Born to Be Wild
God invites you to join Him.
You can become a wild woman. That’s right, you heard me --- a wild woman. Before you pass out with this book in your hand, let me explain.
I’m not talking about girls gone wild, women acting unruly, or women flipping out on spring break, on summer vacation, or during a midlife crisis. All of those wild women are just acting out. Anyone can act out. This book is a challenge to do something different. This book is about living up!
Acting out is when our lives are ruled by emotions, circumstances, and expectations. Sometimes we act out in attitude, and other times our acting out is evident in our actions. In either case, acting out is something we all know how to do; it comes naturally. The Bible calls this acting out of our “self” living in the flesh. The result of this lifestyle is bondage to the emotions and expectations that have kept us stuck in our stuff for years.
But what if I told you there was a better way?
Anyone can throw a tantrum and act out. All of us can attend our own pity parties or carry around bad attitudes. But it takes someone whose trust in God is wildly different to choose an upward focus rather than a downward spiral. Keep in mind that each tantrum, each negative response, and each resulting downward spiral starts with a single thing --- the choice you make at the time.
• What if I told you that you didn’t have to stay stuck?
• What if life could be different?
• Would you like to sign up for calm instead of chaos?
• How about renewed spiritual health to replace exhausting dysfunctional drama?
• What if you could learn a new way to respond to life?
• Why settle for acting out when life could be so much more?
There is a different way to live, and the Bible calls this different life living in the Spirit. I affectionately call it living up. Living up means a change in focus and direction. Living up moves us from a focus on what we are feeling or what is immediately in front of us to an upward focus on committing our stray thoughts and emotions to God and looking for his Spirit in the midst of us. One is a horizontal view of life and all its immediate problems. The other is the vertical view of God’s purpose in our lives in the middle of our everyday realities. Since life doesn’t always go our way, learning to live up is a challenge.
In the midst of life circumstances, we easily get frustrated and distracted with the drama of the current moment or event. We settle for acting out while in the frustration of our negative spins. When life distracts us from that upward focus, we appease that wild-child rebel in us by doing our own thing. Let’s face it, all of us know how to act out --- we have been doing it since we were two.
Admittedly our adult acting out looks a lot different from a two-year-old’s. We might not stomp and pout to get our way, but we might close our ears to God and our eyes to sin. When we do this we often find ourselves falling back into old habits and destructive patterns --- overeating, overspending, sexual promiscuity, and seemingly innocent flirting with temptation. We might also find ourselves engaging in gossip, loose conversation, little white lies, bitterness, unloving attitudes, frequent anger, and a critical spirit. Our acting out might even become part of who we are and what people expect from us. Many nice Christian women have become experts at acting out.
Most acting out happens in the pressure cooker of real-life circumstances --- the kind of circumstances that make you want to throw your arms in the air and proclaim, “I can’t take this anymore!” Maybe you even use other choice words that I can’t put in print.
Though acting out or living in our self-life is normal and even acceptable in most circles, it’s not God’s intended best for us. Most women want to live their best life, and I bet you do too. If you want all that God has for you, it’s time to come to terms with the power to choose. Your choice in every situation is the difference between a negative or positive outcome. Your choice makes a difference --- a big difference.
I want this kind of wild difference to be the exclamation point in every area of my life. I admit I have a lot to learn, and I have finally accepted that it’s going to take some time --- a lifetime.
Seeing Things Differently
I have always tried my best to get things done as quickly as possible. This included my spiritual growth. I wanted to read a few books, memorize a few verses, and know that I’d arrived. But a few years ago God showed me a different perspective.
I was complaining, once again, about my circumstances: “O Lord, I am so over this stuff! Why do we keep coming back to these same old problems? I am worn out and tired of trials, tests, and the stuff that is supposed to shape me. Right now I think maturity and character building is overrated!”
Gently he spoke to my heart. “Debbie, I want to make you wild for me.”
