Written on November 24, 2017 for Joy of It
I woke up the other morning and tried to recall who I was.
Tell me if this has happened to you. The circumstances around you are for the most part the same as they were the day before... and the people you will encounter will be familiar, but, the reason why you are doing any of it has by and large escaped you. You’ve forgotten what you love, what drives you, what you’re good at, what you feel. You have been functioning on such a shallow level with life, that if someone asked for your opinion on something, you would either have no answer at all, or give an answer that you would have given at some point in your life, but wonder vaguely if that answer still holds true. Maybe it is even something you used to feel very strongly about, but do you feel that way now? You couldn’t say.
It’s only slightly depressing that I was struggling with the question of who I was on this particular morning, seeing as how I had just wrapped up teaching, for the third time, the bible study I wrote on identity, both God’s and ours. After so much intensive work on finding our identity in Christ, you would think that I would have it nailed down. You would think.
On the contrary, however, finding my self-worth and purpose in Christ turns out to be an achilles heel of sorts for me. Which, come to think of it, may be part of the reason I felt led to write the study in the first place. It’s not that I don’t want to find my identity in who God made me to be. I want that more than anything. It’s just that I’m so easily deceived and distracted.
The most common thing I’m tripped up is by is living life as if my value depends on what I do.
When I get like this, you’ll usually find me killing myself doing the things that I am good at, and completely neglecting what I feel I might fail in. (It’s easier to prove your value if you’re only doing things you think you’ll be successful in.) Most recently, however, I was assigned a task I wasn’t the least bit good at, and then ran around like a crazy person trying to prove to the world that I could do whatever task lies before me regardless of abilities or giftings. It is no small wonder that I felt myself disappear in the process.
Into the mania, this thought occurred to me:
“If you don’t start sitting still with God in some quiet spaces, you are going to wake up one day and find that you have disappeared altogether. Stop the rat race. Listen to God.”
When you lose your sense of self, you will not find it again without God. Your identity is not a question that can be answered apart from Him. So, I sat still. Very still.
God has a lot to say to us in those deep places about who we are, but the temptation to stay on the surface of living is a strong one. Numb living can have have all the frenetic appearances of a fruitful life, but all it takes is a quick look under the surface to see that it only goes an inch deep.
Jesus has a lot to say about a fruitful life.
By a fruitful life, he means a life that has spiritual impact, not just material effect. He says this:
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing... This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:4-8)
You may or may not be familiar with the metaphor. You’re going to need to read that at least one more time if you’ve never read it before. Here’s my takeaway for today’s purposes:
You are a branch, who can do nothing of spiritual impact on your own.
Whenever you reach a point of complete exhaustion, completely disconnected from the reason behind why you’re doing anything, yet unable to stop yourself (ahem, me), you are not living as if all the power comes from Christ and all the glory goes to God.
It’s become all about you, and the great irony is that if you live as if everything depends on you, you will actually lose yourself in the process. You will never be more disconnected from who you were made to be, than when you make it all about you.
The extravagantly beautiful reality is, that no matter how many times you forget this, no matter how far away from God’s purposes you feel, the moment you look back to the Father, you’ll see him looking out for you with arms wide open on the porch, ready to welcome you home. What grace. And once you are back in his arms, he will whisper words that are unique to you and your story. But he will also remind you of your part in his story. And it is there, that you will find yourself again.
“So Jesus said to (those) who believed in him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)