Recently, the “Do good for yourself” video clip of Victoria Osteen went viral. I clicked on the video to watch it because I love Bill Cosby. When it started playing, I started to get really uncomfortable because my kids were watching it with me and I didn’t like what she was saying. I was really confused and shared it on my Facebook timeline to try to shed some light to a culture that I was clearly in the dark about.
After reading this article about The Osteen’s theology, I realized that…GASP… I used to believe in this. I quit my career because “I wasn’t happy” and was given trusted advice to follow that. (I still to this day do not regret that decision because I believe my growth journey is mine – the good, the bad, and the ugly – plus, it allowed me to raise my children.) I started a small business and had Christian mentors and coaches that also taught this. I believed it because it felt good and helped me reconcile my dreams and desires and the motivation to go after them. I didn’t know it was false teaching (shamefully, at the time I probably didn’t care if it was false teaching because I didn’t understand the ramifications in my lukewarmness).
I attended church (grew up in it as a matter of fact), but had a hard time calling myself a Christian because I didn’t think I deserved it because apparently I was really bad at it. Pour into the lives of others and it will come back to you tenfold, right? Well, then I didn’t understand why I still had struggles (and they kept piling on no matter how much good I was doing for others). I was trying to bask in the glory of being in His favor, but I had a hard time staying positive and upbeat. If I was made for greatness and abundance, then where is my cut? Where was my break? Everything drained me because I wasn’t seeing a return. My self-esteem was at an all time low. I didn’t reach out to anyone, because I figured that everyone else was on their own journey and didn’t have time to notice me drowning in my sorrows – because I deserved it, right? It was because of my “lack of faith,” right? And I was embarrassed by my failure to get myself out of this rut. The worst part was that all of this inner turmoil was my biggest and deadliest secret.
But my thinking, and therefore my circumstances, began to change about 5 years ago. In 2009, a girlfriend of mine invited me to a bible study. I was shocked when I got there because we were actually studying THE BIBLE. Like, started in Genesis. Read verse 1 the talked about verse 1. Read verse 2 then talked about verse 2. And so on. This was completely new to me. I mean I’d been to “bible studies” before, but we were usually covering a book with a study guide. You know, discussing people’s opinions about someone’s interpretation of the Bible. Absolutely NOTHING wrong with that. It just really highlighted the fact that I had never STUDIED THE BIBLE. I had only been a part of these “Book Club” type studies, and if I didn’t like the book we were studying, I usually just stopped reading and would come to socialize and then zone out during discussions because “it didn’t really apply to me.” (haha, THIS is what my friend had to work with!)
Unfortunately, I didn’t stick with that bible study because, well, it was Genesis, and “it didn’t really apply to me.” The next year, my dear friend did not give up on me (THANK GOD FOR HER). She invited me to another bible study, but it was of the Video/Study guide variety which is more my learning style. It was amazing. and hard. and eye-opening. and hard. and affirming. And it.was.HARD. I didn’t stick with this bible study group either (WHAT is she going to DO with me???) because it was just that HARD. It was difficult to process everything that I was learning about the Bible and reconciling (and/or debunking) what I thought I already believed in life. I did finish it eventually, at my own pace. It took me a year to complete the 10-week study.
That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship, not just with Christ but a community and lots of Bible studying. It wasn’t overnight. In fact, I’m still in processing. I mess up, and start stressing over my health, wealth, and prosperity. But I learned that nothing in this world makes sense without Christ. There is a real peace in that. When I started to see the world through the context of the Bible (the whole Bible and the story it tells), I started redefining my idea of prosperity. To prosper is to love. The more you love, the richer you are. The reward is still happiness.
“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” Luke 6:35