator: Kristen Hatton is a Bible teacher, author and mom whose latest book is called “Face Time: Your Identity in a Selfie World.” Through teaching a Bible study to young girls, Kristen began to see a destructive pattern of comparison; a standard of trying to live up to an unrealistic ideal of perfection. Kristen’s desire, through her book, is to help young women see their identity in Christ, to live for Him, and to let go of trying to be something they’re not.
Kristen Hatton: I’m Kristen Hatton and I am the wife of a pastor, and I have three teenagers in college. My daughter, and then I’ve got two boys in high school and a middle schooler, so I’m definitely in the teen parenting teen phase of life. I am the author of two books now, my second book is coming out right now it’s called Face Time: Your Identity in a Selfie World and my first book was called Get Your Story Straight.
I grew up in Houston, Texas. I was a Texan my whole life and I moved to Oklahoma about eight years ago. So our family is all still there and so many of our good friends. I have a sister, and I just had a great childhood. I grew up in the church so I feel really blessed. I really don’t know a day that Jesus was not important and part of my life.
We were just in such a different era back then, where we played outside, and we rode our bikes. I remember playing cards on my bed, like solitaire. I can’t even imagine a teenager doing that now. Our family played board games, and did puzzles and the things I did with my friends; you would have a slumber party, and just enjoy each other’s company, and you weren’t worried about what another group of girls was doing somewhere else.
The Struggles Of Social Media
I went to school in Dallas, and had stayed in Dallas, and was working. I was a PR major, and I got into political fundraising. I had a really fun job, and actually worked for President George W. Bush’s campaign before he was ever even governor. So, I was in Dallas, I kind of had aspirations of going to D.C. Then I met my husband, and he was in Dallas going to seminary. We met, actually at church, through a mutual friend of mine that I’d known from college, and my husband and I were engaged three months later.
So we stayed in Dallas and he finished seminary, and I continued doing political fundraising for a lot of years; even up until I had my third baby. Then, I just was a stay at home mom. So being a writer and a speaker has just come into being since I’ve had my own teenagers.
I started leading a girls Bible study when my daughter was in sixth grade, and I continued with them all the way until they graduated last year. So for seven years, I felt like I had this front row seat into the lives of girls. In particular, my own daughter confided in me, I think at the beginning of her junior year, that she was struggling with an eating disorder. When I thought about her own struggles with social media and how it pertained, or how her eating disorder and social media kind of meshed up, and just the comparison lifestyle; looking at and thinking other people had everything together and that everybody else looked skinnier and prettier in those pictures. How it was impacting her, I thought “gosh, how many other girls are struggling with this too?”
Keeping Our Sights Straight: Using The Gospel To Stay On Course
That led me to do an online anonymous teen survey. Initially, that survey went out just through channels kind of in our community. As I started getting results back, I was really blown away and shocked. I couldn’t believe how many girls were struggling and saying the same things. So I decided to send it out a little bit broader to friends in other cities, and have them send it to girls in their schools, their kids, and friends and again; same type things. It didn’t seem to matter whether the girls were in public school, private school, home school. It was just heartbreaking and very eye-opening.
So I think it’s a constant reorienting ourselves, which is why we need the Gospel every single day.
I mean even for us as adults, we’re on social media and we too can go down that path of looking at someone else and thinking “oh, I wish I had their life, or I wish I had this or that.” So I think it’s a constant reorienting ourselves, which is why we need the Gospel every single day.
So, I think one of the beauties of Jesus Calling is it just shows us what is true of all of Scripture. It’s inexhaustible. It’s always timely. It’s very personal. It’s His gift to us for all of life; for true life. So I think that that’s what it is about Jesus Calling is that it doesn’t matter what we’re going through, it speaks to us very directly and personally.
It’s exactly that reminder that we need from Him that He’s with us and that He’s for us.
Applying The Gospel To Your Life And Living Loved
One thing I’ve discovered, in my years of teaching–actually discovered really early on–is that even these girls who are churched, they have very little knowledge of the Bible and understanding of the Gospel. So I can say to them, “what is the Gospel?” They would look at me and not be able to articulate it. So then they certainly didn’t know how the Gospel then applied to their life in very specific ways.
We have to understand His worth and work for us; that He was perfect for us. When He lived the perfect life and then died a sacrificial death, we become a believer when we accept that truth. His record is ours, and so we are viewed as perfect, and holy, and righteous. That is our standing. That is what I want to communicate to girls; that you are loved, and you are accepted, and you’re approved, because of who Jesus was for you. That is where your true identity goes. Even when you have failed, messed up, you see your imperfections; God looks at you the way He sees his son. That is freedom. When we get that the God of the universe loves us like that, that is what we have to rest on. I don’t think that we can over talk that message. I think it’s something we all need to hear all the time. There’s lots of other writers and speakers talking about this right now, too. Because identity and worth is such a big thing, no matter what age you are; just the idea of “living loved” and to be free from having to be perfect.
I really want them to see who Jesus is for them. I want them to come to see Him as their friend, and to see that it is all about His work and His worth for them, and that He provides true life; that He is their identity.
Narrator: For more information about Kristen’s book “Facetime: Your Identity In A Selfie World, visit her website at KristenHatton.com.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, our guests include with author and speaker Jen Hatmaker and singer songwriter Nichole Nordeman. Jen’s new book “Of Mess And Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life,” recounts hilarious and touching stories from her life and the incredible resiliency she believes all women have. Here’s a preview of our interview with Jen:
Jen Hatmaker: Suffering does not mean you’re doing life wrong. It just means you’re a human being. It means that you are going to encounter the exact sorts of things that every human has encountered for all of time. So there’s nothing that we should romanticize about the beautiful parts of life or that we should demonize about the hard parts of life.
We have both. We all have mess–and I know that word has gotten a lot of play, but whatever word you want to fill in the blank there; struggle, pain, disappointment, boredom, failure–fill it in–mess.
We will all experience mess. But this is what I know for sure about women, women and their capacity to overcome to be resilient to rise back up, to stand back up, to walk forward is stunning.
Narrator: Today’s featured passage comes from the February 28th entry of the Jesus Calling audiobook:
Stop judging and evaluating yourself, for this is not your role. Above all, stop comparing yourself with other people. This produces feelings of pride or inferiority; sometimes, a mixture of both. I lead each of My children along a path that is uniquely tailor-made for him or her. Comparing is not only wrong; it is also meaningless.
Don’t look for affirmation in the wrong places: your own evaluations or those of other people. The only source of real affirmation is My unconditional Love. Many believers perceive Me as an unpleasable Judge, angrily searching out their faults and failures. Nothing could be farther from the truth I died for your sins, so that I might clothe you in My garments of salvation (Isaiah 61:10). This is how I see you: radiant in My robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10). When I discipline you, it is never in anger or disgust; it is to prepare you for face-to-face fellowship with Me throughout all eternity. Immerse yourself in My loving Presence. Be receptive to My affirmation, which flows continually from the throne of grace.
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