Celebrating Weakness as a Key to my Identity

 

Wow, this is making me feel inadequate!
I’m still shocked that these words came out of my mouth, but they did, before I even had time to think.
I was talking to a friend about owning property. Like me, they’d been very circumstantially blessed in this area and, despite the humble way that they spoke about it, it was clear that they were sitting on some very valuable investments. My instant feeling, when faced with someone in a ‘better position’ to me was inadequacy.
This was further highlighted to me this week as I realized how often I do a self-appraisal of how ‘successful’ I am at life. Ironically much of this centers around how I think my life looks to other people.
Here’s some embarrassing examples of what goes through my head:

Ok, so I’m single. I’m basically failing at the most significant thing in life, so I need to make up for it somehow. I need to prove that my life is still awesome enough to justify being alone.

How am I going at life? Actually I’m doing okay. I have property. Lots of people my age don’t, and I’m going to nail this whole mortgage thing.
I have a career that I enjoy and I’m in leadership now and…
I’ve traveled…
I have lots of friends…
I give to missions and charity…
I have…
                        I can…
                                                I do…
                                                                        I am…

Successful.

I have a decent personal resume. Most of the time it’s enough to make me feel okay about being alone. Most of the time I feel that my strengths are outweighing my weaknesses.
But.
Sometimes they don’t help at all. They offer no answer when the ugly question rears it’s head ‘Why, despite all this, does nobody want me?’

Most of the time I also know that the successes I’m counting aren’t actually the things that matter; that they’re all superficial things that can be lost in an instant.

It really hit home the other day as I was crying out to God to speak into my life and He took me to James 1:10-11.
“[Let the rich boast] in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away… So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.”
What does it mean, I asked, to boast in my humiliation? I was reminded of the way in which the Apostle Paul boasted in his weaknesses and counted everything he had gained in this world as loss for the sake of knowing Christ, and I knew… it is in my weaknesses, not my successes, that my true greatness lies, because my true greatness does not come from me.

I thought of my ‘humiliations’ in life and discovered that in each of them lay a truth about my identity that was far more significant than any house, or job or travel. Here are some:

I am single – I am pursued and loved by God
I am dust – I am a new, eternal creation
I am weak – I have the strength of the Almighty
I am sometimes socially awkward – I am safe in God’s sovereign plan
I am alone – I am hid with Christ in God and am never alone.
I am sinful – I am forgiven and made righteous
I am overlooked – I am found and known and cherished.

So there are my greatest weaknesses; the yucky parts of who I am; the ones I try to cover up with the more glamorous looking list. But there also, in Christ, are my greatest strengths. As I reflect on who I am, and how I’m going in life, may I always remember that my boast is in these things, not the other list to which I cling so tightly. Because the other list? It is as fleeting as a spring flower.

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I don’t ever wanna be caught on the wrong side

When I read the Gospels, why do I automatically assume that I belong alongside Peter, or that I would have been Mary Magdalene? Why do I rarely see myself in the Pharisees or the Rich Young Ruler?

Yesterday in church I was convicted to examine my life. What do I value? What am I pursuing? I saw so clearly the allure of worldly things, which easily captivate my heart. I saw how self-righteous I am in my judgement of how the world should be – what is good or right. I saw how proudly I stood amongst a multitude of people who defined success, then boasted in their achievements.double-exposure-illustration-woman-with-city-in-her-hat_1020-442

I saw a great battle line drawn. On the right were those who were glamorous, popular, wealthy and so successful that they are proud to define themselves by material things. And I saw myself with them, desiring to be one of them, pursuing the things they loved. And then I looked to the other side, to those who were poor and lowly, and cared not for this world. And Jesus was on the other side.

How often do I claim to be a follower of Jesus, then busy myself with things that are not on His agenda? How often do I scorn things he loves, or delight in things he hates? When he comes back I sure don’t want to be caught swanning around in Prada shoes and sequins, or clamouring wildly up the corporate ladder, so I’d better stop pursuing them.

