WHAT you are vs. WHO you are: an intriguing and dangerous concept.
Intriguing, because sometimes I forget to make the distinction. Dangerous, because society doesn’t want you to.
Society wants to fit you into a mold. Society wants to file you away according to your appearance, abilities, academics, achievements. Your public successes and failures. The things you show it. The parts of you that everyone sees. Society wants to know what you bring it, and is never satisfied, always demanding more. If only you were ______, then you would be good enough. If only you could do ______ a little better. If only…
My biology teacher once told me a story from his senior year of college, when he and some friends went camping in the woods. They cooked steak over a fire and made some rocks explode, but as the moon climbed and the darkness fell, they began to talk. One had graduated and was in the world, working in a lab, while the rest were still seniors. The natural question they asked was, “What’s it like?” What’s it like, being in the world, making money, living the life you’ve studied for, spent so many years preparing for…
And he who had always made it in college by doing the bare minimum was in danger of losing his job at the lab because he consistently procrastinated. And he who had been on a six-month cycle of girlfriends, moving on whenever he lost the fun, was now engaged to the girl he’d been dating for a year but was afraid now to fully commit, fearing that down the road, it wouldn’t be “fun” anymore.
And he said, “I was preparing for what I knew I wanted to become–but not who I wanted to become.”
And he told them, “Figure out who you want to become.“
Boy, does that strike home.
Especially when it’s so easy to compare yourself to others, and when all you feel like you should be doing is more, more, more. I get so caught up in what I’m doing, what people see, my public image, and hold myself to the impossible standard, and I feel like I’m only ever signing up for more, but all I ever feel is less.
And I feel like the half of what I’m doing are the things nobody sees. And I know it’s selfish of me, I know it’s my human pride. Shouldn’t I be striving to live the life that goes unseen? Because here’s the thing: most of the things that really matter, do go unseen by most. Those are the beautiful things, the worth-it things. The things that give life.
And here’s the thing, those things that matter–they don’t go unseen by the people that matter. They don’t go unseen by the people they directly affect, affect deeply. People notice, when you care. It surprises me sometimes, though it shouldn’t.
And also…they don’t go unseen by God.
Sometimes, when I think of God as all-seeing, it scares me more than anything. Because I know my heart. I know its dirt and dust and grime and dark shadows and cobwebbed corners. The things I hide.
But there’s something bigger about an all-seeing God. It’s called grace.
Not wishy-washy grace. This is no dripping, drizzling, downsized grace. This grace is drenching. It’s torrential, it’s tidal, it’s transforming. It’s whitewater, riptide grace. It tears you apart until there’s no part of you safe from the blinding light of grace, the light that’s like a powerwash on your heart. It stings and moves you a little bit, and there’s no dirt that can withstand the power of this grace.
And because of this grace, you’re a stained glass window. You’re beautiful to him.
And this all-seeing God, he understands. He understands because he crafted every fiber of your being, tuned every string in your body, wove together the strands of your soul and sculpted the crevices of your mind and fashioned the turnings of your heart–he understands. You don’t have to explain yourself to him.
This all-seeing God, he sees what you do in secret. He sees what no one else does. He sees the dirt and the shame and all of the things I want no one to see.
But he also sees the things I feel like no one does. The things that I want them to know. The things that I hold precious and I feel like no one else listens.
Sometimes it doesn’t feel like much, though. We take it for granted. We say, God, yes, I know my reward is eternal, but look at what ____ is doing. Look at what they get. God, I know my reward is eternal, but I need something now. How am I supposed to give up ______ for that?
We feel like God expects something of us. We feel like we owe him something. And don’t get me wrong–he does. And we do. And it’s more than we could ever do on our own. And we know that, so we do one of two things: we don’t even try, or we try so hard, we make our checklist of do’s and don’ts, and we’re never satisfied, and we see God as the taskmaster. But…he’s a lot more than that.
He delights in his children. He delights to see them walking in the truth.
That breaks me. When I think that God could actually be pleased. Delighted. Giddily excited. The God of the universe…smiling for me.
