I heard it said once that we write what we need to read. With that in mind…
I was reading the Gospel of John the other day and this verse stopped me:
“How can you believe when you accept praise from one another and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God?”John 5:44
Jesus was questioning the Jews but when I read His words, I shrunk into my sofa. His question made me uncomfortable. It made me wonder. How different would my life look if I only concerned myself with God’s praise? If I let go of my need for human approval?
I think it would look profoundly different.
I’ve come to believe that most of us who are sincerely trying to understand and heed God’s calling for our lives have a pretty good idea what he is calling us to. We know. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve heard the quiet voice, felt the tug, or understood well that we are to wait. And, if we are lacking clarity, we know what God expects of us in that too.
“Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…”Matthew 6:33
An extra dose of grace found me unwittingly doing just that recently and the results were a little unconventional, embarrassing actually, and…telling.
I work from home most days…in the room I call our library but our team calls it the office. Tomato, tomato. On this particular day, I was working solo designing a new course for a client. In an unusual turn of events, I had a praise and worship playlist going in the background. I’m preparing for an upcoming weekend retreat and the wonderful team at You Are Conference provided the selections to get us warmed up. Multi-tasking makes me feel productive so, praise and worship and seminar design? Why not? I really didn’t think much about it. No big deal.
Except it kinda was.
I found myself stuck on a particular aspect of the course so I got up from my overstuffed chair and hit the makeshift whiteboard hoping to organize my thoughts and find some clarity. Next thing I know, there I am with hands (marker and all) raised to the Lord, spinning around the room in my leggings and slippers like a little girl, singing out praise to my Father God. I scribbled ideas as they came and kept dancing, singing, praising–hands wide, palms up, spinning.
Did I mention I got unstuck?
I should tell you that this daughter of the one true King would NEVER raise hands, spin in dance, and sing out to God in front of another human. Nope. (Okay, maybe with my Littles but they’re still just cherubs. They don’t judge yet.)
See my point?
My behavior changes. I limit myself when people are watching, because…“What if?” What if I look foolish, or come off too strong? What if I make the wrong decision? Or, what if they call me too ambitious? What if I fail? Or worse, succeed? What if they don’t like me?
I suspect those who know me might be surprised to learn this is my struggle. I’m told I come off as confident (and I am most of the time), capable (and I am), and, I’ve been told, I can be a bit intimidating. That last one freaks me out. “Intimidating” doesn’t generally win you praise.
This people-pleasing way of thinking has long been my struggle. Is it yours too?
“For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing.”Romans 7:19
We know what we ought to do…what God is calling us to do; we have at least some sense of our purpose. Yet too often we choose the path to human praise because it’s more comfortable, familiar, or immediately gratifying. I choose comfy, familiar and gratifying all the time. We go our own way and maybe we get to bask in the warmth of some momentary pleasure, glory even. Maybe…
In His infinite lovingkindness, the Lord will use whatever circumstance we walk into–going our way or His–for His good purpose. He’ll work on us, wait patiently for us, and let us figure things out the hard way. He’s just that good. But we are designed for so much more. We are chosen, each of us, for a purpose. And when we exercise our faith and heed God’s call, we are leaning into that purpose and it is there where we find joy. We flourish in Him.
This last couple of weeks I’ve been working through a process of refining my focus so that I can live my life with a bit more purpose. Chelsea suggested I try using Cultivate What Matters’ Powersheets so I set out to work through all the hard questions in the 2019 planner. The point was to set goals for the next few months and set out small steps toward achieving each one. Powersheets prompted with hard questions so I prayed through to the answers, frequently challenged by the process to the point of just walking away from it for a few days.
Living on purpose is hard sometimes but it’s also liberating. Working through Powersheets’ process helped me prepare to purposefully say yes to what God is asking of me and just as purposefully say no to things that would lead me away from His path. The planning process was tough, and I know acting on it will be tougher still. So, I’m turning up the music, raising up my hands, and choosing to dance for my Father God.
He’ll be watching and smiling. He may even be dancing too, or at least tapping his toes.
God delights when we step out with childlike faith. We’re bigger, somehow, when we push right past scary in pursuit of our purpose. We pray with abandon over a loved one. We dance with our babies and grand babies to their, and His, delight. We push post on the blog that feels too vulnerable, apologize when we really don’t want to, and look the homeless woman in the eyes and smile.
These are purposeful moments in a purpose-filled life. God loves those moments. I think we will to.
With the greatest of love,