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Where Is Your Spotlight Shining?

"He has this way bigger and better plan, and way bigger and better ability than I could ever have."

— April Harper

You won’t want to miss today’s episode with Natalie Abbott, co-founder of Dwell Differently, and April Harper, Dwell Differently’s CEO, as they dig into John 3:30 and what they’ve been learning this month. Natalie and April share how this verse is convicting them, a prideful moment April wishes she could take back, what we should be asking ourselves after an accomplishment, and how we can live lives that give glory to God.

JULY DWELL VERSE

"He must become greater; I must become less." — John 3:30

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPT: Hey, welcome back to the Dwell Differently podcast. I'm your host, Natalie Abbott, and today I get to speak with April Harper. Welcome, April. (READ MORE)

April: Hey, Nat. Thanks so much for having me.

Natalie: Yeah, so April is our CEO. We always tease that she's our mommy. Like we need somebody to come around and help us, and so April is my mommy. Not really, but kind of, even though she's younger than me. She definitely just does so many awesome things for us over here at Dwell. And Vera has taken a little break, so I get to chat with April today and we are talking about our verse this month. Guys, it has been so completely convicting to me. There's part of me that doesn’t want to tell you all the things that I am learning.

But our verses from John 3:30, "He must become greater, I must become less." And that he is Jesus. That's John the Baptist talking. If you didn't hear our teaching podcast at the beginning of the month, you should go back and listen to that. We also have Trillia Newbell, she was just on last week. She has some really, really insightful things to say about this verse.

But today, April and I are just going to talk about where this verse is just hitting at us. It's getting me pretty good. What about you, April?

April: Yeah, absolutely. It is reminding me of so many mistakes I've made in the past of taking credit. It brings up all these mistakes in a way, but not in a bad way. But in a convicting way where you grow, grow, grow, and then you realize how you were so immature before. Just in general, but then also in your faith. So yeah, it's been a good one.

Natalie: I feel like too, it just really hits at that spot where, you know, I think pride can be such a sneaky, pernicious kind of thing that we don't even see [00:02:00] it in ourselves until we're memorizing a verse and every time we say it in our head, we're like, "Oh yeah. He must become greater. I must become less. I am suddenly convicted by this verse."

It really has done a lot in my life to just kind of expose those day-to-day moments, where I'm a little full of myself, I'm not going to lie. We want to have a right view of ourselves. In fact, before we were getting on today, we were talking about how actually pride is a virtue in our society.

April, you want to tell us a little bit about how you see that? How do we encourage our kids, how does our culture encourage us that pride is a good thing?

April: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I mean, I even find myself doing it. Maybe my kid achieves something that he has been working on— he finally hit the ball, or whatever it is, at a game or something, and you're like, “Are you proud of yourself? We’re so proud of you!” You know, and it's like, yeah, I am proud of myself. And okay, that might be okay. So, we talk about pride and it can be very confusing about what that line is of like, where is it? That's an important thing to feel good about something you did, and then work hard to then do it again, you know? But at the same time, I'm reminded of our verse in May— to use these gifts, use our gifts, and these gifts that we've been given are a gift. They're not an inherent thing, they're a gift. They’re from God and they're to be used for his glory for his purpose that he has for our life. So, if I'm thinking about reframing even those conversations with my kids, baseball, whatever, that might be one thing, but maybe being a good friend or being, kind and being capable of hosting other friends to have over and making them feel welcome for a child, like [00:04:00] you could say “That's a great job that you did with those friends,” but also like it's an opportunity to reframe that by saying, “What a gift you have of being kind to friends that God gave you this love for others just like he loves you, and you get to show that to these kids, whether they know Jesus or not, and maybe it's shining a light for them.”

Natalie: Yeah. I love that. I love that idea. I think the nuance that we're trying to pinpoint here is what's the difference between a healthy amount of self-confidence? And, being humble in that self-confidence like, God has given me these gifts and, and I should use them for his glory. And when does it move over into the dark side and become pride and become something where all of a sudden it is not a gift that we're using for God's glory, but it's a gift that we're using for our glory? I just think that it's such a murky space, you know?

