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Within the pages of her latest book, author and popular conference speaker Scazzero shares deeply out of her own life, offering a seasoned and radical message for Christian women today. According to author Geri Scazzero, becoming an emotionally healthy woman begins by quitting eight unhealthy ways of relating. When you stop pretending everything is fine and summon the courage to quit that which does not belong to Jesus' kingdom, you will be launched on a powerful journey---one that will bring you true peace and freedom.
.Genre: RELIGION/Christian Living
Reading level: Ages 18 and up
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (January 2, 2013)
When You Can’t Take It Anymore
This is a book about following Jesus and summoning the courage to quit anything that does not belong to his kingdom or fall under his rule.
Traditionally, the Christian community hasn’t placed much value on quitting. In fact, just the opposite is true; it is endurance and perseverance we most esteem .For many of us, the notion of quitting is completely foreign. When I was growing up, quitters were considered weak, bad sports, and babies. I never quit any of the groups or teams I was part of. I do remember briefly quitting the Girl Scouts, but I soon rejoined. Quitting is not a quality we admire— in ourselves or in others.
The kind of quitting I’m talking about isn’t about weakness or giving up in despair . It is about strength and choosing to live in the truth. This requires the death of illusions. It means ceasing to pretend that everything is fine when it is not. Perpetuating illusions is a universal problem in marriages, families, friendships, and work places. Tragically, pretending everything is fine when it’s not also happens at church, the very place where truth and love are meant to shine most brightly.
Biblical quitting goes hand in hand with choosing. When we quit those things that are damaging to our souls or the souls of others, we are freed up to choose other ways of being and relating that are rooted in love and lead to life.
For example . . .
When we quit fear of what others think, we choose freedom .
When we quit lies, we choose truth.
When we quit blaming, we choose to take responsibility.
When we quit faulty thinking, we choose to live in reality.
Quitting is a way of putting off what Scripture calls falsehood and the old self . As the apostle Paul writes, “Put off your old self . . . and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore each of you must put off falsehood” (Ephesians 4:22 – 25). When we quit for the right reasons, we are changed. Something breaks inside of us when we finally say, “No more.” The Holy Spirit births a new resolve within us. We rise above our fears and defensiveness. The hard soil of our heart becomes soft and ready to receive new growth and possibilities .
The Bible teaches that there is a time and season for everything under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1). That includes quitting. But it must be done for the right reasons, at the right time, and in the right way. That’s what this book is about.
Cutting the Rope
In 1985, Simon Yates and his climbing partner, Joe Simpson, had just reached the top of a 21,000-foot peak in Peru when disaster struck. Simpson fell and shattered his leg. As the sky grew dark and a blizzard raged, Yates tried to lower his injured friend to safety. At a certain point, however, he accidently lowered Simpson over an ice cliff, where he hung helplessly. Straining to hold his partner’s body in midair, Yates was faced with choosing life or death for his friend.
When he could hang on no longer, Yates had to make a hellish decision: cut the rope and save his own life, sending his partner plummeting down to certain death, or face certain death trying to save him.
Yates later related those painful moments, “There was nothing I could do. I was just there. This went on for an hour and a half. My position was getting desperate . . . I was literally going down the mountain in little jerky stages on this soft sugary snow that collapsed beneath me. Then I remembered I had a penknife. I made the decision pretty quickly really. To me it just seemed like the right thing to do under the circumstances. There was no way I could maintain where I was. Sooner or later I was going to be pulled off the mountain. I pulled the penknife out.”
Yates cut the rope moments before he would have been pulled to his own death.
Certain that his partner was dead, Yates returned to base camp, consumed with grief and guilt over cutting the rope. Miraculously, however, Simpson survived the fall, crawled over the cliffs and canyons, and reached base camp only hours before Yates had planned to leave. In describing his decision to cut the rope, Yates articulates the core inner struggle for each of us in doing I Quit!
I had never felt so wretchedly alone . . . If I hadn’t cut the rope, I would certainly have died. No one cuts the rope! It could never have been that bad! Why didn’t you do this or try that? I could hear the questions, and see the doubts in the eyes of those who accepted my story. It was bizarre and it was cruel . . . However many times I persuaded myself that I had no choice but to cut the rope, a nagging thought said otherwise . It seemed like a blasphemy to have done such a thing. It went against every instinct: even against self-preservation. I could listen to no rational arguments against the feelings of guilt and cowardice . . . I resigned myself to punishment. It seemed right to be punished; to atone for leaving him dead as if simply surviving had been a crime in itself.
Quitting can feel like we are severing a lifeline, that someone, possibly even ourselves, is going to die. For this reason quitting is unthinkable to many, especially in the church. It appears “bizarre” and “cruel.” Who wants to be unpopular and rock the boat or disrupt things? I sure didn’t.
But there comes a point when we cross a threshold and we can’t take it anymore. Like Yates, we know we will die spiritually, emotionally, or otherwise unless we quit and choose to do something differently. We finally step over our fears into the great unknown territory that lies before us.
Yates was criticized by some in the mountain-climbing community for violating a sacred rule of never abandoning one’s partner — even if both died in the process. Joe Simpson himself passionately defended Yates’ choice. Ultimately, Yates’s decision to cut the rope saved both their lives.
The “Unfree” Christian
When I fell in love with Christ, I fell hard. As a nineteen- year-old college student, the enormity of God’s love over- whelmed me. I immediately began a passionate quest to know this living Jesus, and I was willing to do whatever it took to please him.
