performance vs. position

Only Me, On My Knees…

How many roads did I travel
Before I walked down one that led me to You?
How many dreams did unravel
Before I believed in a hope that was true?
How long? How far?
What was meant to fulfill only emptied me still
And all You ever wanted…

There are turning points in our lives, points in time where there is a quickening spirit and doors are opened if only for a season. Do we walk through those doors? Do we rise to the tasks set before us and grasp ahold of that quickening with both hands and let it fling us forward? Or do we shake our heads and find ourselves focusing too much on the muck and the mire, or the comfort that surrounds us? Focus on the past or seek the future?

When these opportunities have come my way, I’ve been slow to take them. I haven’t seen them for what they were. Or was too engulfed in pain and fear and shame to see the love and desire in God’s eyes. I couldn’t see the kindness motivating the opportunities. I could only see my lack. Or my hubris. So I chose the known over the unknown and my own abilities over God’s and sometimes I missed out. Sometimes God was gracious and showered me with His gifts despite my hesitation, showing me His great kindness even when I couldn’t see it for what it was. Those acts of kindness helped me to trust that God was different.

Isn’t that just like, God, though? He chips away at our reservations and shines the truth on our fears until we start to see God for who He is, not who others say He should be?

How many deaths did I die
Before I was awakened to new life again?
How many half-truths did I bear witness to
‘Til the proof was disproved in the end?
How long? How far?
What was meant to illuminate shadowed me still
And all You ever wanted…

And what does God as in return? To spend time with Him. To engage in relationship with Him. To get to know who He really is. And to accept the gifts He wants to lavish on us.

A year ago, five years ago, I would have said I was there in that place where God and I were encountering each other. But after this last year? I realize what I’ve had and experienced is merely a taste of who God wants to be for me. I’ve made God too small and I’ve believed His love for me wasn’t deep and abiding. I haven’t truly believed that my worth is not based on works or contribution or accomplishment. My faith walk has been burdened with works and lies and living in shadows.

For me to experience more requires some work on my part. Not work so God will find me worthy. More ridding the garden of the weeds that want to grow up and choke out the fruit God has started to grow in my life. In this season of my life I’m weeding and pruning and healing the soil. Only this time, I’m not doing it alone. The Holy Spirit is right there with me, digging in the dirt with a trowel and sometimes with His bare hands. He’s pointing out which plants are the tender shoots that will bear fruit with a little care, and which plants, no matter how pretty, will choke out that young life if left to grow. He’s ruthless but tempers that with a sense of humor. And compassion.

Some of the roots are deep and require strong hands to yank them loose from the soil. These hurt initially. There’s a visceral rending within my soul and a moment of shocked silence as together we yank the weeds free. This is where the compassion comes in. While it may take time for the wound left by the evicted weeds, God is currently quick to reveal what can grow in its place. This isn’t to say He heals everything quickly. I’m still smarting from some fairly invasive species of cursed weeds we identified and removed a few weeks ago. But I can see how the lack of this wicked flora has opened up space for blessing. And renewal.

I think this is part of the process of sanctification. I used to know all these huge concepts around sanctification. Theologies by great men who studied the Bible and proposed doctrines on what it all means. I am in no way dissing these minds, nor I am putting myself up there with them. I’m not a great thinker. Not in that way. What I am is a woman on a journey to know God and to know who I am in Christ. To really know. Deep down in my bones, branded in my mind and heart knowing.

If sanctification is the process of being made holy, of embracing that image of God that has been part of our DNA since Adam and Eve, then isn’t partnering with God to remove the weeds, the roadblocks, the generational curses, the agreements we have wittingly or unwittingly made that pull us away from a relationship with the Trinity part of that process? And isn’t the journey of sanctification being able to see God for who God truly is and wanting to sit at His feet and commune with Him, worship Him, rest in Him?

There are turning points and seasons in which we are offered the path of God’s quickening spirit. If we choose to trust the hand God is holding out and walk into that choice, things will move quickly. Those weeds, God will be very quick to point them out. Never with shame. Never to make us feel guilty. Always to say ‘Do you see that there? If we plucked that out, if we ripped it away and mended the soil, this fruit, this gift will have room to grow. What do you say? Should we do that? Should we get our hands dirty and play in the soil? When this season is over, think of the glorious garden there will be.’

I’m so glad God is patient. I’m glad He has offered me the gift of this season in so many different ways, always prodding just a little deeper until I was able to say yes. And I’m glad He redeems the time. For this, for that patience and those gifts and that steadfast love, I’m truly grateful. What has God wanted? Me. Only me.

