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.}

My Guest Post Confessional

  Today, I make a confession.

 

But it's not on this site. It's through a guest post for my friend Steve Wiens. His blog is wonderful. Even the name, "Actual Pastor: living my life as is instead of as if," breathes words of grace. Awhile back, he had a post about being the parent of young kids that sent the Internet into a tizzy of shares and likes because the words were so needed. Seriously, if you haven't read it, and you are a parent, do so now.

 

Anyway, I open up a bit today, admitting some "as is" stuff about myself. Here's a tidbit:

human beings not human doings

I am addicted to achievement.

It started when I was a high school student. I worked hard and got straight A’s. When that happened, I felt good about myself. Really good. There was something thrilling about knowing I did my best. And getting a score from someone else that proved I was succeeding? Well, that was like a drug.

I brought the addiction with me to college, where my first major was biomedical engineering. Somewhere inside I think I figured the harder the major, the harder the job, and the better the fix I would find for my craving.

But then, as God took hold of my life, I switched from engineering to social work, and then, after some turns of events, wound up in ministry.

I thought when I switched directions, I left my addiction behind.

I didn’t.

 

Read the rest here.

 

 

Comment

How do you define failure?

I am afraid of failure. I love dreaming and goal setting, but sometimes I hesitate to do it. Because if I set goals, I might not reach those goals. And then? Then I know I'll have that sinking feeling in the pit of my gut. I hate that feeling.

I am posting about a childhood that I never achieved over at Prodigal Magazine today. Will you join me there? Here's a little teaser.

I knew I could do it.

When I was little, I just knew. Every time I was in my yard or at a playground, I would try, sure that this time would be different. Certain that this time, I would accomplish my goal.

I would kick hard at the air in front of me while arching my back so far that my hair would kiss the ground as I sailed by. Then, at just the right moment, I would lean forward and bend my knees into a tight tuck. Back and forth I moved, swinging higher and faster each time.

Some days I would swing so high and so hard and so fast that the structure would shake. Yes, I would think. This is it!

Yet, try as I might, I never looped around.

I failed.

Head on over to Prodigal Magazine to read the rest of my article, Redefining Failure.

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