April: Oh girl. Yes. I got an example for you on that one. I was in, you know, this really tough stage when I was earlier on in my doctoral degree when I was doing this proposal. On these degrees you do all this dumb stuff. But it was like, I'm writing this proposal and it was a haul— it's like writing three chapters of a book and it was a haul and I had a newborn and I had a one-year-old while I was doing this. And so, it was a challenging time obviously. And I had this great group of girls and a woman who was discipling me and they had fed me and it was like in so many ways and it was just the best.

But I remember going out to dinner with them to celebrate this at the end and everyone kind of went around to share maybe something they had learned or something that semester or something like that. And, when it came to me, what I actually [00:06:00] said, and I still remember this verbatim because of how insane it was for me to say this, but I said, “I have learned that I can do anything.” It stops me in my tracks right now to even think of saying that because I know deep down, you know, if you would've unpacked me then and asked me more follow up questions, I would've said, “Well, God helped me. And gave me the strength and gave me the gifts, and gave me the patience, and gave me the time and gave me the husband to help with all this.” And, you know, “God gave me all these things and this very clear path and direction and feeling of purpose and like the reason why I would possibly be capable of doing something like that.” But what I said out loud, even to my Christian disciple group was that I could do anything. And I would love to take back that moment and say, “I can do anything through Christ who strengthens me,” because that's the truth, you know?

And so I think that even if that's deep down what I meant or what I knew, it was an opportunity that I missed to encourage other people. And I would say now, I will never miss that. I will absolutely try my hardest to never miss that opportunity. Because even in that moment it was like pride maybe in front of the friends in some way,

Natalie: Right. There was just this little piece of you that actually believed it. You had moved from that space of like, “I feel confident. Wow. This was such an achievement,” to like, “And I did it!”

April: “And I did it!” Yeah. When you do those really big things, because God has helped me to do a bunch of really big things for me, what I feel is big, for myself. But once you get them done, like that reflection period is so important to then say, first of all, “Why did I do this? It's so that I can serve him [00:08:00] and serve others, so for his glory,” and then, “How did I do it? Through his strength, his guidance, his power.” And so when I think of this verse— “He must become greater; I must become less.” I am so happy to become less. Knowing that he has a bigger and better plan and way bigger and better ability than I could ever have by my own strength or my own pride or my own, like powering myself up, with all the self-talk and caffeine. It doesn't even matter what I do. He's still great, even if I do nothing, he's still great.

Natalie: I love that. April, it reminds me of something. I was talking with another person on our team, Lindsay, just yesterday and right now we have this book manuscript deadline. And I am just like crunching and working and trying my best and whatever, and my temptation in my fleshly self is to make it about me. To make it so that I wrote this, I did it. I did it right. It's perfect. It's great. I want it to be an A plus. And it's not because I want it to be an A plus for Jesus. It's because I'm putting my name on this. And it's for my name. And as I've been thinking about this verse, like, “He must become greater, I must become less.”

Like, what is the purpose of this book? It is to make much of Jesus. It is so that when people read it, they forget all about my words and they memorize God's word. That is the express intent of the book. And when I come back to that purpose statement that this is what this is for, this is for you to memorize God's word and to help you overcome these negative thoughts that you struggle with.

When I come back to that, I am ashamed of myself because [00:10:00] I am like, how is it that I can be doing the very thing that I know God has called me to do, that God has gifted me to do for his glory? And yet somehow still there's a piece of me that is stealing that glory for the sake of my own name. How can I turn what should be a beautiful sacrifice to the Lord for his glory into an idol?

It is just so upside down. But I think that is just the manne and the substance of our hearts. That we want to be awesome. And it is a daily struggle. It is a battle that we must fight to say, “No, it's not about me, it's about Jesus. He must become greater. I must become less.”

The spotlight should always be turning. I'm holding a spotlight. I'm not in the spotlight. I am holding it, and I am following Jesus around and directing that spotlight after him, not myself. 