Only me on my knees
Singing holy, holy
And somehow
All that matters now is
You are holy, holy

(Nichole Nordeman. Holy. Sparrow, 2002. CD.)

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We Can Work It Out

I am a recovering performance-aholic. Having grown up in the Evangelical church, raised in a work obsessed North America, and having done a stint in a religious focused college, it’s not surprising that performance became the foundation of my spiritual journey. In recent years I’ve come to discover that God doesn’t care about our performance. God loves us on our good days and God loves us just the same on our bad days. God doesn’t change. His love for us is just as potent, just as full and real today as it was  yesterday and as it will be ten years from now. His love is not based on what we do or even how we do it. It’s based on our position in Christ. This is a heady concept to grasp.

While I am sure I heard snippets about this concept through out my 40+ years, it didn’t start to really sink in until my first Graham Cooke conference in 2011. Graham was speaking on favor, a topic I’m still unpacking, and the Holy Spirit took the opportunity to niggle my mind and spirit and start to whisper truth to me. I wonder why he didn’t just hit me over the head with the truth, it would have taken less time. I’m a slow learner. I wish I could say I took what the Holy Spirit was showing me and ran with it. Alas, I did not. Claire can attest to this. I’m sure I drove her crazy at times with my bull-headed and stubborn clinging to performance based christianity. I’m blessed with a patient friend and mentor.

The shift from performance to position happened gradually. I started to hear sermons at church and performance based language started to stand out to me. I started to become uncomfortable with the “make hay while the sun shines” and “be strong and do the work” messages I was hearing from church, from a money management class we were teaching, and from my husband. On of the strongest voices of the performance message is indeed my man. It’s how he was raised. It’s embedded in his work ethic and his spiritual world view. He would say it’s who he is, but I’ve come to learn that’s a lie.

Performance is all about working to be worthy of favor. It’s about proving I am worthy of God’s love, of blessing, of heaven. And it’s a heavy millstone around the necks of christians everywhere because it’s a lie. We can’t work our way into heaven. We can’t please our heavenly Father enough that He will overlook our sinful nature and grant us salvation. We can’t buy our way into forgiveness. We can’t continue to nail ourselves to the cross because, you know what? Jesus already did that.

It’s okay to work hard. I’m not trying to knock a strong work ethic. But we need to remember the Mary to our Martha. There is work to do, and God does want us to live out the life He has put before us. Part of that is being. Abiding. Relationship. Mary showed us about relationship. And this, my friends, is where God wants to bring us. Into relationship with him. Performance based faith tells us to do. God wants us to be with Him.

God wants to have a relationship with us. How…different. I’ve been thinking about relationships a lot lately. One of the most precious relationships I have is strained. It’s broken in ways I don’t know how to fix. This brokenness is illuminating to me just how much God wants to be for me. He wants to expand within me and fill the hurting places in my life. He wants to comfort me, rejoice with me. He wants to be my hiding place. He wants to fill me with passion and give me impossible dreams that He will fulfill. He wants me to live my life in outrageous joy. And He will do whatever it takes to get me there. He’s tenacious. He loves me. Me. With all my warts and faults. Why? Because He doesn’t see me the way I see me. He sees his perfect creation, covered in Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary. He sees me through the eyes of Heaven.

I can’t get all of that from working harder. The working out of my salvation, it’s not going to speed up if I do more. My faith, it’s not going to grow larger if I lead more people to Christ, join more committees at church, attend or lead more Bible studies or memorize more scripture. My life isn’t going to right itself if I do more at home or at work. God’s love and delight in me isn’t based on outcomes.

I have wondered why more people don’t seek out an actual relationship with God. And then I recall the God of my childhood and the performance based christianity I lived under for years. Why would anyone want a relationship with a God who is fickle and will only deign to love us if we sacrifice ourselves over and over again on the altar of works?  But, if we know God would love us no matter what we did or who we believed ourselves to be, wouldn’t we want to get to know Him? A God who delights in us and sees us who He has declared us to be in Heaven, that’s a God I want to spend time with.

I am still recovering from my performance based upbringing. And I’m praying the Holy Spirit reaches out to my husband and shows him just how much God delights in him.  He’s burning out from performance expectations – internal and external. And I’m praying to learn to abide. It’s a dangerous prayer, but one I must pray. If I am actually going live the prophetic, I must learn to abide in relationship with God. Everything with God is relational, and that includes the prophetic. Without relationship, without compassion, all I am is a chaotic noise that is adding to the problem, not the solution. Besides, isn’t a deep and abiding relationship with the God of the universe is a beautiful thing?