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.}

What if We Created more than We Consumed?

My downstairs is a jumble of fabric and thread and scissors and stuffing.  

I am in the middle of a sewing project: making reading nook pillows for my niece’s birthday. To be honest, sewing doesn’t thrill me. I can do it, but it is more detail-oriented than I like to be. The nit-picky details of measuring, finishing edges, and lining things up just-so drains me. But still, I do it. Because it connects me to something I do love to do.

 

Create.

 

When my niece and I went to the fabric store together, it was so fun. We admired colors and ran our fingers over textures as we dreamt together about what her reading nook could be like. Smiles. Possibilities. And now, in my downstairs, results.

 

There is a bolster pillow, pieced together with the combination of fabrics that she chose, that did not exist a few days ago. There is something new that used to live only in our imaginations.

 

Creating is about bringing ideas to reality. I love it. There is such joy in imagination coming to life.

 

Our culture gets it so backwards. It convinces us that it is the consumption of things that will make us happy. We have an obesity epidemic, but it’s not just with our bodies, it is with everything. We stuff ourselves full of objects other people have built, words other people have written, food other people have prepared, ideas other people have dreamed. And we fail to give our own imaginations a chance to come to life. And when we do, we miss out on a deeper satisfaction.

 

When we don’t create, we don’t connect with a core piece of our identity as humans. We are built in the image of a Creator God, who imagined this world and brought it to life.

 

A few weeks ago, I was at the Catalyst conference. The theme was “Make.” At the opening session, Chris Seay echoed the same thoughts. He said, “We are not made to consume, we are made to create.” Yes.

We are all creators.

 

Do you feel like you are living in that identity?

 

My guess is that if you are not an artist, you don’t. The terms “create” and “creative” have been hijacked by the right-brained. But really, these terms are universally true. To create means to bring something into being. We all have that power. We can create a meal, or a system, or a garden, or a party, or a costume, or a piece of furniture. Creating doesn't have to be crafty, and it doesn't have to be stuff. That's the fun. Creating doesn't have to be anything.

 

I wonder what would happen if we all created more than we consumed. How would it change our moods? How would it transform the world?

 

Sounds like a fun experiment.

How much do I lack?

My mind swirls with thoughts about all that I do not have. I am overtaken. The mirror. The scale. The magazines. They all shout about the deficiency of my body. I wish, I wish, I wish I lost weight as easily as I gained it. Or maybe even didn’t gain it at all. Some people are like that, right? Oh, if I could be one of those people, those beautiful people, those skinny people. Life must be so much better for them.

I lack.

My calendar. My routine. My days swirl in circles for want of purpose. I grapple with the emptiness of not having a job. Oh, wouldn’t it be better if I was doing more? If I was contributing. If I was an essential piece someplace. If I could achieve things. If I could have someone telling me I was doing good work.

I lack.

My kids. Oh, my kids. I look at my kids and know I could be doing so much better at this parenting thing. If only I had more creativity. More spontaneity. I dream of being a fun mom. A mom who is more present in the moment. A mom who sets up a tent in the living room and reads to her kids by light of a lantern. Oh, If I could be more like that.

I lack.

And what about my eyelids heavy for lack of sleep? My living room empty for lack of furniture? My phone not ringing for lack of friends?

Life would be better if…. I wish I could have… I am missing…. Feelings of lack consume.

And along comes a Psalm. Arguably the most common and celebrated Psalm in the Bible. I am amazed that a Psalm I have read so many, so many times can still smack hard against me. It convicts and settles and challenges and brings peace.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. – Psalm 23:1

Nothing.

I lack nothing.

The Lord provides me with everything I need.

He makes me lie down in green pastures. – Psalm 23:2a

Peace. Rest. I lack nothing.

he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. – Psalm 23:2b-3a

Nourishment. Renewing. I lack nothing.

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. – Psalm 23:3b

Direction. Guidance. I lack nothing.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. –Psalm 23:4

Hope. Comfort. I lack nothing.

 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. – Psalm 23:5a

Nourishment. Security. I lack nothing.

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. – Psalm 23:5b

Purpose. Blessing. I lack nothing.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. – Psalm 23:6

Grace. Love. Devotion. I lack nothing.

Nothing.

This does not mean, practically speaking, that I have everything. I still have wants and needs that have not gone away.

But my soul? It can be satisfied. I lack nothing. My soul can be fulfilled.

I can find rest for aimless wandering and answers for endless wishing in the arms of a God who provides.

The Lord is my Shepherd. I lack nothing.

Walk through the Psalms is a series reflecting on the beautiful and timeless poetry found in the middle of the Bible. It is an intentional study of God’s Word, grounded in the belief that God gave us the Bible so we could meditate on it, whether that takes us through inspiring or frustrating territory.