Read an Excerpt
Finding Authentic Hope & Wholeness
5 Questions That Will Change Your Life
By Kathy Koch
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2005 Dr. Kathy Koch
All rights reserved.
ROCK BOTTOM OR ANCHORED TO THE ROCK?
VIVID, EARLY MEMORIES often capture the essence of how we look at life—for better or for worse. Even at six years old, fitting in was important to me. It was so important that, one day after first grade, I sat down in the middle of my parents' bed and announced to my mom, "I don't want to be tall or clumsy anymore!" Both my clumsiness and my height made me stand out. I tripped over things that weren't there and ran into things that were. I couldn't hide in a crowd. I squirmed when I caught children and adults staring at me.
My mom heard my heart's cry. She didn't proclaim, "Well, get over it, you're going to be tall!" Instead, she talked with my dad about it, and they realized I had a perceived weakness that could be changed (my clumsiness) and one that couldn't (my height).
You know what they did? They problem solved. I praise God they were solution-focused parents! They enrolled me in dance class, and I thrived! Through tap and ballet, I quickly overcame my clumsiness. Because of my height, I was the center of the back row—which I decided was a position of high honor! (When a perceived weakness is an unchangeable characteristic, changing one's attitude toward it is the next best thing.)
Perhaps you can relate to my need to belong, even if your circumstances weren't anything like mine. I believe belonging is one of our core needs, created by God. This book is about meeting the needs of security, identity, belonging, purpose, and competence in healthy ways so we can experience the hope and wholeness that God desires for us.
I'll mention many healthy and unhealthy ways that these needs can be fulfilled and how the hope that results can be either authentic or counterfeit. I'll illustrate this first with my dance story. My parents' solution positively affected my belonging. I fit in with other dancers and became more comfortable with my height. My other four significant core needs were fulfilled too:
Core Need #1: Security
Who can I trust?
I can trust my parents because they solved my problem. I can trust myself because I no longer trip over things.
Core Need #2: Identity
Who am I?
I am a tall dancer who is no longer clumsy.
Core Need #3: Belonging
Who wants me?
The other dancers want me.
They don't have a problem with my height.
Core Need #4: Purpose
Why am I alive?
I'm alive to dance!
Core Need #5: Competence
What do I do well?
I tap-dance well.
At the age of six, those were my answers. I anchored myself to them to meet my basic needs. I was satisfied.
I lived for Fridays, when dance lessons took place after school. I even assisted the teacher when I was too old for lessons in her class. Years later, I taught tap after school to many second- and third-grade girls. I wanted to share some of the blessings I'd received. I still have vivid, positive memories of those afternoons and year-end recitals!
As I hope you can see from the Model's questions and answers, one solution can meet all five needs. Since I was a tall child and uncomfortable with my height, my primary desire was to fit in (belonging). Once I did, I was able to positively view the unchangeable attribute of my height (identity). Dancing gave me purpose, and the more dance lessons I took, the more competent I became.
My need for security was also met. Not only did I appreciate how much I could trust my parents to solve problems with and for me, but I could trust myself more because I was no longer clumsy. I also knew I could trust the other dancers and my beloved dance teacher, Miss Lafaye. They didn't laugh at my height. My security became broad based. All it took was my parents' act of enrolling me in dance lessons to constructively take care of all five of my core needs.
Are my danced-based answers to the Model's questions relevant to my life today? Absolutely. If I had questioned my body image (part of the Who am I? identity question) even a little longer, I might not be able to stand in front of large crowds as a public speaker like I do today. Also, if I had continued to view my height negatively, that toxic point of view might have seeped over into other areas. I would not be who I am today if I'd been allowed to grow up negative and pessimistic. So even the "little" decisions can make a big difference.
Although the core needs and their questions remain the same throughout life, our answers change as we mature and take responsibility for ourselves. Growth results in more rock-solid answers and a sharpened sense of direction for the future, as I'll explain later.
PERCEPTION IS NINE-TENTHS OF THE PROBLEM
I admit that it's easier now to maintain a positive attitude about my height than when I was a child. Even though I became comfortable with my height through dance lessons, I didn't view it as a strength. I just thought I was tall because my parents were tall. I never dreamed God might have a purpose for it. As an adult, it's been exciting to discover that He did!
For instance, when I taught second graders, I could hang art projects from the ceiling without using a ladder. This made things easier for me—and my coworkers. They could come get me instead of the ladder stored at the other end of the building! But that wasn't the only benefit.