“Hmm... wild? What does that mean? Do you want me to wear leopard clothes, bungee jump at the county fair, dye my hair hot pink? What in the world does being wild for you mean? And what does wild have to do with the mess I’m in today?”
I had once heard WILD used as an acronym for Women in Leadership Development, so I immediately tried applying this new wild nudge from God to my position of leadership at our local church. Our leadership teams were growing and could use a face-lift, so I assumed that was why God was speaking to me about getting wild. That was it: a fresh season for the women in leadership --- wild.
But I couldn’t end my thought process with just that. Once again I felt the stirring within me: “Debbie, I want to make you wild for me.”
“I heard you, Lord, but what do you mean?”
Clearly I was being called to attention. I had a sense that God wanted to make a change in my life and that it had to do with me as an individual more than it had to do with me as a leader in women’s ministry. Slowly, God continued to speak to my heart --- and he reminded me that before I was ever a leader, I was born to be his. Before I ever said yes to him, he knew I was born for the purpose of being shaped by him. He desired to change me in order to fulfill the plans he had already prepared for me to walk in (see Eph. 2:10).
The God of all creation was getting my attention. He wanted my complete surrender. He called me to follow him in a lifelong pursuit and process of spiritual development. He wasn’t interested in what I could bring to the table --- he was more interested in developing me along the lines of his Son. And this could happen only if I daily answered the call to come to him.
In a recent Internet devotional, Rick Warren said, “Becoming like Christ is a long, slow process of growth. Spiritual maturity is neither instant nor automatic; it is a gradual, progressive development that will take the rest of your life. God is far more interested in who you are than in what you do. We are human beings, not human doings. You must make a countercultural decision to focus on becoming more like Jesus. Otherwise other forces like peers, parents, co-workers, and the culture will try to mold you into their image.”1
I think what God was trying to say to me was that I needed to make a decision that was contrary to the mission statements and plans of this culture. God’s plan was to make me more like himself, and that would take a countercultural decision on my part. It would take a shift in focus, mission, and life path.
That’s quite a development plan.
The Bible warns, “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.... Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you” (Rom. 12:2 Message).
Oh, I was beginning to get it. God wanted to develop well-formed maturity in me. This spiritual maturity would replace the immaturity that causes me to act out rather than live up. I started to get the message loud and clear. It’s about embracing the process of life and growth with him rather than striving for personal goals of self-focused perfection. In a world that is all about getting ourselves “together” (perfection), this new way to view and frame life (process of development) was certainly a wild idea.
Rick Warren said: “Sadly, a quick review of many popular Christian books reveals that many believers have abandoned living for God’s great purposes and settled for personal fulfillment and emotional stability. That is narcissism, not discipleship. Jesus did not die on the cross just so we could live comfortable, well-adjusted lives. His purpose is far deeper: he wants to make us like himself before he takes us to heaven. This is our greatest privilege, our immediate responsibility, and our ultimate destiny.”
The idea of accepting my self and my life while in the process of growth, rather than the race to perfection, brought me immediate peace. So, for the purpose of this book, WILD refers to being women in lifelong development:
The key is lifelong development. There are no overnight spiritual success stories. We are on a journey with God that is deeper than perceived perfection or the rush of instant success. Each day the pages of life are turned, and line by line our story unfolds. It is a process.
process: a series of steps toward a desired end
Why Become a Wild Woman?
Recently someone asked me if I ever felt anxious, tempted to give up, or even discouraged. I was surprised that she had to wonder. I smiled and said, “Yes, all of the above, but it’s getting better all the time, because as I am growing to know Jesus more, I am falling away from fear and growing deeper in faith.”
“Were you always like this?”
“No, definitely not!” I went on to tell her, “The good news is Jesus changes people.”
