Me, Care for others FIRST, Lord? Are You kidding?!

I used to think that caring for others came easily to me, yet in light of what God has been diligent to show me in the last few days, I can say to myself, “Oh, what a load of hooey!”

The reality of how little I truly care for others is embarrassing, really. How could I have thought I was sitting on the very standard of service for others? I guess I thought I was the standard.

I readily assume that the key to being a great Christian is being great and doing everything right. But, I am learning to reevaluate this idea I have, this hope, of one day being a “great” Christian–if we can even say that there is such a thing (either way I’m still holding onto it with all my might!).

I’m beginning to wonder, what if being great in the context of claiming allegiance to Christ meant moving beyond my person and my performance to something more. What if there was already a quality of greatness about my life that I miss when I try to prove that such a thing exists on my terms?

Half or more of what I’m saying doesn’t even make much sense to me yet, but I share it with you because the fragments of great thoughts are more important to our living than a great presentation of easily digestible concepts. So much of this idea of greatness and being great in the kingdom and doing care and service God’s way is more than I can comprehend now. I am somewhere in the middle, trying to take it all in, hoping He will make it stick in the appropriate ways.

I need to change–He’s making that clear. I don’t get what He sees as greatness and I’m beginning to wish that He didn’t see so clearly what I believe is greatness.

He wants me to love people. Pure and simple. Perhaps, for me, it is too simple. I want people to love me so I do loving acts toward them. It all makes perfect sense–and yet none of it really fits with what God wants to have going on between myself and others.

The point of my interacts at present is to establish myself as the center, the primary interest, and then do all I can to enhance and maintain that. I bring God into it as if He were a neat little item I keep in my handbag rather than inviting Him in as my honored Guest, One I couldn’t dream of being apart from in anything I do.

I have a million little baubles that I can choose to introduce to the other person in my interactions. Testimonies, revelations, ideas and encouragements make great and beautiful conversation pieces. But, have they dwindled into vain tributes that are important to me merely because they give me the privilege of extended face-time before others?

How I wish I could dismiss my own questions here and say that I’m okay. No one else is raising any red flags for me here, why should I need to make my own? I guess because I know my heart enough to see things that concern and grieve me. I could choose to ignore them, but that wouldn’t serve any good purpose.

So what do I do? Stop everything I’m doing because it’s not perfect? Though that is a very appealing option, it would only be an excuse for laziness. But, rather than cease all that I’m doing, I could merely pause to reflect on it and gain fresh insight into what direction I need to be headed in all this action.

Being quiet before the Lord is action–in fact, I think it is one of the most beautiful actions. I usually only engage in it when I know I need to because my normally rowdy action is appearing more and more empty of the Lord. So I take a few moments to recognize His conspicuous absence and invite Him in. I am constantly enacting new designs for the style of my life and I need Him to be contorting them into something closer to what He wants then I can come up with on my own.

I want a bigger understanding of what life is all about. And if that is caring by serving others in a way that will necessarily empty me out rather than fill me up, there is no way that can happen with Him. There is no way I can embrace reducing myself unless He first expands Himself on the inside of me. Then I can rest in the nourishment of His presence that makes all of this care and service happen through me. Now that is a pure delight!

 

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Unlikely, Unintentional, Mostly Unwilling Servant

If you’ve read the title of this, I’m sure you have been struck by the appealing description I give myself. If only it were less than true. I am not a servant. I don’t like the idea of serving. I enjoy doing activities categorized as service, but not primarily because they are a way that I can lay down my life and desires for others. I do it because I enjoy it, like I said, and because it makes me feel important and necessary and because it is also something I do well in most cases.

Now all of this makes sense at some level, but that doesn’t necessary make me godly for what I do, certainly not for why I do it. I am just doing what comes naturally to me and while there appears to be nothing wrong with that at first glance–which is as far as I’ve been willing to go in examination up until now–there is something wrong, or perhaps I should say there is something not right about it all.

I’m not completely clear on all this, but what I’ve gathered so far is that all is not right when I easily assume that I’m just okay. It’s not enough to rate myself by how I feel when I am doing something “good” or by how others honor me when I do it. I need to know what is good in its purest form and then understand how I measure up against it.

Learning to walk with Christ, and in consequence, be a servant, is not about automatically performing a task or rite that will get us those five gold stars we crave as quickly as possible. When we get the Christian life down to a science we lose. We become stale “lifers” who really know nothing about being a Christian except that we are one.

I think being a Christian and knowing Christ–the one thing this life must be about–is more about mystery than we would like it to be. We strain for comfort so much that we introduce it when God does readily accommodate us. We do what we are supposed to, but we do it in a way that is all us. We essentially brand our actions with the personal identifiers that will make it impossible for anyone to miss the fact that we are in line for our reward.

But, could this behavior be keeping us from the very Reward we are promised? How is it even possible to recognize Christ as our reward and the reason we do everything if we are doing what we do simply as the outgrowth of actions we know will get us what we want?

Obviously this is a question of motivation, less obviously this is a gracious invitation for transformation made to us by our Maker. Will we be delighted in Christ authentically unless we can authentically put Him forth as our delight and motivation for service and obedience that strips us of our delight in mere fleshly treats?

I don’t think so. That’s why I can’t stay where I am. I must move with all my might of spirit toward self-depreciating works that scorch my flesh and draw me closer to Christ.

How Come They’re Just Not Getting It, God?