I forget so quickly. But that…when I think of that, that’s what drives me on. It’s when I think of heaven, where he’ll wipe every tear from our eyes, every sorrow will be erased and every trouble will be vanquished, every darkness will be conquered and every sleepless night disintegrated–when it all fades away, and there’s only him, standing there with open arms. When I finally see it–when I finally see how all of this, it was really nothing.
It was really nothing.
And all that’s left is purity of joy and peace and love and holiness. A purity that could never be matched on this earth.
So have hope, take heart, and remember–remember that who you are matters a whole lot more than what you are. Your love matters more than your label or lack. What you see matters more than being seen. Your grace matters more than your grades, and your Spirit means more than your status, success, or security.
He sees. Ask him to help you do the same.
When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked.
“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”And Elisha prayed, “Oh Lord, open his eyes so he may see.”
Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha….
2 Kings 6:15-17
Lord, give us your eyes.
What a wonderful summer it’s been! I’ve had the amazing opportunity to spend it in full-time ministry for nine weeks, teaching kids about God from his Word and sharing the amazing gospel of grace. I’m so grateful for everything that’s happened and the way God has been working in all of it. I’ve been tired, I’ve been worn, I’ve been weak, I’ve been stressed and sick and overwhelmed–but what life I’ve found in this. It’s such a beautiful thing, and my Rock is that God is faithful. None of this has been about me in the first place, no matter how much I may act like it in my pride. He’s shown me that more than once.
My prayer is that I can hold on to that, clinging desperately. School starts a week from now, and there’s so much I still have to do–so many demands and decisions and conflicting commitments. This summer, I’ve learned that when I’m in that place, of being totally lost amid the different demands tugging me this way and that and feeling like I’m going to drown amid all the work and all the scheduling and all the things on my list that have to get done–I’ve learned that there’s only one place to go.
In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul writes:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
He promises to safeguard your heart and mind. Safeguard. There’s something about that word. Other translations use words like keep, protect, et cetera, but there’s just something about the concept of safeguard that I love. Maybe it’s because I know I need it. When my mind is so full it feels like I’ll burst with all the things I have to juggle and all the things I have to think about and everything tugging and pulling me this way and that and my heart is a turmoil of mixed emotion and inconstancy–the idea of a safeguard, holding the good things in and keeping the bad things out, is a welcome thought.
I picture an actual wall, the kind of thing they used to have in the medieval days, where the outer wall was the first line of defense in your castle. The kind of wall that’s ten feet thick and made of stone and iron.
This wall of mine, it has no holes, no weaknesses. But a wall, you say–things can get over a wall. You could dig a tunnel underneath or let fly an arrow over. So let’s add a nice force field as well. An impenetrable orb of energy.
Oh, and just for fun, how about some archers of my own? After all, the Weymouth New Testament translates this passage as “And the peace of God, which transcends all our powers of thought, will be like a garrison to guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.” Let’s garrison this fortress of my heart and mind with an arsenal of truth.
Voila. I think God’s got me pretty covered.
If nothing else this summer, I’ve learned what a refuge prayer can be. I get so easily frustrated, so easily consumed by the little things that become so BIG in my mind.
But…He is bigger.
Despite all the doubts, anxieties, worries, voices, demands, expectations, choices, pressures, burdens, fears I face, the fear of the LORD is greater. Because when you fear the Lord, it means an awe of who he is. When you’re in awe of who he is, when you see the awesomeness of his power and his might and his glory and his strength and his wrath and his purity and his holiness and his passion, when you recognize who this God is–everything else becomes small.
The antidote to anxiety? Truth and trust. Bury yourself in His Word until you find what it is you seek. The beautiful thing is, his promise is always true. He is with me, whether I necessarily “feel” him or not.
Wash yourself in who he is. Recognize the truth of the God you serve, and realize that he won’t ever fail you when you trust in him, because he is greater than the problems you face. Love him, delight in him, until everything else seems small in light of him.
Psalm 73:26 – My heart and flesh may fail, but the Lord is my strength and my portion forever.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand;
all other ground is sinking sand.