So that brings me to my other question for us, and this is even harder because it's like when you're thinking about writing a dissertation or a book or you're tackling something that is just like a huge thing, you're getting a promotion at work or whatever it is. In the big things, it's almost easier to see that and to have it exposed and be like, oh, that was ugly. I can't believe I thought that, or I felt that or I said that, but what about in the minutiae? What about the mundane in your day-to-day life? April, what for you is like, “Oh, as I'm memorizing this verse, I kind of hate it because I am seeing this in my day by day life.”?

April: Yeah. Absolutely. I think about your situation with the book or my situation with the dissertation or promotions or things like that, that it's in those moments God is also giving you this opportunity [00:12:00] to stretch in a way, to understand this verse more. It's a stretch. If we only had the small things, we might miss it and not even realize it. But in that big thing when we're like, “Oh man, this is actually for him, but I've made this about myself,” then it's a moment to stretch and then we can apply that stretch to all these mundane things, that or these daily things that we're gonna come up against every moment. I mean, I could think about 15 of them probably this morning. Like, like literally like, oh, that everyone's gonna notice that the breakfast I made was awesome. Or that I was like one of the first moms to pick up my kid from his morning golf camp. Or that I mean, it's so embarrassing, but like if I dug, I could name you like a whole bunch that I could be like, I'm so great. You know, or like, or that I managed to, you know, flip the laundry over successfully on the first try. That's where that line comes back in because it's like well that's good. Those things do help you have some momentum. And then when I have household things or I know my family's safe or my son feels safe, that I'm gonna pick them up cuz it's always a thing. That helps me to be a better worker. It helps me to do things better because my personal life is in order.

So now I can extend beyond that. And so I think there's a line there, but that shouldn't be like, everyone noticed me. You know? Like, how do you feel about that?

Natalie: Oh man. Okay. I have to tell this story. So when I memorize these verses, they're just floating around in my head as I'm washing dishes or in the car line or whatever I'm doing.

The verses are there, and even when I'm reading other passages in the Bible, it's like a lens that I put on. And [00:14:00] so my lens all month has been, “He must become greater; I must become less. He must become greater; I must become less.” And so in situations, interactions with my kids and, and all of these things, I'm like, “How am I being prideful? Or how am I being humble? He must become greater. How can I bring God glory in this situation? How I must become less? How can I become more humble and more servant hearted?” But this is the thing where I literally was like belly laughing in my shower because I was down on my hands and knees.

We have this tile, this like grout shower bottom area, and it was just like, it just gets yucky. It had this orange stuff that grows there and I can never get rid of it. I don't know if anybody knows the secret to that, but please DM me.

I, I am down there literally on my hands and knees with the Ajax and a scrub brush and I am just going to town. And I remember thinking in my head, “I wish Jason could see me now.” And it wasn't because I really wished Jason could know how deeply I love him and how much I enjoy serving our family in this way. No, I wanted him to see me so he could be like, “Girl, you are awesome!”  

I don't know that he knows that I even do that because I do that when he is not around. Right? And not that he doesn't help with cleaning either, he for sure does. But that particular job is my job and I'm like, I'm really bossing this shower floor. I'm just, I am doing it and I just want somebody to come in here and notice me! So I recognize this as I'm doing it. I say that verse in my head, and I just start belly laughing at the complete absurdity of it.

How absurd is it that I need somebody to come in and tell me that I'm doing a good job when all I'm doing is cleaning something that the Lord has given me graciously so I can take a hot [00:16:00] shower. You know, like, who am I? Why, why, what, what? What? I just don't even know.

April: But what an awesome gift that, because you're in the Word and because you know the Word and you have this verse in your heart and in your mind, then the Holy Spirit reveals that.

And then you can walk away from it and be like, “I did the shower. It looks awesome. I'm so glad I was able to do that.” And no one will ever know it ever gets orange, you know? But you have that chance, like that's the gift that you have that chance, because that word is in your heart and that's huge. 