As we grow in Christ, we change and become different. As we are changed we become more daring --- daring to live in the truth of what we believe. It’s exciting when we begin experiencing God and his Word rather than just talking about it. The book of James says, “Faith without works is dead” (2:20 NKJV). Many of us have learned to live like we are dead. Here’s a news flash: dead girls aren’t wild; they’re lifeless, useless, and buried in self. But women who are alive in Christ and actively living up in the truth of God’s Word are passionate, free, unconventional, and courageous.
passionate: expressing strong emotion and excitement
free: not confined or obstructed; open, unreserved, unbound
unconventional: not conforming to the standard of culture
courageous: brave, bold, daring, adventurous
We were born to surrender to the process of his Spirit working in us; this is different from most people’s mission statement for life. And that’s what being wild is all about --- the radically authentic life that says yes to the call to move outside of the norm and live in the wild terrain of faith, hope, and love --- for real.
When I wrote Deeper, I began with the assumption, based on my own experience, that most women want something more --- and that we just aren’t sure how to get it. We try to find that elusive “it” in everything around us: in people; in being pretty, perfect, and polished; or in any success we can attain and hold on to.
We end up on the perfection and performance track, and though we are huffing and puffing through life, we still end up empty --- chasing, longing, and looking for something better.
The idea of something more or something different can be a bit scary. We don’t know what to expect. We fear having all the fun and personality zapped out of us in the name of spirituality. We worry we will become robots. This unknown scares most of us away from living wildly abandoned to the God who made us. And so we settle. We settle for less than what God has created us for. We are afraid to let go, so we hold on for dear life to our own attempts at making a good life for ourselves.
Some assume that if they wildly abandon themselves to God, they will be expected to have a holy and serious posture --- bland, reserved, and, well, boring --- when their real personality is happy, bubbly, and a bit silly. We go as far as thinking we might have to spend our days wearing suits, pearls, or church-lady clothes, when what we really want to do is throw on some leopard heels and get a groove on.
Real Women in the Real World
It’s time to say we’re done with fake people and flimsy gods. Now’s the time to be done with being hypocritical --- saying we are happy when we’re sad, saying we’re filled with faith when we’re filled with fear, and acting like we aren’t rebellious when we know we’re recovering rebels at heart. Women today are real, and they want to have faith in a real God. We want to know and experience a God big enough to handle our stresses, our shortcomings, and our lives in the real world. We need to know how to live in a world filled with the dangerous terrain of disappointment, heartache, broken promises, and shattered dreams. God holds out something more to us every day when he invites us to join him. And now the question is: are you ready --- really ready for more?
So what’s a girl to do? Personally, I think it’s time to get wild! It’s time to grow deeper and reach higher. It’s time to learn what it means to live up! And because living up does not come naturally to most of us, it’s a lifestyle to be learned --- a life based on living, breathing, and moving in step with God’s Spirit within us. A life that is rooted in the vertical connection of looking up, praying up, and living up to the standards that God has put before us in the Bible.
Learning to live up establishes faith, enriches our sense of purpose, and lifts our sagging spirits when life gets too hard. Living up involves wild choices made out of obedience to God. Living up challenges us to go under the knife --- not plastic surgery but process development, as the knife of God’s Word penetrates the deepest part of us with truth. This new wild is about taking our lives back from anything that holds us back and reclaiming the lives that God has created us for. It’s about becoming women who dare to live differently --- living in the faith we profess and daring to choose to live what we say we believe. It’s daring to say what we believe and live what we say!
I admit it’s funny that a woman in her fifties is talking about going wild. I guess it’s logical to wonder if I’ve gone off the deep end or if I am in the middle of a midlife crisis! Or could it be that I am so blown away by what I am learning that I have to share it with others?
I’ll claim the last one. As I look back at my life, I realize how much precious time I have wasted --- totally wasted --- on living somewhere in between everything I am and everything I was created to be. It struck me a few years back that there are no dress rehearsals. Today is all I have to live. The current scene I am living is being aired live, with no second takes. Today counts for eternity.
