There are lots of steps on the journey to wholeness including: becoming confident regarding our truest and deepest identity, gaining freedom from addictions, bringing the painful parts of story into the light and redeeming them, developing a healthy relationship with creation, our family, our neighbors, our possessions, and our own body, nurturing habits that historically have, over time, been critical ingredients in moving people toward wholeness, and so much more!
These past weeks I’ve offered a focus here on calling. We’ve considered this in the podcast with John Carrington, and now with my friends who work with the “Designing Your Life” folks to help people find their calling. I’ve offered youtube videos on calling on my channel here. Now there’s one more thing to say, and I’ll begin by offering a quote from my own diary this morning:
I’m starting to see with some clarity the extent to which the identity I’ve enjoyed and accepted as an influencer (author/teacher/traveling speaker) has become core to who I really am. Now that I’m in transition, the fear of losing it is creating what sometimes feels like a panicked striving in me for a new identity, rather than simply resting and seeking to live in the present moment in an ongoing rhythm of giving and receiving. Evening and morning, seed time and harvest, work and rest, grief and laughter. I’m feeling the pull to stop striving and simply seek to live in communion with God, allowing the author of my faith to write the next chapter as he did the last one!! Yes.
This awareness came about after a recent encounter with a friend in California. We were having lunch together and she asked me how I was doing with my move to part time and shedding my senior leader role in the church I lead. I said I didn’t miss the weight of it, but that I was in a season of discernment, looking for the best way to invest the time freed up as a result of the change. "Remember that you’re a three” she said, referring to the Enneagram, which is a tool that can help people discover their deeper, sometimes even hidden, motivations for choices. Those in the ‘three’ category find approval and a feeling of being loved by excelling, and yes that’s been me, still is me!
So, in my panic, I might be guilty of rushing to fill the role: write a book! Start a ministry! Say yes to outside speaking more often! “For God’s sake do something significant“ is what I’m guilty of telling myself. But is it really for God’s sake, or my own?
All this self disclosure is intended to help you as much as me. My hope for both of us is that we can learn to relax, to learn that our real identity as those “beloved of God” isn’t contingent upon doing stuff that gets us some version of affirmation, be it applause, or book sales, or size of influence, or whatever. We’re loved, just as we are, not because we perform well, but because our Creator says “Yes! I delight in you” in a way that’s utterly without contingencies.
I arrived home from a hike the other day, a hike spent thinking about my future and my conversation with my California friend, and my random playlist called up the song “Three” by “Sleeping at Last.” Here’s just a slice of the lyrics:
Maybe I've done enough And your golden child grew up Maybe this trophy isn't real love And with or without it, I'm good enough
Maybe I've done enough
Finally catching up For the first time I see an image of my brokenness Utterly worthy of love Maybe I've done enough
And I finally see myself Through the eyes of no one else
It's so exhausting on this silver screen Where I play the role of anyone but me
And I finally see myself Unabridged and overwhelmed A mess of a story I'm ashamed to tell But I'm slowly learning how to break this spell And I finally see myself
Wow! I couldn’t believe the timing. It felt divine! I sat absorbed in radical, unconditional love with moist eyes.
I write all this to say that the most important thing isn’t building the big structure that is your influence, net worth, family, social connections, and all that goes with those things. I’m far from saying that they don’t matter, but I can tell now, on the far side of success, that they’re not the most important things. The most important thing of all things is the we act out from a place of security rather than insecurity, love rather than fear, service rather than ego. I’ve not always done that well, but I’m still learning.
The other important things are those three “N’s” articulated in the title:
No Striving - That doesn’t mean law school, or med school, or chef school won’t be hard. It just means that at your core, you’re not driven to adjudicate, or heal, or cook amazing meals, or preach for that matter, out of a place of insecurity. “Cease striving and know that I’m God.” Wow! Our whole world, including our ‘church world’, would be radically different if we just did that one thing.
Nurture Communion - This is just a way of saying “abide“ that uses the letter N. In this season of discernment, my greatest joy is literally surrendering my entire future to my creator by saying, “You know me, you know the world, you know my gifts, you know the end of the story. I’m just going to relax and let you lead, like a blind man being led by the hand through the forest. I don’t need the big picture anymore, don’t need to ‘begin with the end in mind’. I just need the next step, and I’m at rest, confident you’ll give it to me. Give me ears to hear your voice, Creator, and grace to take the steps.“
Next Steps are self evident in the previous paragraph, but it looks like this: God brings to mind a relationship that’s been suffering neglect so I respond and make the phone call. Volunteers are needed for mentoring or making breakfast burritos or playing with children so you adjust your schedule to join in. God speaks to me through a movie about creation and reforestation of Africa, and I’m reminded of my love for Plant with Purpose and so make a donation. Listen. Take the next step.
That’s how the world will change!