That's like the thing in the back of my head always. What are the things I haven't learned yet that I need to still be revealed in time? That's like my like bad self-talk. Really the Holy Spirit covers it all. He's gonna tell me anything, whether or not I have read it or studied it, the Holy Spirit is gonna cover it, but. That's what feeds me in having a desire to learn more. Yes, that verse you spend a month hanging out with, or two months or whatever, you've been writing and everything with it, but what are all these other verses that I haven't hung out with for that kind of time yet that I get to still learn and still grow as a person?

Natalie: I think that's the interesting thing too, is that at first glance, this verse is like, oh, well, duh. Yeah, of course Jesus is great and I should become less. It's not a very hard verse to memorize. But when you dive down in it and you sit in it and you think about it and you say it to yourself, It exposes a lot.

The very thing that God's Word says that it's gonna do, it exposes all those dark corners. Some of [00:18:00] which, many of which, most of which I would say we're not even aware of. And it shines that light. The light of the Word. And it's like, ooh. I need to get out my Clorox. There's some something orange growing there, you know?

It's crazy. And it's so good. And I think it's why, like what you're saying about how, you know our need to have the Word in us. So that it will do these things in our life. I think it's why somebody like Paul can say about himself, of all the sinners, I am the worst.

He knows himself the best. I think sometimes people think, “Well, back when I got saved, that was when I was really bad. But now that I'm saved and the more that I grow in grace and sanctification, the more my sin is abhorrent to me.”

Because I'm still doing this over here. Even though I know all of these amazing things about the magnitude and the glory and the majesty and the goodness and the grace and the patience of my God, I'm still over here trying to be awesome.

April: Yeah, absolutely. This refining process of God revealing our sin to us, revealing these parts of us. Thinking of when we first decided to do this verse, last year, it just immediately like jogged my memory. When I lived in the Christian student Fellowship house whenever I was in college, which I would highly recommend to folks who have that in their universities, it was awesome, but it's a faith-based house for college and there's a whole ministry and outreach and whenever within it. But one of the girls who, you know, I'd be in there praying with, she would always pray this verse. She would pray like this over us. [00:20:00] And, I honestly could not understand what it even meant. I was just thinking like it was that like it's a weird mantra. It was that “duh” thing that you were first mentioning of like, of course he's great. Of course I'm less, and I think at that time, so it's like you can go the other way with it.

Cuz I think at that time it was like, I am literally nothing. Like I, I was like nothing. I'm like, I have nothing. I know nothing. I have zero skills. I don't know even how to get a good grade. And so I had like that humility is very much like there, but in kind of this like bad way too of like, of course I'm nothing.

I need help with everything, you know? It's when you receive it, then you're hearing it and you're like, “Yes, I'm here and I am ready to praise you, God. Thank you for saving my soul and for giving me a chance at life and, and giving me a place to live and food and like really basic things I was so incredibly thankful for.”

At different times of your life, this verse, just kind of refines you in a different way. I don't know if you can relate to that at all?

Natalie: I can. I think that that's a whole other podcast where we talk about the difference between humility and self-deprecation. There is an unhealthy form of humility, just like there is an unhealthy form of pride.

April: It's like that pride and confidence. 

Natalie: [00:22:00] Anyway, April, I would love to chat more, but we are out of time and I just really appreciate you and so for those of you who are loving listening to April, she is a wise and learned woman.

She's coming back next week. And not to boost your pride too much, but I know you're gonna do a great job. I'm confident in you that you're gonna bring God great glory in that episode. But, so it's just a short little five minute episode and I know you guys are gonna enjoy it.

So come on back next week and listen to April and we'll wrap up our verse then. But thanks for joining us and thanks for joining me, April.

April: Thank you, Natalie. Have a good day.

Natalie: You too.

Dwell Blog/Podcast Featured Content

April Harper

April is the CEO of Dwell Differently. She lives in Indiana with her husband and two wonderful children. She leads the Dwell Differently team and is deeply grateful for getting to watch the Word of God transform hearts!

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