(Previously published in Power Source Magazine, November 2017) PowerSource 11_17-FromMyPerspective_MaryJames
“Scales always lie. They don’t make a scale that ever told the truth about value, about worth, about significance.” – Ann Voskamp
Like many folks, I have been on a search for significance, a mission to matter. In my quest to make that a reality, I’ve found that your story needs to be full of highlights and accomplishments that will get noticed. Life needs to be worth talking about or worthy of a Facebook post, right? So, I measure. I count. Everything from numbers at an alter call, event attendance, FB followers, post likes, events per year God puts on my calendar, to how many people took a CD home at the end of a service. I promise myself I’m not going to weigh, but I do anyway.
And is it ever enough?
Maybe this perspective is not for you. But for those who have been trying to get a grasp on what it means to “decrease,” keep reading.
If our quest for significance is not going as we hoped, we look for ways to “move the needle” in our lives and ministries. We want to be heard in a noisy world. We pick brains for the secrets to success. In fact, companies are making huge money trying to help people get noticed, make a difference, and live their optimum life.
Some of that is important. We need to be wise and do what we can to deepen our reach for the Gospel. Absolutely.
But when all is still and we stare in the mirror at the end of the day, we must ask ourselves, Has all this truly been about the God we serve or us? Are we the hero in the story, or is He? Is it about moving the needle in our lives or the needle in someone else’s?
God has a way of reeling me in on this stuff, sitting me down and doing a heart check. A check of motives and meaning and revealing of what truly matters to Him and what moves His needle.
I am quite certain that He cares far more about us loving the one in front of us more than how well we impressed an audience.
I’ve missed it over the years. Missed out on opportunities to let people know they are loved, because I have been too busy trying to get the world to love me. Not such an appealing truth, but I will run the risk of sharing it to stir someone who needs to turn this corner with me.
The good news is, God’s grace is daily. Out of love, He is steadfast in fulfilling the promise that, “He who has begun a good work in us will complete it” (Philippians 1:6 NKJV).
In my quiet times, I do the most growing. I read and seek God’s heart; trying to know Him a little better each day. As of late, I have been reading Ann Voskamp’s book The Broken Way. Ann stirs me to change, to evaluate what I value, and in turn love people a whole lot better. I don’t know her personally, but she is iron in my life nevertheless.
Ann shares one story in the book that is a standout for me. While sitting in a Doctor’s waiting room she read an article about bucket lists and shared these words, “I want to find this editor/writer and tell him, ‘Look we are done with waiting room theology. We are done waiting for some elusive future moment to say life is good enough. We are done waiting for some big enough house, some big enough step up, some big, exciting enough experiences to finally think we’ve arrived at the abundance of being and living enough.’ What if instead of waiting for enough things to happen to us, we could be the good thing to happen to someone else who’s waiting? What if abundant living isn’t about what you can expect from life, but what life can expect from you? Why grow the list of what I want to have, instead of the list of what I can give? What if living the abundant life isn’t about having better stories to share but about living a story that let’s others live better? Look at us all wandering around a spinning planet with these bucket lists desperate to fill ourselves up with meaning, when meaning comes from emptying ourselves out.”
Big sigh. This is what moves God’s heart. Being poured out.
I can’t even begin to recall the faces and opportunities I have missed in my pursuits to “serve Jesus.” But I am paying attention now. I never want to be so “famous in my own mind” that I am too busy for the abused child who stands in the back of the room trying to make sense of God’s love or that person at my table who I know does not have enough money to buy a CD and desperately needs to be comforted. Not to mention my immediate family who has felt the brunt of ministry life.
Are you with me? Is it possible for us to live significantly emptied? I do believe so. When our time comes, I pray that we will walk through heaven’s gates with buckets empty of all God poured in. I pray that together we will live lives marked by what we gave and not what we were able to get. To that we can say thank you Jesus. You are the ultimate example of pouring out instead of filling up.
Jesus said, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it” (Matthew 10:39 NLT). So friends, amid our busy lives, and a world that constantly measures, let us know that our true fulfillment is not in getting noticed, but in noticing others and loving them like Jesus. It is there that we will find our significance.
Action step: Pray each day that God will provide opportunities for you to give some part of you away. Especially, to those who are the hardest to love.