What is the key to a successful ministry?

walk-of-fame-star_23-2147513560When we ask ourselves this question, we often ask it in the context of a success and fame driven world. While as Christians, we may not be wondering ‘how can I be great,’ but we often as not are wondering ‘how can my ministry be successful?’ or ‘How can I do great things for God?’

I’m not sure these are bad questions to ask, but as I was praying through this recently for my own life, I sensed God give me clarity on how to achieve success: I need to redefine the goal.

In my life, God must be the prize, not ministry success. The goal is to seek Him more; love Him more; find more joy in Him.

As I pursue God, I may find that he uses me for some great, joyous purpose. He may give me what the world defines as ‘success,’ but if He doesn’t? Who cares? I’ve already attained the greatest treasure.

Run the race so as to attain the prize, but don’t forget that He is the prize.

Stephen Hawking: The tragedy of a wasted life

240px-Stephen_Hawking.StarChildA while back I went to see the movie ‘The Theory of Everything.’

A brilliant physicist, Oxford University and a love story: It was a recipe guaranteed to hook me, and it did.

I am far from the first to be captivated by the genius. To think that such extraordinary intellect can be trapped within such a broken body is both tragic and inspiring.

I am awed by men like Hawking, both past and present, who have walked and conquered the halls of the greatest universities on earth. I wish that ‘A brief history of time’ wasn’t something that would go entirely over my head. I admire Hawking for more than his intellect; for his perseverance, his fighting spirit and his sense of humour.

He is truly a man who will go down in history.

But that is all.

And I found myself wondering if that is enough.

If all we can hope for in this life is to do enough to be remembered, then Hawking represents the epitome of success. But what if it’s true that there is more?

What if it’s true that Hawking spent much of his life arguing against the existence of a God that he will one day face?

Then his brilliance was all for nothing, and his life was a tragic waste.

And suddenly the greatest minds of the halls of Oxford pale in comparison to the common man who sits with his Bible and knows the creator.

Remembering that your one wish has been granted

wishThere seems to be something in our human nature that drives us to always want more.

I’m an Australian. I have a job and a house and a bank account. Already I’m far wealthier than about 95% of the world’s population. You’d think I wouldn’t find anything else to want. And yet, as you could easily predict I find myself daily wanting things I don’t have.

Have you ever thought about what you’d ask for if you could have one wish? Anything? As big or crazy or costly as you want? What would you ask for?

I’ve often been struck by King David’s words in Psalm 27:4 “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.”

If David, with all his wealth and power could have ONE thing, it would be to dwell in the presence of God all the days of his life.

It sounds like a pretty good one thing. In fact, if I didn’t already have it, signed, sealed and delivered, I’d probably be keen to ask for that too!

And there is the problem and the solution all in one. I have been given the greatest, most amazing, all surpassing gift that could ever possibly exist within this universe, and somehow I take it for granted and I pursue lesser things.

I have the one thing that David wanted. Maybe that needs to be enough.

Jesus didn’t come from Burnside

Every city, I imagine, has their ‘posh’ and ‘derelict’ areas. In my city, one of the most stereotypically posh suburbs is Burnside. This is where housing prices exceed a million dollars, people drive Mercedes and shop at the ‘Burnside Village.’ Living in Burnside is a symbol of success.

About thirty kilometers to the north of Burnside lie a collection of suburbs with the worst reputations in the whole city. Rather than Mercedes and foie gras, these suburbs are stereotypically known for beat up Commodores, crime and drug abuse. There’s a lot of socioeconomic stigma surrounding the northern suburbs, as if not much good could come from there.beautiful-home-interior-picture-material_38-6251

The other day in Church, one of our pastors reminded us that people said that of Jesus’ home. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” they asked, surprised that the Messiah would originate from such a place. And it hit me: Jesus didn’t come from Burnside.

If my city took the place of ancient Israel, Jesus would have come from the northern suburbs. He came and dwelt amongst those who could most clearly see their need for him. He came to those who were broken. He came to give grace to the humble, and he opposed the proud.

It’s easy for the wealthy to imagine that Jesus would have been just like them. That he would have lived amongst them, and seen the world through their eyes. But He didn’t. He saw it through his Father’s eyes, and the father looked at the heart, not the suburb.