Friday, October 2, 2020

Striving and Thriving

There's a strange thing that happens in the world, and it's called 'striving.' It's the notion that working hard will not only get you everything you want and think you deserve, but it will prove your character in the process. Working hard will show others what you're made of, and if you want to succeed in your chosen field, you have to work twice as hard as anyone else. 

The truth is that a lot of persons in our world strive (work hard) to get where they think they want to go, and after they've spent half their life proving their worth to be there, they spend the rest of their life striving to prove it wasn't a fluke, that they really deserve to be there and that they really were the right choice for the opportunity - for themselves and for others. 

It puts us in this perpetual state of proving ourselves, where we never get to enjoy what we're doing or what we have because we're too busy trying to make sure no one else questions it. We're too busy trying to say that we are worthy of a thing, and we never get around to doing or being that thing. We're so bent on showing the world that we're so perfectly...whatever...that we put more emphasis on what it looks like from the outside than how we are performing from within. We live on appearances and not actually achievement, even when it looks like we've made it. 

What I've found is that the Christian faith turns this notion on its head. What I've found is that when you're living into your calling and doing the thing that God has created you for, all of that striving ceases. You stop trying to prove yourself because, with that deep satisfaction in your soul that you are right where you are supposed to be - not right where you 'deserve' to be - you don't have anything to prove to anyone. Not even to yourself. And certainly not to God; He knew who you are when He knit you together in your mother's womb. 

Think of yourself as a marble. In the world's model, you're constantly in motion, constantly picking up speed, always running your course so that you can show how adept you are at doing it. You're constantly racing, always moving from one thing to the next and your whole existence becomes this kind of blur that is almost indistinguishable from any other kind of blur except that perhaps you have a few selfies of your still life. You know, for appearances. Hey ya'll, look at my marble.

But in the Lord, what happens is that when you come into the place you are meant to be, you sort of settle in. That marble that is your life comes to rest in a little divot that's been carved out just for you and rather than falling into the trap of believing your life is most beautiful as a blur, you can really start showing off all your colors. Free from the burden of having to prove yourself, you are able to finally show yourself. 

It's an entirely different heart to live out of. But it's great. 

Because when you're settled in, there is no tension. There is no stress. There is the burden of the good work that you do in the world because you recognize it as holy, but this burden is nothing compared to the one that the world wants to heap on your shoulders. You are able to shift your focus from your self to something bigger than you because the deepest questions about who you are are already satisfied. You don't have to ask any more. You don't have to prove it. And you don't have to spend your life trying to get others to see it. You just shine, my friend, right where God has given you rest. Instead of spending your whole life striving, you get to thrive. It's such a cool place to be. 

Which brings us to a point where we have to say that if you find yourself striving, especially if you're still striving even after you've reached the place you were aiming for, something is amiss. There's some narrative in your life that isn't quite where it's supposed to be. Remember what Jesus said? My yoke is easy and my burden is light. I have come to give you life, and life abundant. There is peace available in Jesus, and it comes when we live into our calling. Not because we are so convinced - and must so convince others - that we 'deserve' it but because we are wired to do it that way and nothing else. Because that's who God made us to be. 

There is rest for the weary, and it comes when we allow our lives to settle into a place that we don't have to earn, that we have deliberately grown our way toward until we've reached it, and's time to just rest. To come to settle into this special little place God has carved out for us, to stop living life as a blur and start showing our colors. Every swirl of them, a mark of the wisdom and goodness of God. 

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