What are some things you may need to let go of?

This is a blog series with posts based on questions. I hope you respond to the questions as well, on your own blog, in the comments, or just in your journal at home. I hope it helps this blog become more of a conversation than a monologue. I also hope it helps us all wrestle through the important stuff of life and faith, the kind of stuff we might ignore if left to our own devices. You can read more background and hopes here.

The first set of questions will come from Steve Wien's book, Beginnings, which I highly recommend you buy and read. However, you are welcome to participate even if you haven't read it, just by tackling the questions.

Our first question comes from page 44, at the end of Day Two, when God creates an expanse between the waters, preparing the creation for the life that is coming next.

what do you need to let go of in order to expand into who you need to become?

What are some things you think you may need to let go of in order to expand into who you need to become?

I sat across from him on the couch, legs criss-cross applesauce, listening intently. He was talking about the future of some projects we were working on together. My eyes and ears were glued to the wisdom of this older man whom I respect beyond compare. Until the conversation turned, and he began to say something affirming about me. Then, I shifted in my seat and turned my gaze to the floor. When he asked me what I was thinking, my normal ability to put thoughts into words became a stammer of "ums and ahhs." Until I blurted out, 

"But who am I?"

I followed that statement with all sorts of rational objections to his affirmations. Who am I to do these things you think I can do? Who am I for God to call me forth in that kind of way? Who am I to.... 

He looked at me, and with a conviction beyond his normal tone said, "That question is the biggest thing holding you back right now. You have to let it go."

I veer down the "who am I" road of self-doubt without conscious thought on a regular basis. It's a well-worn road that seems to draw me away whenever I look down the less-predictable and uncleared ways of affirmation and calling. 

I'm in good company on the "who am I" road. Moses thought a better speaker would have been more qualified. Jeremiah thought he was much too young. Peter went back to fishing for awhile. Self-doubt is not a new development in our human condition. 

Sometimes we even mislabel self-doubt as humility. We don't think we are supposed to see and say what we are good at doing. We fear looking conceited. Yet, Jesus was clearly humble and clearly confident at the same time. He knew his calling, he knew his gifts, and he pursued them whole-heartedly. If he is our model of what it means to be fully-human, how can we follow him down that path?

I've had a few experiences recently in which I have used my gifts and thought afterwards, "That was good." Which, honestly, feels uncomfortable. I am getting scratched by some thorns on this less-cleared way of seeing my own potential. It feels so deeply vulnerable to name our gifts. So, the "Who am I" road starts pulling me back: What if it turns out I'm wrong? What if I fail, and I'm not good at this after all? What if I look foolish? What if...? 

I love this quote by Marianne Williamson (often misattributed to Nelson Mandela),

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

I am learning to be free. I am learning to choose the path of confidence instead of the road of self-doubt. As I clear out the overgrowth, I'm discovering the surroundings are much more expansive than I realized. 

- Steph


Your turn: What are some things you think you may need to let go of in order to expand into who you need to become?

If  you are a blogger, link up with your post below. If you are not a blogger, you can also link up to an Instagram post, how cool is that? Or, maybe now is the the time to step out of the shadows and respond with a comment. I promised I will reply to all comments left. 

There is risk, but there is also great power, in sharing our longings out loud.


Now, it's time to reveal next week's question, from page 76 of Beginnings, "What are you doing when your soul is deeply glad?" 

That's going to be a vulnerable one, friends. But let's do it. Let's have the guts to say these things out loud.

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.}

Seeing Beauty without Decorations

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In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

–Phil 2:5-11

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It’s interesting that Christmas is synonymous with decorations, for at its core, Christmas is not about putting on beauty, but about taking it off.

At the first Advent, Jesus set aside glory for humility. We didn’t tidy up for the earth or our lives for him before he came. There was no level of decoration that could have been appropriate anyway. This wasn’t about our actions, it was about His.

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Holy God, as we put our decorations up for You, may we remember how You took Yours off for us. This season, may we stay in touch with the fantastic, unbelievable, radical love shown through the humility of the incarnation. May the beauty of that act of love overwhelm us more deeply than any other beauty we see. And may we be willing to love others just as radically. Amen.

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Evermore – Phil Wickham

“Humble King, Sovereign Lord, He shall reign forevermore.”

 

 


NoticingImmanuel

Noticing Immanuel: a series for Advent. Each day starts with noticing: a picture of an everyday Christmas moment. That picture leads to a verse, a meditation, a prayer, and a song. My hope is that when we see those Christmas moments a second time, they will strike us differently. That we might feel the presence of Immanuel this Christmas season, whether we are sitting in quiet or moving in chaos.