These past six months have been almost unbelievably transformational for me. Lots of things have happened in my heart and in my life. Recent stories of faith, prayer and community hang in the air. There is much to talk about. That's for sure. And I may get to some of it eventually on this blog, but I wanted first to share with you a bit of the path God has taken me down in these last two months especially.
The thing is that I've really been working through issues of validation lately. To be honest, I feel like I have to produce in order to be significant, like I have to be doing something in order to justify my existence. It's the "do to be" disease.
My particular drug is dreams.
I'm a "visionary advocate" personality type (MBTI), and true to form, I have these dreams that I want to pursue ("visionary"), and I badly wish to help other people catch those dreams ("advocate"). But there's the rub. It is such a struggle for me not to draw my identity and sense of worth from my dreams, but rather from the who God has proclaimed me to be in His love, and to allow the motivation for whatever serving I do for Him to come out of the overflow of my heart, rather than out of my seeking self-validation through any personal standard of "success."
My identity has issued from my dreams and my power (or lack thereof) to "micromanage" the Kingdom to conform to the idea I have in my mind of the way it ought to be. And if things are going poorly by my estimation, then I get depressed because my security rests in my ability to meet some performance-based criteria. If things are going well, by my estimation, then I feel temporarily fulfilled. But the satisfaction is empty, like trying to pull water from a dry well.
It's the same misstep God spoke of by Jeremiah. Jeremiah recorded these words:
For my people have done two evil things:
They have abandoned me—the fountain of living water.And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns
that can hold no water at all! (Jeremiah 2:13 NLT)
Father said something similar in Isaiah's prophecy:
Come, all of you who are thirsty.Come and drink the water I offer to you.You who do not have any money, come.Buy and eat the grain I give you.Come and buy wine and milk.You will not have to pay anything for it.Why spend money on what is not food?Why work for what does not satisfy you?Listen carefully to me.Then you will eat what is good.You will enjoy the richest food there is. (Isaiah 55:1-2 NIrV)
I'm talking about a shifting of my heart's pursuit. From pursuing validation (and security, identity, satisfaction...) through a realized dream, to pursuing a persistent nearness to the God who doesn't care whether I accomplish my dreams if I never learn to live in the overwhelming acceptance I have in His grace. After all, "Grace is God's acceptance of us. Faith is our acceptance of God's acceptance of us" (Adrian Rogers, from Freedom from the Performance Trap).
One of the most freeing things someone ever told me was something I heard in one of The God Journey podcasts with Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings. Wayne said, if I may recite it from my poor memory, "I don't care if you don't do anything for a year, if you learn to walk in Father's affection."
When I heard that, it really sank deep in my soul: God isn't looking for me to produce for Him; He is looking for me to rest in Him.
Now, let me tell you: that's hard to swallow for someone who has done almost everything for twenty-five years with performance-based, works-righteous motives! That's difficult to step out of. That's a deep mire of ingrained religious caca. And I'm sick of it. I've felt like an employee in God's production plant for all my life. And all I want is a real-life relationship!
But now—wouldn't you know—I'm finding that I'm relationally-challenged, having worked with machines for so long. But thank you, Papa! You are showing me the ropes of this relationship with You!
And my reader friend, whoever you are, I want you to know that there is rest in our Father. There is complete rest. He is our eternal Sabbath (Hebrews 4). He is our permanent Vacation. And when you are all caught up in the DOs, know that as far as He is concerned, there is only DONE. "You are trying to earn points with someone who is no longer keeping score" (Wayne Jacobsen).
It is finished. (John 19:30)
What the law could not do... God did. (Romans 8:3 CSB)