Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Measure of Success

"To be made in God's image means that success in this life is measured by our investment in horizontal relationships."
- Greg Ogden, Discipleship Essentials

Did you ever notice how at the beginning of Creation, God spoke to Himself as a plural party? "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness" (Genesis 1:26). I've grown up thinking about the Lord as Triune - Father, Son, Holy Spirit - without stopping to think about the implications of the Trinity. God is in community with Himself. Greg Ogden writes, "From all eternity God was a being in fellowship. God is his own community."

We are created in the image of God. Imago Dei. Yet we are not in community with ourselves; we are only one being. We need each other to fulfill our created design. We were all made different because it is within the differences that we find our completion. I am incomplete on my own.

This is huge news for a person naturally inclined towards hiding away. My disposition does not lend itself to community. I decided around age 19 or 20 that I had all the friends I really needed and could keep up with, and I was done. I could make transient friends here and there, but I was okay. I didn't need anyone else.

Now, I've realized that this attitude was unhealthy and unBiblical, but the habits are still there. When I have a day to myself, I stay inside. I don't talk to anyone. It's "me" time.

This morning, I read Ogden's writings on being made in God's likeness, and God really stirred me. "Success in this life is measured" by relationships (???). Wow. That is so counter-cultural, it makes me want to dance! Honestly, how are we generally told that success is measured? A bank account with plenty of savings. A house. A well-paying job.

Now, I don't have any of those things, and the worldly pressure has been tempting me greatly in the last few weeks. With a baby on the way, I feel like my life should be more in order. Doubts and questions keep flooding into my brain: How will we provide for the child? Did we do it all wrong? What happens if x, y, z? Why can't we have better-paying jobs? What if we made a mistake in our "careers?"

God has laid many of these fears to rest, quieting them in His way of reassuring me through others. God will provide for our children as He has provided for us. He has called us into ministry. We are surrounded by a community of believers.

We are surrounded by the church.

And I realized that I needed to stop measuring my life by the world's standard, and instead spend more energy investing in relationships. So today was one of intimacy -- praying and interceding for others, writing e-mails and cards, talking on the phone, eating dinner around people. I willingly threw myself into the lives of others, and God provided me with abundant, glorious peace and joy.

"The promise of Jesus isn't a promise to individuals; it's a promise to the community... Ultimately, the only social security I trust is that which comes from the covenants made between friends and family members committed to caring for one another, through the provision and by the grace of God."
-Ruth Valero, Living in God's Future, The Simple Way

Thursday, January 20, 2011

When We Fail

"Learn to see yourself as you are, and accept your weaknesses until it pleases God to heal you. Your goal is to be as patient with yourself as you are with your neighbor."

How much grace do I extend to myself, and how much grace do I extend to my neighbor? When my neighbor screws up, I get it. I understand. I let it go. When I screw up, somehow I feel like it's the end of the world. I'm a failure. I can't believe I would do such a stupid thing. I won't let myself get away with it.

"Learn to live with your failures."

Why do I hold myself to so high an impossible standard? It seems I'm thinking too highly of myself -- that the beating up of my failures is actual a sign that I am idolizing myself.

"Do you know what would be best for you? Stop trying to appear so mentally and spiritually perfect before God and man."

Doesn't Paul tell us to brag about our failures? Doesn't our continued failures highlight the fact that we are fallen and we need Christ? When I fail, why is my immediate reaction to belittle myself? Shouldn't I immediately acknowledge my weakness and see my need for God?

"'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
2 Cor. 12:9

Jesus tells us that apart from him we can do nothing (John 15:5). This is good news! I am thankful that I cannot do it on my own -- that I fail and that I see those failures. If I never saw myself fail, I would be living under the delusion that I could do it on my own. And I can't. And that's a wonderful thing.

"Simply trust God. If you come to Him, He will give you all you need to serve Him. You really need to believe that God keeps His word."

"Abram believed and it was counted to him as righteousness." Gen. 15:6

Excerpts are from Fenelon's The Seeking Heart.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Keeping Perspective and Being Aware of God

"I wasn't so caught up in the day-to-day things; I was aware of God."

These very words came from the mouth of a girl I have been mentoring throughout the past semester at Eastern University. We were visiting her church over winter break, and she happened to be sharing her story from her first semester at college.

She unabashedly told the story of a night shared between her and her new friends at college. They spent at entire night (read: 9PM to 3AM) in impromptu worship. For a few weeks after that night, she "was aware of God." She had perspective. Things fell into their rightful place.

Her testimony brought tears to my eyes--both because of how clearly I saw the Lord using me in His work, and also because her story convicted my own desires. My heart's beat suddenly became a desperate cry--

"I want to not be so caught up in day-to-day things.
I want to live my life aware of God.
I want perspective."

Part of gaining that perspective is knowing God. Spending time feeding upon His word helps me know God. Keeping my ears open to the teachings of pastors and other disciples helps me understand Him more fully. Coming before His throne in prayer reminds me where I fall in the perspective of His glory and pervasive story.

"Meeting the holy, living God smashes the myths of autonomy, the myth that human beings are the final authority, our own lords. In the presence of God we are but dust and ashes. Every breath we breathe is a gift of his grace."
-Darrell Johnson,
"Handling the Trauma of Holiness: The Key to Authentic Worship of the Living God"
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