Wednesday, May 24, 2017

essential

As for man, his days are like grass;
     he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
     and its place remembers it no more.
But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to
everlasting for those who fear him. . . (Psalm 103:15-17)


No matter how hard I try to deny it, I am not indispensable.  I might try to convince myself and my world otherwise, but the truth remains.  One day I will be gone, either from this job or this life, and those who are left will remember me for a while, but, in the end, I will be like a flower of the field.  I will be gone and my place will remember me no more.  That truth should not be a surprise to me.  I am pretty sure that my old office at the church has probably forgotten me three or four occupants ago, or even been turned into a classroom or a storage closet.  And the Young Life club at Powell High School that I invested almost ten years of my life building and guiding, has never missed a beat in my absence.  In fact, it continues on, going strong.  And I'm pretty sure the kids who come to club these days don't have any idea who I am or that I was once a part of what God was doing there.  And I think this realization is supposed to produce something really good in me.  King David certainly thought so.

Years ago I was finishing up a month-long program assignment at a Young Life camp in Colorado. At the end of our time together my Camp Director (who was a dear friend that knew me well) pulled me aside for my evaluation.  "You did such a great job." he said.  "The creativity and quality of your work were simply outstanding.  I do, however, have one observation.  It seemed like you felt that you had to be present at everything in order for it to go well.  I wonder if you trust God much more in your presence, than you do in your absence."  And he was absolutely right.  Somehow I had convinced myself that in order for God to really work, I had to be a part of it.  Who knows, maybe I was afraid it wouldn't go well if I was not around, and maybe I was even more afraid that it would.

The painful reality is that we tend to take ourselves, and our contributions to the work of God's kingdom, way more seriously than we probably should.  It is a grace and a gift that God chooses to use us for a time, and while are here (wherever here may be) God desires us to be fully engaged and invested.  And we are.  The problem comes when we begin to believe that we are somehow essential to God's long-term effectiveness in our own little corner of the world--and maybe in one way we are.  But in a much larger way, we are not.  We are only one tiny piece of a great big whole.  That is not to minimize our contributions, or our efforts in the direction of his kingdom, it is simply meant to remind us that God is the key component, not us.  God is the Eternal One, not us.  God is the focal point, not us.  And that is not meant to demean or diminish us, it is meant to set us free.

A couple of days ago I was reading an article in our local newspaper about one of the co-head coaches (the wife of a husband-wife duo) of the softball program at the University of Tennessee.  In the article, as she was describing why the softball program was so successful (currently the most successful program in the entire athletic department), she said, "I don't know how to say this, but neither of us need this.  We want to do this, but it's not like we have to do this.  I think that is what makes it so fun for us.  I think that is why I can do what I do now, and I don't get all crazy about it.  I want to win.  I love to win, and I am super competitive.  But it's not like if I don't win a championship I won't die happy.  I am out here every year trying, but it's really all about growing these young women.  That is what's important to me."  That is exactly what I'm talking about.  Living of lives in a healthy way is all about operating out of a place of desire, rather than a place of need. 

God wants our lives and our ministries to flow out of joyful desire, rather than needy dysfunction; out of the overflow of his love and affection, rather than the scarcity of our own need to be significant and to make an impact.  And somehow remembering that he is from everlasting to everlasting and we are like flowers of the field is meant to free us up to do just that.  For if we are driven by our own need, rather than by his immense love, things turn ugly really quick.  For it is not we who are essential, but him.  Only him.  Thanks be to God! 

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