If you've flown overseas, you know how high the overhead bins are for carry-on bags on those big planes. I have no trouble lifting bags in and out of those spaces. My first flight overseas was from Los Angeles, California, to Taipei, Taiwan, on my way to Manila in the Philippines to speak at a conference for teachers at Christian schools. Can you picture me—all six foot one of me—on a plane with people heading to Asia? I'll never forget the look of desperation on the faces of the Asians who smiled at me and pointed to their suitcases after I easily put my suitcase in the overhead bin. I knew what they wanted me to do! And I did it, getting stronger with every bag.
Since I'm a public speaker, there's at least one other professional advantage to my height. Audience members can see me, even if I'm standing behind a podium on the same level as their seats. That's not what makes me an effective speaker, but it helps that I can see everyone and they can see me.
God makes no mistakes. He has reasons for creating each person with certain attributes. Every person you know is a unique "package deal," an unrepeatable miracle, not an accident in a meaningless society. The same is true about you. Absolutely. Learning to actively discern the truths about our strengths is part of what makes hope and wholeness authentic. Without knowing what is true about God and who He's made us to be, we can find ourselves passively wallowing in our weaknesses or submerging ourselves in sin.
My height contributes positively to God's complete plan—involving more than just my legitimate childhood identity of being the center of the back row. I'm glad I've lived long enough to understand that God intentionally and purposefully equipped me. Even though I view my height as a strength, it's not the source of my security (the first need). That would be foolish. How would people taller than I am affect me?
Later I came to realize that I was someone who could use words well and who found joy in both talking and reading (shaping the second need for identity). These characteristics helped me acquire the nickname "Chatty Kathy." My mom remembers her mother first calling me that when I was about three years old. This love of communication affected my belonging (the third need) and purpose (the fourth need), because I participated in community theater from a young age and joined the forensics (speech) team when I was in high school.
I don't believe it was an accident that I became a teacher of second graders who emphasized literacy. Nor was it by chance that my doctoral studies in reading and educational psychology were also a good fit. Usually I have dictionaries, thesauruses, and concordances within an arm's reach. (The plurals aren't mistakes. One volume of each is not enough!)
Do you see how my identity, belonging, and purpose provided the internal mindset for external, public competence (the fifth need)? Realizing my strengths of speaking and reading (part of my identity) led to my belonging in theater and forensics and part of my purpose, which was to speak well and get the theater parts. I was motivated and equipped to gain competence. My competence increased my positive sense of security (our first need), which demonstrates the circular, looping-back effect of the linkages between this Model's five components (i.e., five core needs). Directors and teachers who proved themselves trustworthy also influenced my security. They pointed out my strengths, influencing my identity and overall sense of wholeness.
If my need for security had not been met, eventually the rest wouldn't have held up. They would have tumbled down like a house of cards. Security forms the base of the Model of Authentic Hope and Wholeness. If security is not met and strong in healthy ways, our other needs will remain at least partially unmet. Although I could have attempted to meet this need through my height and ability to communicate, I wouldn't have been successful. (The best answer to our security question involves a who not a what.) Not surprisingly, people made the difference. I knew I could trust my coaches and teachers. My parents helped me rehearse and eagerly attended performances. I sensed their support and approval, both when I did well and when I didn't. Therefore, I could continue investing in my activities, and none of my core needs went unmet.
So this tall one who chatted in school now earns a living by writing and standing to speak. God is good! And I have no doubt that He has excellent things in the future for you, no matter your past or present circumstances. I choose to believe this for children, too, which is why I also teach young people this Model. Does this ring true in your heart, or does it feel impossible right now to believe God has designed a positive future for you and the people you love? Either way, stick with me to see why I believe what I do. We'll get there.
AUTHENTIC HOPE AND WHOLENESS
Answering the five life questions according to my involvement with dance worked well for a while. For example, you might remember that the question representing our belonging need is, Who wants me? When I was a dancer, I could answer that in this way: "The other dancers do. They don't have a problem with my height." But what happened when I no longer danced regularly?
Maybe you have experienced a shift in your answers to the life questions. Perhaps that's been the result of positive growth over time, like my shift from dancing to forensics. Or perhaps it wasn't so constructive. Your needs were met for a while, then you felt unsatisfied. You got involved in something new and had fewer needs for a while, and then you again floundered. Are you or people you know living in this kind of unstable reality?
