Giving Up... My Hope for Greatness

Lent Series Button It’s shocking to read the conversation around the table of the last supper of Christ.

Christ breaks the bread, and foreshadows how His body will be brutally broken. He lifts the cup, and looks ahead to how His blood will be viciously shed. He looks around, and declares how His friends, now sitting with Him, will betray and abandon Him.

Sadness, vulnerability, and love infuse these words of Christ.

How will His disciples respond? With humility and brokenness? With compassion and gratefulness?

No.

“Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them.” –Luke 22:24

What?!?

I want to judge them. I do judge them. How could they be so blind? So callous? So unaware of what was really going on?

And yet.

I can hear the rational elements of the conversation.

Okay, Jesus. If you are leaving, who is going to take your place? I mean, we’ve built all this forward momentum. Remember last week when you were coming into the city? All the crowds gathered with those branches? We have to capitalize on that. Your message is so important. How can we keep it spreading?

You’ve developed us. We are ready. That’s what good leaders do, right? Pour into the next group to take their place?

It sounds logical. It could even sound holy. The hope to use our gifts. To fulfill our callings. To spread good news. To bring healing and hope to the world.

But often, there is another desire, lingering below the surface. The hope that along the way, there might just be a little greatness to be found for ourselves.

At least, that’s what happens to me.

Sometimes it’s because of the way my selfish ambition intermingles with my God-given dreams. But most of the time, if I’m honest, it’s something else.

My desire for greatness stems from my longing for validation.

I hope for the kind of affirmation that might finally silence the questions clouding my inner mind. Am I really any good at this? Do people value me? Is my voice important? What difference am I really making in this world?

Like the disciples, I miss the point that Jesus made over and over and over again.

Take up your cross and follow Me. I didn’t come to be served, but to serve. Whoever loses his life will find it. Don’t gain the world and lose your soul. Whoever wants to become great, should become the least.

Greatness {whatever that even means} will never validate me. It is a food that will only make me hungrier; especially if it’s the satisfaction I crave most.

My significance is not based on how many people share my words. My value is not based on how many wonderful things I have done in the world. My importance is not based on how many people I lead.

It’s possible to seek all these makers of greatness “in the name of Christ” and miss the message of Christ all together.

Jesus breaks bread and says it is through His body we will never be hungry. Jesus pours wine and says it is through His blood we will never be thirsty.

Our Jesus deems us worth dying for. That is our validation. That is our greatness. That is why we serve.

Christ’s love is our satisfaction.


Giving Up… is a Lenten Series asking a question: What if we gave up more than external things for Lent? It’s not a belief that we can get rid of our baggage as easily as we can write a blog post. But, it is a belief that admitting those things that keep us from deeper intimacy with Christ is a good start. {Please note, this isn’t in any way meant to be a critique of those giving up something external. Often that is connected to the internal in a powerful way. In my case, though, I realized that the external sacrifice was hindering me from dealing with what was going on below the surface.}

Giving Up... Best

Lent Series Button I stood at the Marta station of the Atlanta airport, staring at the options for which pass to purchase for my two-day trip. I wanted to make sure to get the right one, the best one, for my needs. The unlimited pass seemed excessive, since we would primarily just go to the hotel and back. And what about the ten-pass? Would we need to hop on and off that many times, or would the single ride make the most sense?

I stood, and deliberated, for an unnecessary amount of time. I was paralyzed for minutes in a decision that should have taken seconds.

I get stuck in the muck of my desire, in all times, in all places, with all people, to always make the best decision possible.

“Do your best” is a phrase infused with the power to motivate or debilitate, depending on the circumstance, tone, and relationship. And often, depending on the frequency with which it is uttered.

And for whatever reason, my wiring whispers “do your best” in my ears when I am making transportation decisions at the airport, when I am writing a sentence in a blog post, when I am leading a meeting, when I am asking my kids a questions, and when I am loading the bowls into dishwasher. Basically, I hear it All. The. Time.

Make the best decision. Show your best creativity. Do your best work.

Whispered once, “do your best” can be a motivating force. Repeated incessantly, it becomes a debilitating weight.

The word “best” has no meaning if it can’t be compared to another word. Best is a superlative. By it’s very nature, best can’t be a description of normal ordinary.

Why does ordinary feel so scary?

I don’t want to let people down.

This desire to please people goes deeper than fear of failure; the root is what lies beneath those fears: my understanding of my own belovedness. I can’t wrap my brain, emotions, and actions around the truth that I am loved when I am not at my best.

I crush myself under the burden of best when I don’t feel the grace of unconditional Love.

I have been meditating on the book, Surrender to Love by David G. Benner. In it, he says,

“While some people fear any love, what most of us resist is unconditional love- perfect love… I am willing to accept measured doses of love as long as it doesn’t upset the basic framework of my world. That framework is built on the assumption that people get what they deserve… What humans want is to earn the love we seek.”

So many times in our spiritual life, our problems go back to the same simple question: are we secure in our identities as God’s beloveds?

Our security cannot come from how we are loved by other humans. Love from people, even those most precious to us, will let us down from time to time.

Without realizing it, many of us use our broken human experiences as a lens through which we interpret God’s love.

