Living Inside-Out: A Conversation With Christy Nockels
The best things sometimes take a while to come to fruition. For worship leader Christy Nockels, the process of publishing her first book, “The Life You Long For: Learning to Live From a Heart of Rest,” began at her farm table well over a decade ago. “I think this book took me 15 years to write because I was supposed to live it for 15 years,” Christy explained.
During her season as a young mom with a flourishing music career, Christy often found herself scrambling to accomplish a long list of tasks each day: “Singing for God and doing Kingdom things — good things — had actually become more important to me than sitting with him. This was heartbreaking for me.” As she sat at her farm table 15 years ago, she had an epiphany that changed everything. She realized she had forgotten how to live as God’s beloved child.
“‘Beloved’ is not just a name or a title or a sweet salutation in the Bible,” Christy stated. While it can be easy to mentally skip over the word, Christy believes it has great significance: “It has to be intentional that the Spirit of God is saying over and over [through the writers of Scripture], ‘You’re loved by God, you’re loved by God. You’re made to personally experience my love.’” She continued joyfully, “I learned that it’s the first and highest calling on my life, before anything else, to live like the beloved of God are created to live.”
Christy is confident that the practice of letting go of control and living in total dependence on God meets our hearts’ deepest needs: “It’s where we find the life we’re really longing for. … Rest comes from looking to God the way we’re supposed to look to him every day as his children.”
Hitting the Bullseye
The Lord gave Christy an image of what it looked like to live from him instead of for him. “He used this picture of a bullseye [with] concentric circles like a target,” Christy described. The outer ring of the target represented her activities, ministry, platform and broader goals. The next circle depicted her close, personal relationships. And the center stood for her private relationship with God.
Christy shared the words she felt the Lord said to her: “I’ll take care of all the outer rings of your life, and I’ll show you my glory in it all if you just hit this bullseye where you come as my beloved child and rest in me. I’ll take care of all the dreams and longings you have.” Marveling at how she’s seen God’s faithfulness as she has rested in him, Christy added: “He does the work through you in a way you never even thought was possible. … In fact, he’ll do it in a way [you] least expect it.”
Christy acknowledged that what she calls “inside-out living” — where our relationship with the Father becomes the source of everything we do — is not a new concept. She sees the same pattern in Scripture passages such as John 15, Romans 8 and Ephesians 4. Christy recognized that the ideas of abiding in Christ, living in the Spirit and putting on our new selves became “catch phrases rather than actual principles I could live by.” But, she added with a chuckle, “They actually work!”
Although Christy has been practicing this way of life for 15 years, she doesn’t always get it right. “When we wake up and run straight to that outer ring, that’s outside-in living. And I’ve done that. Sometimes I have to recenter my heart several times a week,” she admitted. “Even this week I’ve had to reset my course.”
Accomplishing Great Things
Living inside-out sometimes means that Christy turns down opportunities that could pull her away from what matters most. “We want to do Kingdom things, but we often exhaust ourselves, not realizing we’re doing it from our own capacity and strength,” she noted. “I think we can get things out of order, and we might even project our own ideas of what we’re supposed to accomplish.”
Although it’s important to learn when to say “no,” Christy clarified that living outward from the bullseye of God’s love doesn’t mean avoiding investing time and energy into God’s Kingdom. As she considered how to proceed with her ministry while learning to live as God’s beloved child, Christy prayed, “I want to do this for you, God. I want to do this for your Kingdom. I want to accomplish great things.” The Lord gave her a new paradigm for how to approach ministry: “He was saying to me over and over again, ‘Just invite others into your “familiar” with your Father.’”
Christy pointed out that God intentionally brings people across our paths every day: “[Ministry is] just inviting those people into your walk with God. If you think about it, Jesus did this so beautifully. Everything he did flowed from his relationship with the Father. He welcomed others into his ‘familiar’ with the Father. And I love that he invited us to accomplish great things along with him.”
Christy is encouraged by the imagery in Matthew 11:28-30: “Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light’” (NLT).
“I love that [Jesus] used that picture of a yoke because I think he was hinting that he knows there’s great work to be done,” Christy noted. “We’re invited to work from his rest, taking Jesus’ yoke on us. We get to come up underneath his yoke, his way of doing life. If you feel driven to accomplish great things for God’s Kingdom, do it under the yoke of Jesus. Come up underneath it and let him bear the load with you. Do it from his rest.”
Catching a Glimpse
In March 2020, Christy and her husband Nathan traveled to Wycliffe USA’s headquarters in Orlando, Florida, to lead worship at the spring Scripture Celebration. There, 20 new Scripture translations were celebrated! As she was finalizing their set list before the event, Christy made a last-minute addition: “All That Is to Come,” a lullaby she wrote about God’s unwavering faithfulness.
“We had no idea even that day in March what we’d be experiencing [in 2020],” Christy mused softly.
Christy explained her decision to sing the lullaby to the people she describes as “a roomful of world changers”:
“I felt this nudge to sing over this group of people who are making a massive impact on the Kingdom,” she said. “I know what it’s like to be in full-time ministry. I was raised in a ministry family. I know we can forget who we are, and that what we do comes from who we are. I love getting to be a part of reminding God’s people who they are.”
Christy and Nathan went to the Wycliffe Scripture Celebration to encourage staff who participate in work around the world, and they certainly provided that encouragement. But catching a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes details of Bible translation also left the couple feeling renewed in their ministry too.
Christy said: “We just get blown away every time we sit and listen to these stories. And I think, ‘These will be the stories most people won’t get to hear until they get to heaven!’” Christy concluded: “It puts wind in our sails to keep going in our work. … You’re getting to partake of the eternal when you get to hear these stories and see the faces. It’s incredible. I really do believe it’s the most important work that’s happening on the earth.”