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An excerpt shared from Stephanie Doughtery, a Term 2 student who gave her testimony at our recent Friend Day event.
"Hello, my name is Stephanie Dougherty. I’m an impact195 Term 2 student. Today I’m here to tell you that you don’t need the world to accept you; you are already fully accepted by our Heavenly Father.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus calls out to each of us personally when He says, 'Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.'
'You’re worthless! You can’t do anything right! You’re stupid! And you’ll never amount to anything!’ These were words I heard over and over again from my step mom and mom. They were reinforced by my father’s lack of affection and inability to connect with me on any level. For years I heard the same words and I grew up believing them. Since I believed I was a nobody, I became desperate to prove I was a someone; living in fear that others would learn of my failures, mistakes, and shortcomings, I sought after approval. I worked relentlessly for success. I had to be noticed. I was starved for love. So I strived to be the perfect daughter. I toiled to be the good employee. I bought acceptance from friends. I was an overachiever to gain approval.
At the age of 18, I started my career selling car insurance for a company known for its little green spokes-lizard. I quickly started making really good money and bought my first condo before the age of 19. After college I moved to Washington DC and continued to work my way up the company ladder. After 13 years, I found a more lucrative career selling software to money center banks like JP Morgan Chase, CitiGroup, and CapitalOne. Each year the quotas increased and so did the pressure to exceed them.
Quite often I felt so stressed out, I was so busy, I didn’t know which end was up. I was constantly working, running, doing, learning, practicing, achieving, moving, climbing, pushing, thinking but getting no where. At 37 years old, I was plagued with a nagging thought…what was I doing with my life? In ten years was I really going to be in the same office, doing the same thing with the same people? Would I die alone? Would anyone love me, for me? What was the point?
The point began to unfold on November 13, 2012 at a Starbucks in Claremont and into all of this commotion, God beckoned to me: 'Stephanie, what are you working so hard for? Who are you working so hard for? What or who could satisfy you?' As I sat alone, overwhelmed, exhausted and depressed, I sipped my Venti Americano and I began to take inventory of my high-stress life. Pretty quickly God showed me what I was working so hard for; a mortgage that was attached to a dream of a marriage and family that never came to fruition and a house that was attached to a lifestyle and symbol attached to a status. Immediately I could see that I needed to sell this property. I knew God was asking me to trust Him. So against the advice of pretty much everyone, I put the house on the market. God sold the house in one weekend, with no open house and one offer.
In awe of what God did I thought that now I could rest! He took my big burden and lifted a ton of stress. Yeah Jesus! But God wasn’t done. While the stress did subside and my pace of life began to slow my discontentment for my career and life in general began to increase. I thought wow I must need a vacation. It had been over a year since I had taken one and that’s what people do. So I booked a two week trip with a great friend. During the trip and even more so upon returning, my discontent was more magnified. I was frustrated. Again realizing my need for God, I called out to Him and He responded.
God began to show me that I was still seeking satisfaction and approval from a career and a lifestyle. What was I to do? Finally I admitted to myself that God was asking me to choose to follow Him and His light and easy yoke. He wanted me to learn from Him and to grab hold of His acceptance of me. That was my only option or I could choose to follow the approvals of the crowd and continue in my life of toil. So I quit. I quit my lucrative career in software sales, gave up the health insurance, stock options, the 401K and the American dream. That was September 6, 2013.
Now in my second term of Impact195, God continues to teach me how to take His easy yoke of acceptance. A few weeks ago, during our retreat week in Big Bear, God opened my eyes once again. This time He revealed to me that over the years, I by believing these lies about my identity was actually choosing to agree with the devil and his accusations of me. I learned how to stop agreeing with him. I was now able to experience more freedom in my mind as I chose to dwell on the truth of God’s word and what He says of me! I am learning now how to literally take thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ.
I did not realize what a burden it was to carry around lies; to believe I had to earn God’s acceptance. As I continue to soak in the Word daily at Impact195, as I continue to take the opportunities to live out daily what I am learning through this program, I am finally grasping the reality of His acceptance. I will always be His child, adopted, accepted and sealed into His family because He chose me first and loves me. Finally, my soul is resting in Him.
Perhaps some of you are so tired and weary from seeking acceptance outside of God. If this is you, God is calling you to put on a yoke that is easy and light. You might consider joining a program like Impact195 to discover more of who He is and who you are in His Kingdom. Others of you may feel discontent with life, wondering if God has more for you. I want you to know that He does. I leave you with these two questions: Will you respond to the call to be the soul at rest? Or will you continue to accept your weariness and restlessness as normal?