Today I was speaking about 3 ways we can totally screw up our lives and be completely miserable. It was the end of our series on vocation where the focus has been on helping people see who God has made them to be and to live more fully from the ‘true self’.
We haven’t dealt a lot of work/career because I think that is a subset of identity and vocation, but rather have focused on who we are and what it means to be fully alive as those people.
So the 3 ways I was reflecting on today were:
1. Spend so much time comparing yourself negatively to others that you can’t see or appreciate who you are anyway.
Gal 5:25-25 in the message reads so well:
Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.
Its way too easy for some of us to see what we lack rather than what we have and to live constantly depressed because of that. How much better to look inside, see who we are and be grateful for that. Then you can really start living.
There is an old Jewish tale told by Rabbi Zusya. It simply says this: “In the coming world they will not me ‘ask why were you not Moses?’ They will ask me ‘why were you not Zusya?’ (From ‘Let Your Life Speak’ – Parker Palmer)
2. Live in fear and never take any risks
Its so easy to get shaped by others expectations and agendas that often our true self can get lost as we try to please other people, or as we get squashed by their demands. Sometimes we need to courageously break free from the ‘box’ we are in and become who we really are.
Some of you would know the story of Rosa Parks. On December 1st 1955 in Montgomery Alabama Rosa Parks did something she was not supposed to do; she sat at the front of a bus in one of the seats reserved for whites – a dangerous, daring and provocative act for a black woman in a racially segregated society.
Legend has it that years later when Rosa parks was asked why she did it, she said ‘I wasn’t trying to set out to start a movement. I wasn’t trying to ignite a revolution. I sat down because I was tired.’
And by ‘tired’ she didn’t mean that she had sore feet. She meant that her soul was weary. He whole being was tired of playing by rules that deemed her to be inferior based on her skin colour and she said ‘enough’.
She decided that she wasn’t going to act on the outside in a way that contradicted who she was on the inside. She said ‘I will not longer act as if I were less than the whole person I know myself to be’.
Good for you Rosa and I reckon many more could learn from you example.
There is that wonderful quote, attributed to 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 doesn’t serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. Its not just in some of us, its in everyone, and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others
If we can stop pandering to other people’s insecurities and let go of our desires to keep others happy then maybe we can discover who we really are.
3. Let sin take up residence in your life unchallenged.
One of the phrases I have eradicated from my own vocabulary is the one that says ‘that’s just who I am’ as a way of excusing my bad behaviour. I have heard this so much over the years and usually from people who should know better. The next time I hear that I want to say ‘that’s too bad that’s who you are, but the good news is that in God’s strength you can change… if you want to’.
If I had to describe one of things that absolutely devastates me, its when someone who’s been a Christian for a long time tells me that they are wilfully going to go against what God says. I know we all stuff up and we all struggle with stuff too, but when someone says ‘I don’t care any more. I am addicted to porn/greedy/a gossip’ etc – when we resign our will then we actually sabotage our own lives.
If I had a dollar for every person who has said to me “I know the Bibe says ‘X’, but I’m still going to do ‘Y'” then I’d be a rich man.
We looked at Hebrews 12 where the author says that to run the race we need to get rid of any hindrances / sin etc, but the passage of scripture that really challenged me again today was the Rev 3 bit to the church at Laiodacea where God says ‘I would actually prefer you to be either hot or cold rather than luke warm’.
Its pretty full on when you consider it. God would love us to be ‘hot’ in faith, but if we don’t want that, if we would rather have two bob either way, then he’d prefer for us to give the whole game up.
As I said that this morning I was impacted by the gravity of the words. “Either follow Jesus wholeheartedly, or walk away and give the whole thing up…”
I put that choice to people – God would rather we are ‘hot’, but if we don’t want that then best to be ‘cold’. The other option makes him spew…
Struggling with sin is a whole different issue, but when we choose to allow some sin to simply form our identity and shape our character then we are really going to screw up our lives.
The challenge here is to bring our sin into the light and confess it to one another. Someone once said ‘if the church is really the church then its the one place where its safe to be me’. It will be a place of acceptance and grace. Sadly we all know that if we confess the wrong stuff to the wrong people then church can also be a lynch mob of self righteous cowards.
Anyway – if you haven’t discovered enough ways to screw up your life already then here are some to add to your toolbag…
So… good luck with that