“Safely in Fufeng, she found an orphanage who took all 94 refugee children. Within 2 days of delivering the children safely…Gladys fell into a coma.”
At 27, Gladys failed missionary school in England, but perseverance and steadfastness brought her all the way to Tienstin, China, on a one-way train ticket.
Affectionately named Ai-weh-deh (virtuous one), Gladys founded the Inn of 8th Happiness, dedicating herself to the beautiful people of Yangcheng. Appointed the first official foot inspector, she freed women’s feet from centuries of painful foot-binding throughout the region.
During the war with Japan, she and 94 children fled their beloved home with the clothes on their backs. For weeks, they traipsed over mountains, fighting starvation, under constant threat of enemy fire.
Finally, atop train coal cars, they arrived in Fufeng. Pneumonia, typhoid and malnutrition ravaged her tiny body, but she lost not one child.
Gladys Aylward was the first missionary biography book I read as a young homeschool Mom. Hooked from the first page, she remains a heroine to this day. Courage propelled her in unwavering commitment to Jesus and her call, faith carrying her through unfathomable circumstances.
From Gladys’ remarkable life, I learned 2 pivotal principles.
- Self-awareness is foundational in relating to the world and the people in it.
- Self-awareness is key to discovering our divine destiny.
Defining our core values, an important part of self-discovery, is imperative in our journey towards healthy decision-making. Often, difficult circumstances like those Gladys faced propel us towards self-discovery. Forced to look within when the obvious door closed, she found courage and commitment to create her own path to China.
Though not declared outright, I imagine Gladys’ top 3 values were:
With her values clearly defined, Gladys tenaciously inched forward, decision by decision, towards her destiny as Ai-weh-deh, even facing tragedy, loss and death.
Many of her decisions had significant consequences, yet she remained unwavering. How did she do this? She saw her life as an extension of Jesus’, spending daily time with Him, praying about everything—
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live… I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Gal.2:20
Does this sound like something only the super-spiritual can attain? Gladys proves us wrong!
Gladys—a simple, missionary school flunky—found a job as a maid and saved enough money for a one-way ticket to China, not knowing what was on the other side of the tracks. She lived each moment in the strength of her identity in Christ, trusting His plans. Guided by His Spirit, her clearly defined values governed decisions, both small and great.
But maybe you’re asking, what’s the big deal about values?
When we make decisions with undefined values, we waiver, stuck in people-pleasing, FOMO or ego-feeding.
When opportunities come our way, we have the opportunity to discern between our values and our vanity. Emily Freeman*
So, what are values, and how do we discern them? A complex weaving of God-given gifts, divine call, temperament, and life circumstances—
Values (virtues), are a core set of principles that guide how we want to live our lives. Tasha Urich
When first asked my core values—I went blank! I needed a list—somewhere to begin.
How about you? Like me, are your values muddled in a mess of fear, ambiguity and insecurity?
Let’s begin by looking over this list of values.
- First, ask Jesus to guide you into truth.
- Next, list the values your parents instilled.
- How have they changed over the years?
- When you’re gone, what do you hope people remember most about you?
- Now, create a top 10 list.
Between 3 and 10 values are best according to psychological research, a top 3 being ideal.
Decision-making can be intimidating and overwhelming, especially under stress. Sometimes the stress is self-induced when it’s unclear who we are, how we’ve gotten here, and where we’re headed.
These steps help develop a foundation upon which we make wise decisions. Asking a few questions with clearly defined values makes the process more straightforward—
- Is this a fear-based yes?
- Is it my pride saying yes?
- Am I caving to FOMO?
- Am I afraid it’ll be someone else’s yes?*
- Is this a great opportunity for me, or someone else?*
- Is this a good, better or best yes?
- Am I motivated by obligation or love?
- Is this opportunity actually a favor?*
Every good opportunity is not a God opportunity. Rachel G. Scott
Without values in place, decision-making is confusing at best, distorted at worst. Like Gladys, let’s discover and live out our values, one decision at a time.
Join me next week to continue clearing a path towards healthy decision-making!