“What I learned from Craig”
In the time that I had with Craig, I learned more things than I can write in a single blog. For those who knew Craig, they knew him as a charismatic, dream chasing, God loving man with an unhealthy love for creating uncomfortable situations [ask any of his friends…Craig loved embarrassing them however he could).
As his wife, I got to see so many dynamic sides to Craig that I feel very privileged to have experienced. We had great times, and we had difficult times. Just like any marriage. But through it all, I can say this, Craig’s life impacted me in several significant ways that forever changed my outlook on life.
For lack of time and the average person’s attention span, I will just list three perspective changing lessons I learned from Craig:
- The importance of relationships.
- Do everything as if you we are doing it for God.
- We should never live in a spirit of fear.
“I’ve come to realize that relationships are the only things we can take with us to Heaven.” – Craig Strickland
The first of these lessons is associated with my all-time favorite Craig quote (see above) from our first date when he asked me to share my testimony with him. I was so scared to reveal my story about how I found God, but I felt comforted by the way in which he asked me to do so. I remember him looking at me and saying, “I’ve come to realize that relationships are the only things we can take with us to Heaven. So would you mind sharing your testimony, and I shared mine?”
That may seem like a pretty forward question on a first date, but if you knew Craig, then you also knew that no question was too forward for him to ask [even on a first date]. But yes, at the time it seemed a little scary to me too…until I started to understand what he was really asking me in posing this question. Craig wanted to know that I was going to go to Heaven where relationships with loved ones never end. He cared about that more than anything else. In his eyes, my relationship with Christ was the most important relationship he needed to be solidified before we could move further. And to be completely honest, in that moment I don’t think he was as focused on us being “equally yoked” – [because he probably knew he could convince me to want a relationship with Christ if I didn’t already have one – Craig was very convincing] – as he was concerned with wanting to know for sure that he was going to see me forever in Heaven.
Craig loved making relationships no matter your age, how much money you had, or what happened in your past. That’s why I believe he could connect with all kinds of people at his concerts. He loved meeting people. And more importantly, he loved knowing that in Heaven, every single friend he would ever make would be there with him celebrating.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” -Colossians 3:23-24
Lessons two and three somewhat blend together. Craig often told me he believed God must give us our gifts/talents for a reason because God knew they would most likely dictate our goals and dreams in this life. Craig also told me that he believed if we felt called to work toward a particular goal or dream, such as a career, then we should give 100% effort towards trying to achieve it – no matter what anyone else said about it. And believe me, that’s exactly what Craig did. He gave 110% when it came to chasing after the goals and dreams he had for his life. And he definitely wasn’t going to stop no matter what other people might say about it. If he felt called to it, then he was going to go for it until God gave him a definite no.
In fact, when I first met Craig it was his passion and dedication to achieving [what he felt was] his calling that truly captivated me. I remember how hard he worked to make things happen with his band in the country music scene…even if no one else was watching. There were many times no one knew all the work he was doing and all the hours he put in, but he did it anyway. Watching him made me realize if we’re passionate about something we feel God called us to, then it’s our job to give our best effort even if God is the only one who sees it. Because at the end of the day, our efforts aren’t for man, they are for God. And furthermore, I see now that we are all stewards of the gifts God gives us…and that means we must be willing to put in the groundwork to sharpen those gifts for the moment when God calls us to action.
“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” – 2 Timothy 1:7
The other day a close friend of mine and I were talking about our dreams and the goals we have for the future, and how those dreams weren’t necessarily cookie cutter. Meaning, our dream professions are probably not at the top of the usual “what I want to be when I grow up” list. The conversation then led us to discuss how our “outside-the-box” dreams often made us feel nervous to give 100% in trying to achieve them.
“What do people think when we tell them?” Or worse, “What will they say if we don’t succeed?’
And that’s when I had another revelation about Craig’s impact on my life.
Craig did not live with a spirit of fear. He believed in boldness and courage. Especially when it comes to chasing a goal or a dream that God brought into your path. Yes, he knew it might be difficult to achieve. And yes, he knew he might fail. But being scared to fail wasn’t how Craig lived. Instead, he trusted that it would happen, he prayed boldly that it would be God’s will, and then worked hard to achieve it. If it didn’t happen, then he knew God would direct his path elsewhere. Because while there is often a time for waiting, listening, and growing…there is also a season for having the courage to take action and trust God when we feel Him moving us.
I want my heart to learn and hold onto these lessons from Craig’s life.
I want to see people as the relationships I get to take with me to Heaven. Not just as friends I might grab a cup of coffee with. I want to pour into others, and have others pour into me. Lifting each other up continuously.
I want to be bold in my faith and how I speak about it. I want to trust the words I read in my Bible. I want to give 100% effort in all my works. Doing everything I do to the best of my ability because I’m not doing it for man – I’m doing it for the Lord.
And finally, I never want to live housing a spirit of fear in my heart. Christ is always with me, and I am always with Christ. Therefore, I will house a spirit of courage grounded in my faith in Christ.
Dear friends, my prayer for you today is that you might learn the same lessons from the life that Craig lived. We can all do better about making Christ the center of our relationships, making sure that everyone in our life is given the opportunity to live an eternal life with us in Heaven. And it if you’re anything like me, releasing our spirit of fear and replacing it with a spirit of courage through faith is going to be an ongoing process. But in order to work towards that goal, let us both promise each other the following: if we believe God has called us to something, instead of holding back out of fear, let us pray boldly and give it all we have. Trusting that God will be there every step of the way.
Praying for you today and always,