Born for the Big Picture
We were born to live up instead of settling for being dragged down by our emotions or circumstances. I guess you could say we were born to be wild! We were:
born for purposes greater than ourselves,
born to glorify the Father,
born to love God with every part of us,
born to love others with God’s love that is within us,
born to hear the voice of God,
born for something greater than we now know,
born to be in the processing solution of God’s Spirit,
born to be changed from glory to glory,
born to answer the call to “come” to Christ and then live by the instruction to “follow” after him,
born to live by faith --- not by sight,
and born to live out what we really believe, even when others call us crazy.
Does This Line Up with God’s Word?
Every time I sense God speaking to my heart, I turn to Scripture to see if what I am sensing lines up with the truth of God’s Word. There is power in going back to basics and learning to live in them. For the past eighteen years, this returning to what I thought I knew but didn’t know how to live in has become my pursuit. Before I sit down to read the Bible, I ask God to make it new to me --- fresh, relevant, and practical for my life today as a real woman who desires to learn to live up and walk with God.
It’s easy to skim or skip over the basic passages we have read before. Please don’t. Reading and hearing is one thing --- internalizing and living out is another. Let God’s Word speak to you. It’s more life-changing than me trying to convince you.
Take a moment and read this passage from Colossians. It is Paul’s prayer for the church:
We haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul --- not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.
God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.... Everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. . . .
You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. You don’t walk away from a gift like that!
Colossians 1:9–14, 16–17, 21–23 Message
What did Paul pray for them that relates to us? Paul asked God to:
• give them wise minds and spirits attuned to his will;
• give them the wisdom and understanding to recognize the ways God works;
• enable them to live well for the Master;
• give them strength to stick it out over the long haul.
This is pretty wild stuff. It all boils down to one wild prayer: “Less of me and more of thee” (see John 3:30).
Let’s close this thought by continuing with truth, as the apostle Paul goes on to tell them:
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Can you hear what Paul is saying about how big God is? Do you get a glimpse of your purpose as you realize that you were created for a God who made everything? And what about the awesome fact that God holds you together this very moment? God desires to speak truth to your heart, singing a song of love and redemption over you. Will you say yes to going deeper and reaching higher? Will you dare to say yes to the call to be wild? Will you say yes to a different focus and a countercultural way of addressing your life’s greatest needs?
In the book Crazy Love, Francis Chan says, “To be brutally honest, it doesn’t really matter what place you find yourself in right now. Your part is to bring Him glory --- whether eating a sandwich on a lunch break, drinking coffee at 12:04 a.m. so you can stay awake to study, or watching your four-month-old take a nap. The point of your life is to point to Him. Whatever you are doing God wants to be glorified, because this whole thing is His. It is His movie, His world, His gift.”
Ah... yes, the point of our lives is to point to him.
Thinking we could be changed into his image is a wild thought.
He is asking us to come --- and then to follow. Will you answer that call? Following Christ and living up is radical and different. This difference is a new way to be wild!
Wild Strategies for Growing Up Spiritually
• Identify the ways you typically act out.
• Imagine how different living up would be.
• Pray the wild prayer: “Less of me and more of thee.”
• Ask God to show you the areas in your life that are immature.
• Pray for God to shape you and make you more like him.
• Choose the wild way --- living up instead of acting out.
• Try incorporating the idea of living up instead of acting out into circumstances as they arise by finding a “truth verse” that counters the thing you want to do based on your own feelings and emotions.
• Decide to live by a mission statement that might be countercultural but biblically correct.
• Embrace the process of growth and get excited about learning to live a different way.
Questions for Reflection on the Wild Life
1. When you think of “acting out,” what comes to your mind?
2. Read Galatians 5:19–21. How does this passage relate to the idea of acting out?
3. What does “living up” mean to you?
4. Read Colossians 1:9–23. What part of this passage is most meaningful to you and why?
5. Do you think you were born to be a Woman in Lifelong Development (WILD)?