Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Free To Be
Doug Nix, my college pastor, was the first person I heard challenge the idea of finding my value through doing and serving. Doug was pushing me out of my comfort zone when he said to our group one Sunday morning, "What if God didn't ask you to do anything, what if He just wanted you to be? What if just knowing Him and His knowing you is enough?"
What a weird question! Of course, God wanted me to do things! What good would this just "being" be? I was saved to serve, right?
I didn't speak these thoughts aloud, but what my college pastor was proposing to me didn't get very far past my tightly woven spiritual armor. Doug was not telling me not to serve, he was trying to get me to see what God really valued. God valued me, not just what I could do for Him.
I wasn't saved only to serve and fulfill some big plans. But I was offered redemption because the Father loved me. I was important and valuable enough to Him that He would sacrifice His own Son. God wanted me to know Him and that was enough. The cross was enough.
I mattered to God.
The greatest resistance to the idea of being instead of doing comes from fear and misunderstanding. My own misunderstanding of Doug's words revolved around the thought that he might be telling us we were NOT called to serve, do good works, follow Christ in caring for others, telling others, etc. My fear was that Doug might be off base and teaching things that were not in line with the truth of the gospel. I couldn't have been more wrong.
How I wish I had been mature and relational enough to approach Doug and seek his wisdom. I might have learned something. I might have gained a deeper understanding of how much my Father values me.
I was ever so slow to begin to grasp this concept. But God was exceedingly patient and kind in releasing me from the slavery of doing to the freedom of being. It was a long and painful lesson. I was pretty darn good at the doing stuff, thus it took me that much longer to learn to rest fully in His grace.
Accolades and pats on the back are not bad things; unless I am living or dying for them. Living for them looks like I am fulfilled when someone recognizes what I did. Dying for them looks like I am empty and without meaning, if I don't receive that recognition. Usually both are in the mix when we are looking at idols of the heart. And yes, serving and ministry can become an idol in your life. They did in mine.
Rick Warren was another Christian leader that challenged me on the belief that said I was of value to God because of what I did. I remember reading The Purpose Driven Life. I don't remember what day it was, but the devotional said something like, "Good enough is good enough. Things don't have to be the best or perfect. They can just be done."
I reread that devotional page about three or four times, quite certain that Rick Warren had missed the mark. I thought, "You always, always, always give your very best. You always, always, always do all things with excellence. Anything worth doing is worth doing well." Blah, blah, blah. So I can't say Rick got through to me either.
Of course, what it took for me to see things in a new light was watching my beliefs crash and burn. All my doing and serving didn't give me an immunity to pain. That pain coupled with various other forms of pain could suddenly help me to see things I had somehow missed. Pain is God's megaphone, C.S. Lewis once said. The Spirit's still small voice amazingly gets loud and clear when I am hurting.
I have shared how we came to the City of Refuge. This was the real breakthrough for me. I never thought of myself as seeking acceptance from service. Yet, when I was asked not to serve during our time in COR, I squirmed. It was terribly uncomfortable. I had to learn that my value was not in what I was doing for the kingdom, but in who God says that I am. I am His. I am valuable. I am loved. I am accepted. And I can rest.
As time, grace, and truth brought healing and health, life came full circle. After a season of "making me lie down in green pastures," I was free to serve again. For three years I was in detox from ministry, making things happen, bringing results, serving, leading, controlling.
Now, I am back in ministry, but it's very different. I can breathe, I can relax, I can even do what He has called me to do in this moment. I can rest and not strive.
I'm not all there. The gravitational pull is so very strong and it is easy to move back to thinking I need to prove my worth to God. Except for His grace, I would. The Father keeps me. He reminds me. He speaks words of mercy and healing to my soul. And I lay myself down, open my hand, and surrender in trust that God has this too in His hand.
How about you? Have you ever served out of wrong motives, like seeking to find your value? I'd love to hear how God is weaving your story.