I eagerly structured my life around key spiritual disciplines such as reading and memorizing Scripture, prayer, fellowship, worship, fasting, giving financially, serving, silence and solitude, and sharing my faith with others. In my pursuit of Christlikeness, I absorbed books about the importance of spiritual disciplines by such authors as Richard Foster, J . I . Packer, and John Stott. They were helpful in broadening my understanding of Christianity and inspiring me to keep Christ at the center of my life. However, I failed to grasp the truth that a healthy spiritual life includes a careful balance between serving other people’s needs and desires and valuing my own needs and desires. Instead, I put most of my efforts into caring for others at the expense of my own soul.
The accumulated pain and resentment of this imbalance led to my first big “quit” at age thirty-seven. After seventeen years of being a committed Christian, I came to realize that excessive self-denial had led me to a joyless, guilt-ridden existence. Jesus invited me into the Christian life to enjoy a rich banquet at his table. Instead, it often felt like I was a galley slave, laboring to serve everyone else at the feast rather than enjoying it myself. In my relation- ship with Jesus, I’d gone from the great joy of feeling over- whelmed by his love to bitter resentment at feeling overwhelmed by his demands.
My identity had been swallowed up in putting others before myself. I constantly thought of the needs of our four small daughters. I worried about Pete’s responsibilities. I filled in wherever needed to help our growing church. These are all potentially good things, but my love had become a “have to,” a “should” rather than a gift freely given. I mistakenly believed I didn’t have a choice.
A renewed understanding of my own dignity and human limits enabled me to place loving boundaries around myself. I soon realized this was central to offering a sincere and genuine gift of love to others. Like God’s love to us, it must be free. And the extent to which I valued and loved myself was the extent to which I was capable of loving others well.
Dying to Live
Quitting is about dying to the things that are not of God. Make no mistake, it is one of the hardest things we do for Christ. But the good news is that quitting itself isn’t just an end; it is also a beginning. Biblical quitting is God’s path for new things to come forth in our lives, for resurrection. And yet, the path that leads to resurrection is never easy.
Internal voices alarm us with fears of quitting.
“What will people think?”
“I’m being selfish and not Christlike.”
“I will mess everything up.”
“People will get hurt.”
“Everything will fall apart around me.”
“I will jeopardize my marriage.”
Everything inside us resists the pain associated with dying — the nonnegotiable prerequisite for resurrection. As a result, we often cave in to our fears as a short-term anxiety-relief strategy. Sadly, this usually leads to painful long-term consequences — ongoing inner turmoil, joyless- ness, and festering resentments. As a result, we become stuck and ineffective in bearing genuine fruit for Christ. In my case, it resulted in a shrinking heart that sought to avoid people rather than love them.
Yet, it is only through dying that we can truly live. In the words of Jesus, “who- ever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35). And that was what happened when I quit — I got my life back. And what followed were even more transformations that not only changed me but also brought new life to Pete, our marriage, our children, our church, and to countless others .
Quitting has purified my heart. It has demanded I admit truths about myself that I preferred to bury and avoid. Facing flaws and shortcomings in my character, my marriage, my parenting, and my relationships has been scary. At times, I felt like I was cutting the rope that kept me safely tethered to the side of a mountain. But God has used each free fall to purge my heart and to give me a more intimate experience of his mercy and grace. Thus, along with a deeper awareness of my sinfulness, I have become increasingly captured by God’s passionate and undeterred love for me.
Quitting has led me to a dream-come-true marriage with Pete. Over time, as we began to eliminate unhealthy ways of relating and practice new emotionally healthy skills, our marriage has become a sign and experience of Christ’s love for his bride, the church. And quitting impacted the rest of our relationships as well, including our relationship with our children, our extended families, and the larger community of New Life Fellowship Church.
Quitting has taught me to be loyal to the right things. Although “I quit” might sound like it’s only about leaving something, I actually gained a renewed commitment to persevere for the right things. I learned how to serve others sincerely rather than begrudgingly. The apostle Paul offers this vivid description of the paradox of quitting:
What happens when we live God’s way [when we quit]? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard — things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. (Galatians 5:22 – 23 MSG, emphasis added)
I never dreamed quitting would lead to this kind of freedom and fruit. I used to try to produce, through my own efforts, the fruit of the Holy Spirit. But I found out that when we do life God’s way, fruit simply appears in the orchard. It is a marvel to behold. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. What I ultimately discovered when I quit was a path into the true purpose of my life — to be transformed by the love of God and, by the Holy Spirit, to slowly become that love for others .
The pages that follow explore eight specific “I Quits.” While they do build on one another and are meant to be read in order, each chapter also stands alone. You may wish to begin with a chapter that speaks most urgently to your present circumstance. Once you’ve read that chapter, I encourage you to return to the beginning and read how that content fits into the larger whole .
We don’t make the decision to quit just once; each “I Quit” is a lifelong journey. One never really finishes with any of them. I wrote I Quit! to prepare you to walk through this new journey for the rest of your life. As you continue your journey of quitting, know that you don’t have to figure out everything by yourself. I encourage you to find and rely on wise, experienced mentors to guide you through the complexities of quitting well. Knowing when and when not to quit are equally important!
Let us now begin to explore the first “I Quit” — quit being afraid of what others think.