It's important sometimes to stop and think about the God you worship and how He is revealing Himself. What you find may be shocking.
Last week, we were talking about the story in the Gospels that takes place next to the pool of Bethesda. (John 5) We were asked which word or phrase stuck out to us in that story, and it was here that I began to understand the falsity of my God.
Someone said, "Would you like to get well?" and clearly related the question to his own need for healing. Another person said, "Get up, pick up your mat and walk" and again, related the story to his own need. I chimed in and said, "I have no one to put me into the pool" and proceeded to relate this line to the work that God has called me to do, of putting people in the pool. In the seconds that followed, God convicted my heart.
See, this is the kind of thing I always do. I externalize my God. I put Him wholly into the work that He's doing through me, at the cost of not allowing Him to work in me. It goes back to what I have said already this week about brokenness. Why does it seem that I never get any closer to wholeness in my life? Suddenly, I know that it is because I am so busy doing God's work that I have so very little time (deliberately so) leftover to be God's work. It's easier to be His presence in the world than to have His presence in mine.
That afternoon, I declared Him my "boomerang God" - He is the God I worship only as He comes back to me, reflected by the things I am doing for Him. I then worship this incredible God in my life who can do such things (ministry) with so little (me). And I love Him. But it's not...it's not really anything.
It's not anything because it's performance-based; it's not grace. The Bible warns repeatedly about this, and I think it's easy to see when we're getting drawn into this sin in the more obvious ways. When we're trying to earn our way to Heaven. When we're trying to prove our worth. When we're using works to speak for us. It's more subtle, though, when we start using works to speak to us. When we start taking our image of God from what He is doing through us in the world instead of what He is doing in us in grace.
And let me tell you - there is a lot that God needs to do in me.
What is ironic is that there is more God has to do in me because of all He does through me, because of the way that I have been interpreting and worshiping God in my life. You see, when you constantly think of all you do in terms of what God is doing through you, you start to think less of yourself. It's not humility, that you think of yourself less; it's wounding, that you think less of yourself. You start to become less of a man, less of a woman, and more just God's tool. Which sounds like a noble and holy idea, but it's perverted here. You start to think of yourself only in terms of what God is doing through you and...what if God doesn't do anything through you today? What if today, nothing happens? Are you anything? Do you even still exist? These are wounding questions and they start to sink into you and now, God has something more to heal.
I think there are probably more people reading this who can identify with what I'm saying that perhaps I even realize. There are so many people among us - in ministry or not - who take their identity from what God is doing through them, who look in the mirror hoping to see God reflected back because that's the only way they know how to see Him - by looking at themselves. Ouch.
When you look in the mirror, you're not supposed to see God. You're supposed to see God's glory. You're supposed to see God's work in you. You're supposed to see grace. That's how you come to know Him - when you look in the mirror and realize you're not who you once were, that you're more of who you were intended to be.
Since that morning, I've been wondering what it might be like to worship the God who comes to me, not just the God who comes through me. What it might be like to give myself over to grace. What it might mean to say, "I have no one to put me in the well" and really be talking about, well, me. Really be talking about the broken me that needs so much of God.
It's not easy. It's scary. It takes a lot of courage and vulnerability. I don't know if I'm strong enough to admit the amount of emptiness, brokenness, and yearning in me that has been looking for too long for the boomerang God to fill it when only the incarnate God can. But I consider also this: how much longer can God continue to show Himself through me without being allowed to show Himself in me?
For He has oh so much to do in me.