We read verses about the good work we are supposed to do as Christ-followers, and fill them with obligations of all we should do, all we need to do, in order to honor God.

But that is not the lens of love.

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” – 2 Corinthians 9:8

Yes, we will do good work as Christ-followers. Maybe even our best work sometimes. But verses like these never say, “you should.”

The Christian life is not about striving; it is about receiving. God’s love is offered to us without condition. It is pure, perfect, and generous.

“For GOD is sheer beauty, all-generous in love, loyal always and ever.” – Psalm 100:5

This Divine Love is what giving up is really about. When we give up the filters, labels, worry, control, striving, and anything else we are grasping tight against our chests, we open ourselves up to receive the Love that can truly change us.

“genuinely encountering Love is not the same s inviting Jesus into your heart, joining or attending a church, or doing what Jesus commands. It is the experience of love that is transformational. You simply cannot bask in divine love and not be affected.” – David G. Benner


Giving Up… is a Lenten Series asking a question: What if we gave up more than external things for Lent? It’s not a belief that we can get rid of our baggage as easily as we can write a blog post. But, it is a belief that admitting those things that keep us from deeper intimacy with Christ is a good start. {Please note, this isn’t in any way meant to be a critique of those giving up something external. Often that is connected to the internal in a powerful way. In my case, though, I realized that the external sacrifice was hindering me from dealing with what was going on below the surface.}

Giving Up... My Worry

Lent Series Button I was in a conversation with my small group when I first realized it.

We were taking turns sharing our stories with one another, using an entire night for each person to talk and be asked questions. It was my turn.

My tears were flowing at a similar pace to my words, when I admitted, “I just worry that everything is two steps away from the bottom dropping out.”

It wasn’t until I said it out loud that I realized how pervasive this worry really was. I spoke about it that night and have continued to ponder it since then.

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Our lives are full of unpredictable events. I have talked to person after person after person who have had wonderful jobs, amazing families, marvelous friendships, and rock-solid faith, until suddenly, they didn’t.

Why would I assume that wouldn’t be me? Why shouldn’t I hedge my bets?

I have made choice after choice to do what I can to control the future. I try hard and work even harder to be the best at everything I can. If there is anything I can do to prevent failure, I will do it. At the same time, I assume that none of it is going to work. That inevitably I will fail or someone will let me down. That way, when it does happen, at least I’m not surprised.

I assume the sting won’t hurt as much if I expect it.

Because I don’t live with the physical sensation of anxiety, I spent years oblivious to the fact that worry was controlling me.

I’ve heard faith defined as placing our confidence in something. Sometimes it feels like the only thing we can be confident about is that at some point, all of our lives will hit bottom.

And so I place my faith in that worry. I am confident that something dreadful will come to pass in the near future. And the more I am confident in that, the less it feels like anxiety and the more it feels like truth. The worry fools me into a false sense of security.

But security is not the same thing as peace. Peace is what Christ came to offer me.

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I’ve been encouraged to lean into two spiritual practices lately: the welcoming prayer and the breath prayer.

The welcoming prayer consciously invites all the things we want to hide, the feelings we are embarrassed about, into the center of our prayer life. Not to confess them, or feel shame about them, but to lift them up as a reality God already sees.

God searches us and knows us. It is often we who do not know ourselves.

For me, this has meant welcoming my fears and worries and stress into the center of my prayer life. And knowing that nothing about them changes God’s affection for me. God knows I have struggled with this worry. This revelation is not a surprise to Him. And He values me and loves me and accepts me right now, just as I am.

I end the welcoming prayer with the simple request of “Christ, shine Your light.”

The breath prayer acknowledges God’s presence with us in every moment of every day. It is a simple phrase memorized and repeated, so that it enters our thoughts rhythmically and repeatedly throughout the day, just as we breath. The original breath prayer is “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.” But I prayed about what I needed, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, wrote my own breath prayer for this season.

“Abba, hold my hand.”

It is so simple, yet so important to acknowledge. In every step and misstep, my Daddy is with me. He never stops loving me. He never stops holding me.

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I was talking to a mentor who asked me to lean into the worry. Who wondered out loud what would happen if the bottom actually did fall out from any or all of the pieces of my life that I worry so much about.

I pictured myself walking hand-in-hand with my God, when suddenly, the bottom disappeared from below me. But I didn’t fall. His hand was holding me up, gripping even tighter around my wrist than it had before.

My circumstances may fall apart. In fact, if life is true to form, parts of them will. And so I may always carry a bit of that fear with me. But the worry? The confidence in a future reality that makes me hedge my bets? I am giving that part up.

My confidence does not belong in my worry. My faith belongs in my Abba, who I am feeling in a new way, is right there beside me.


Giving Up… is a Lenten Series asking a question: What if we gave up more than external things for Lent? It’s not a belief that we can get rid of our baggage as easily as we can write a blog post. But, it is a belief that admitting those things that keep us from deeper intimacy with Christ is a good start. {Please note, this isn’t in any way meant to be a critique of those giving up something external. Often that is connected to the internal in a powerful way. In my case, though, I realized that the external sacrifice was hindering me from dealing with what was going on below the surface.}