God really got my attention the other day when He told me I had to stop abusing the wonderful works He has been doing in and through me by His Spirit. He showed me that I was looking every which way for affirmation and appreciation from others after God did something new with me. If I had a word of prophesy, I would pray that certain people would come up to me later and shared how they had been affected. If I spoke in a public setting I hoped they were listening and growing more impressed and interested in me.

I was running to and fro in my mind after others who might become fresh converts to the delight-of-Elaine’s-fellowship-and-gifting. I thought God could mend my broken or retarded relationships so easily if only He could stage it so that their hearts were softened towards me as God used me to bless them.

Well, God had other ideas. My expectations and motivations needed to be turned around. With all that He was doing to bless me, I was responding, this is wonderful, Lord, but I just don’t understand–why are those people (pointing my finger W…A…Y over there) not showing any signs that they are in awe of what You’re doing with me? I need that, Lord. There is either something wrong with them or something wrong with me–and I don’t think it’s me!

How wrong I was. How I needed to be humbled. I thought God’s main purpose was to give me spiritual and relational success. I thought, and continue to think (to my shame) that I’m really very important to what God is doing and that others should see that. I get angry and disappointed when people appear to miss or dismiss me.

Yet, what a gift all of this to me! I get to see my pride in bold strokes upon the canvas of my heart. I see a blackness that cannot be reconciled to the image of personal purity that I keep alive while I am busily finding all the faults in others. It is at times like this that I discover that I am the one who is marring God’s grand mural.

I am the one who doesn’t want to be a two-dimensional character who belongs in a community of other two-dimensional characters. I look at everyone else emerging from the paint splatters on the wall around me and I have no problem recognizing what they are supposed to be. Yet I am disoriented when the Artist takes some time to apply His paint brush directly and specifically to me.

I don’t know how to translate the glory of such attention: this must mean I am more important than all the others, right? I mean, why else would God neglect all those other characters to focus just on me.

A thought that never occurred to me until now is that maybe I need His focus. I need to see and feel Him so close or else I would tremble with doubts and fears that He has forgotten me. Perhaps I would fail to recognize how close He keeps me to His heart if He didn’t make sure I was so close to the beat of it. And if I couldn’t see His marvelous behaviors up close I would not realize He had any attraction at all.

I would forever see myself and myself alone. But when God and others prevent me from continuing in that line of death I should be grateful. How much I would miss if I should always see myself in the dim light I prefer!

“Do you think I am trying to make people accept me? No, God is the One I am trying to please. Am I trying to please people? If I still wanted to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” — Galatians 10:10

Haven’t I Recommended Myself Well Enough?

Welcome to another day of rating my life and the joy I find in living it. When I find myself doing this, I discover a link between feelings of futility and the feeble measures I use. I want to live an impressive life because I think that is required when you have openly stated that you are following after God’s calling on your life. If all that’s going on doesn’t make me look really cool, then what is really getting accomplished here?

I think that my most common mistake is that I think I am too critical a part in what God’s doing through me. I believe that I must be my most attractive if others are to be attracted to God. I expect that my story most be the most compelling thing an audience has ever heard if they are to be profoundly affected. I count on my words being powerful by virtue of their perfection rather than by virtue of the anointing God has given me to speak.
The purpose of what God has called me to do is so often drowned out by my concern over the power needed to accomplish it. Why do I think it needs to come from me? Why do I think God chose me for me and my natural recommendations rather than for Him and His natural recommendations?

I guess I am getting to see just a hint of the truth here. God is making sure I don’t completely miss the boat He’s on because I’m looking for a much smaller craft that has my name on it and has the perfect vacancy awaiting me at the helm. This isn’t what I need. If I were given my boarding wish, I would never make it in the rough seas ahead of me, nor would I have any really fulfillment or direction when in the midst of calm seas.

I need a Captain. I need to know that I belong on the boat, but its operations don’t depend on me. I need to know that it is a privilege that I get to have a berth, to have some chores, to be waylaid with duties and responsibilities–all these things remind me that I am remembered and included by the only One who runs an everlasting hull.

 

Seriously, what’s going on here, God?!

This week has felt crazy and good and confusing and slow and tiring and tantalizing in the most distracting way. What are you doing here, God? has been a constant, though unspoken, refrain for me. What am I doing and why am I not moving ahead at a steady clip right now? I thought when you said go, and flashed that beautiful green light, You meant that I and the traffic were supposed to pick up speed as we left behind the tiny, monotonous shops along this little strip I’ve been on for too long.

But, instead, it appears that go means crawl. The message to my heart is don’t hold back, but don’t spring forward either. Keep a steady pace and keep your eyes open for Me, God says. I am working all around you, but I don’t want you to be moving too quickly to be able to judge what I’m doing all around you.

Go and slow may rhyme, but in my mind they weren’t meant to match up at all. I think, if you’re going to be slow, you might as well stop and take a rest until you’re full of enough energy to be able to make real attempt. Come on, I say, this is life; we have to keep up and get ahead!

But, ahead of what? Ahead of God? Ahead of the doubts that tell me God can’t really work this out? Ahead of the other drivers around me that seem to know so much better than I where they need to be going? Ahead of all God’s plans for developing in me patience and a steady passion for Him? Ahead of everything that life is really about?

When I think of it that way, I guess I don’t really want to be charging ahead. Maybe I just want to be right where I’m supposed to be; right where God has specifically positioned me to see and be sanctified by Him. Perhaps, I can accept what He told me today knowing that it is the truth I need:

You are right where I want you. If I wanted you somewhere else, I would have put you there.