May the Lord safeguard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. May you recognize him for who he is, and take refuge in prayer and in promise. May you build your house upon the Rock and live your life in light of eternity.
This poem is really meant to be read out loud. Exactly as I pictured it, speeding and slowing and rising and falling like water tumbling smoothly over rocks but instead, instead the best I can do is type it out, divide it into lines, and hope that some shred of its music is retained.
Don’t be like the rest of them, darling.
Don’t listen to those voices.
You could fall or you could fly
but either way you’re in the sky so
darling, don’t let the stars in your eyes
be taken away
by the voices that say “no”–
no, don’t let them fade!
When it feels like you’re striving
and you’re all on your own and you’re trying,
oh, you’re trying so hard and you still dream of flying
but the world
keeps you chained.
makes you stay.
Caught up in the fast-paced
and you run till you’re red in the face
but it’s all in a daze
until one day you wake,
until you wonder,
until you choose to try going the opposite way.
You’re a salmon
struggling upstream, carving your way through the crowd
so many voices ring loud, saying
You’re never going to make it.
And then you start to believe it but no—
No, if you keep on going
the crowd keeps on swimming away
swept by the current but you–
standing on top of a mountain
that you dared to climb
because you realized
that it’s worth it
running the opposite way.
Don’t be like the rest of them, darling.
You could fall or you could fly
but either way you’re in the sky
and I believe you, will, rise
to the heights
with the stars that are
reflected in your eyes.
please, don’t lose that light.
Not to sound like my parents, or to jump on the any anti-social media conspiracy plot (no, I don’t think Facebook is destroying our society), but this is something that I’ve experienced lately: it’s just so constantly there, and it’s “instant gratification.” Everything is so rapid-fire that we never have the chance to slow down. I’m trying to work up the courage to commit to a certain portion of the day where I completely turn off my phone, just because it’s become something that is so automatic and so constant for me, that I fail to fully enjoy the reality around me, or even fully take it in. And I want to do that! I want to live, to really live. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Internet, and the wealth of information, opportunity, education and communication it provides. But sometimes–I need to step back, lest I lose the now, and with it, the vibrance of the world.
This one goes out to the world-changers,
the custom-breakers, culture-shapers, change-makers.
This one goes out to the crazy ones,
the believing ones,
the brave ones,
the faith-filled ones.
The ones who are terrified to act
but more terrified of what it means if nobody does.
The ones who live with their eyes open and their hands free.
The ones who recognize that they’re only here once–
they only get one shot,
one blip on the radar of time
–once, and they’re the ones
who try and make something of it.
The ones who go beyond influence
The ones who leave their mark,
a torch still burning
to be carried by the next generation
custom-breakers, culture-shapers, change-makers.
With one foundation forming their reputation
and they live
the lives that we remember.
we could be
the next generation of world-changers,
custom-breakers, culture-shapers, change-makers.
We could be
the ones that carry the torch,
ignite the flames
We could be
the generation to live,
to really live,
to live alive and thrive, not just survive.
Not looking to make it through
but to make it matter.
Not looking for my own glory, my own fame,
my own dreams, desires, wants, name.
But for something bigger, something
I’m still looking out for number one
it’s just that maybe number one
has a different name than me.
And this December
there’s a day that we remember
not for lights,
not for food,
not for glitter and gold,
not for commercialism,
or commonplace contamination,
but for someone
who knew that we could never get to God,
never reach that standard of perfection,
made it so we didn’t have to–he offered me redemption.
It’s the awesome gift of grace:
we call it commonplace,
take it for granted,
because we don’t understand it,
but it comes in the shape
of a cross.
So say thanks
and start a movement
spread the blaze
there’s still time for change,
so be brave.
Change the world, shake the earth,
move a mountain if that’s what it takes
to step out in faith.
Take a risk,
take a chance,
because you only get one–chance, that is–
so make it matter, if you want to be a
a custom-breaker, culture-shaper, change-maker.
The kind of revolutionary
that Jesus was. Carry the torch,
and march on,