There is a time and place for us to shine. We all like the recognition that we receive from others. Many of us on social sites get so excited to see that red number at top, or to notice new followers/ friend requests. But, it goes beyond the idea that we like the recognition it’s that we need recognition. We are hard-wired to thrive on encouragement and wither when discouraged.
Obviously if I’m writing a blog it’s partially because I want recognition for what I think is good insight. But, that’s only a part. Like John the Baptist my heart’s desire is that Jesus must become greater and I must become less. But, what does this mean and how does this play out in 2011 and beyond?
I believe that in every heart there is a pendulum that constantly swings between serving only myself and serving only God. There is only one who’s heart swung fully towards serving God- and I am not him. However, my heart has swung fully towards serving myself- but even in those moments I have not lost the imago dei (image of God).
The bad part in all of this is that even when we do things that are supposedly for someone else or we are serving God there is a part of us that wants the glory. We teach a class or lead a group because we want to feel important to someone. We enjoy the affirmation we receive. We volunteer with a mission trip because we want to pay penance to balance out something bad we’ve done. I have even found myself praying because I wanted credit for the act of praying. Our hearts are constantly betraying and condemning us.
If I want to walk in the freedom I have been given then I must recognize that I have nothing to prove. This is because God chose me and loved me before I ever thought about trusting him. As a matter of fact- if God had not pursued me then I would never have sought Him on my own.
I learned an important idea while serving in the Methodist Church. It is the idea of prevenient grace. This means that God has been working in my life and drawing me to himself from the time I was born but I didn’t recognize it as God’s grace. I might have chalked things up to coincidence, luck or karma but not “god”. That was true until I finally had a lightbulb go off and I finally recognized Him for who He is and what He had done for me. But, even that was God’s illumination and not something I conjured up.
God knows the darkest secrets of my heart- he knows the lies I tell, the betrayal I allow in my heart, the racism and bigotry that runs through my mind-and yet He calls me His child. Just as I would never turn away one of my children, even if they cut me off, so God does not stop loving us.
Once I realize that I have nothing to prove then I can recognize that I have all the affirmation I will ever need. I am loved, accepted, forgiven, and whole. I have been given a new identity and my heart has been restored. Romans 8 “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. For the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death”.
I am to shine like the stars in the heavens but I must remember that I am not the light. I only reflect it. I can only do that when I am in proximity to the One who is the Light of the world. This does not always look like I think it should- Matthew 25 is a passage that makes this distinction and reminds us that serving Jesus is more than a Sunday check list.
If you are struggling with your worth or value then do this- think about the worst thing you have done. That probably didn’t take very long- the wounds are deep and the regret lingers. Now, think about the best thing you have done. For most of us that’s harder. We don’t see our good as anything extraordinary or unique- we can usually even find fault in that. But, we have all done something we can be proud of. The amazing truth is that God loved you no less when you were at your worst and loves you no more when you are at your best. His love is not based on what we do but who He is.
Becoming less is not about devaluing ourselves but rather recognizing the true value of the One who has loved us and freed us. “John replied, “God in heaven appoints each person’s work. You yourselves know how plainly I told you that I am not the Messiah. I am here to prepare the way for him-that is all. The bride will go where the bridegroom is. A bridegroom’s friend rejoices with him. I am the bridegroom’s friend, and I am filled with joy at his success. He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less” John 3:27-30.