I think all people want their needs met. And who wouldn't like a permanent fix for their basic needs? Unless we've already given up, we're all looking for hope. However, some people don't understand their core needs, so they're asking the wrong questions and looking in the wrong places for answers. That leads them to find only false, temporary, counterfeit solutions that don't really satisfy. They're synthetic impersonations, not built upon the reality and truth of what really does satisfy. False hope and wholeness may result in even more despair than we knew before our search for solutions began. Ultimately, these counterfeits won't help and they won't last. They will disappoint us. And once again, people hooked on what's false soon believe there's nothing to count on. But there is a true, permanent, authentic source for hope and wholeness!
You know what made the difference for me? Actually, I should reword that. Do you know who made the difference for me? Jesus Christ, God's Son. How did that difference happen? I humbled myself by accepting that I'd always be inadequate on my own. I saw my needs and, thankfully, drew the conclusion that I was in need of a Savior and that Jesus was the One. He is my Authentic Hope. My needs didn't change after anchoring my life to Jesus as my Rock. I still needed security, identity, belonging, purpose, and competence, just as I do today. The life questions didn't change. But my living answers did. God met all five of my core needs, resulting in authentic wholeness. He was the permanent, rock-solid answer, and He still is. I've stopped floundering. Have you?
I've used a lot of my story to illustrate these principles. What I'd like to do now is summarize the basics of the Model of Authentic Hope and Wholeness so we're on the same page before forging ahead. We'll revisit these concepts many times and apply them to our lives and those of others. I've prayed that God will illuminate your mind and heart through this Model and use its life-changing material to bring you authentic hope and wholeness. Ready? Let's go!
Everyone is looking for hope—that unshakable, rock-solid, confident expectation of things to come. Authentic hope is established when our number one foundational need of security is fulfilled in a personal relationship with God the Father, through choosing to anchor ourselves and our lives to His Son, Jesus Christ.
Authentic hope expects God to work redemptive good out of life's rubble as we seek, discover, and love Him. Authentic hope is affirmed repeatedly in our souls when we learn from firsthand experiences and God's Word that God is who He says He is and that He makes no empty promises. When we have a secure relationship with God, we have a twofold hope: (1) hope for eternal life, since after we die we'll be in heaven with our Savior, and (2) hope for victorious resolution of life's challenges, frustrations, and failures because Jesus Christ is not only Savior but also Lord of life.
Before going any further, let's define authentic hope:
Authentic hope is an unshakable, rock-solid confidence established in a personal relationship with God, the Father, through faith in Jesus Christ and, therefore, salvation from our sins. This is affirmed in our souls as we learn through experience and His Word that God is worthy of our confidence.
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.
Christ in you [is] the hope of glory!
Everyone is looking for wholeness—a genuine, real, energizing integration of answers to the classic questions of all time: Who am I? and Why am I here? Scripture, research, and the testimonies of many clearly show that authentic wholeness involves more than these two classic questions. Authentic wholeness occurs only when our five core needs are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Trying to meet our needs in anyone or anything other than Him can result in a temporary or shallow sense of wholeness, but not long-lasting or authentic, real, actual, legitimate, true, genuine wholeness.
There are reasons why I structured this model in its particular order: (#1) Security: Who can I trust? (#2) Identity: Who am I? (#3) Belonging: Who wants me? (#4) Purpose: Why am I alive? and (#5) Competence: What do I do well? While all the needs are connected to and affected by each other, I've seen more complete wholeness take place in people's lives when they have a place to start from (security, in this Model) and then follow a progression that makes sense (all the way to competence).
If you haven't thought through the Model's questions before (or it's been a while), I suggest that you follow along with this order since I am certain that each component is specially connected to the ones between which it is bordered, or sandwiched. All the needs are still connected to and affected by each other, but I've found that this progression is helpful to many who work through it, and I hope you're willing to give it a shot. The key to wholeness is that all five needs are met, and, ultimately, met through Christ.
WATCH OUT FOR COUNTERFEITS!
There are at least three ways we can deceive ourselves as we seek to meet our needs. We can:
confuse wants with needs,
ask misleading questions, and/or
attempt to meet needs in unhealthy ways.
Confusing Wants with Needs
We can confuse wants with authentic needs. Have you ever declared, "I need coffee!"? Unless you were actually dying of thirst, you didn't need coffee; you wanted some. How many children say they need to go to the movies? What about our need for happiness, cool friends, smart children, more money, or more ______? (You fill in the blank.) What have you heard yourself say recently? Was it a need or a want? Authentic needs involve life-or-death issues. Without them attained, we die physically, emotionally, intellectually, socially, and/or spiritually. Wants only parade themselves as matters of life and death.
Excerpted from Finding Authentic Hope & Wholeness by Kathy Koch. Copyright © 2005 Dr. Kathy Koch. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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