Destiny

Jesus displayed perfect love, yet it wasn’t by focusing on those around him, but by focusing on the Father and doing only what he saw his Father doing.

Advertisements

Not only am I a millennial myself, but I am currently researching young adults for my thesis, and I keep coming across something that I believe resonates with many people: a search for their destiny. Millennials tend to be more outspoken about this search than previous generations claim to have been (I wasn’t there, so I can’t speak to that 😉) but I think it’s something every heart desires. As a Christian, I have often wondered what a godly understanding of destiny is, or if God even cares about such things.

This morning I had to apologize to a friend because as I have been wrestling with this, I felt like what I told her several weeks ago was wrong. I had told her that I thought walking in our gifts and abilities was a response of worship to God’s love. I’m no longer sure that’s true. Hear me, I absolutely think that we should be living for other people, that when we are healthy our focus will be on others and not on ourselves, but that isn’t worship. Worship only happens when we focus on God and who God is. I realized that I was once again falling into the trap of striving, of a works based faith. I thought it was okay because it was joyfully done out of the joy and love I had received from God. The bottom line, though, is that I was taking what God had given me and then taking my eyes off of him in order to give it to others. Giving God’s love to others is a good thing, right? Yes, but only when we do so without taking our eyes off of God. Jesus displayed perfect love, yet it wasn’t by focusing on those around him, but by focusing on the Father and doing only what he saw his Father doing.

So what does this have to do with our destiny? First, I think that our understanding of destiny will always be diseased as long as it’s focus is on others, and even more so if the focus is on ourselves. Our destiny is found in God alone, and it is only out of the overflow of that that our mission comes—a person’s mission is the shape of how the overflow of our focus on God will impact those around us. The classic confession from the Westminster Shorter Catechism is that “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” As I have been praying and reflecting over the past few months (and have been reading the Passion Translation of the Bible) I came to this, which is basically a rephrasing of the catechism above:

Our destiny is the extravagance that overflows from being the lovesick beloved of God.

What’s in a name?

We fight to find significance in our names, to find heritage in our family name and purpose in our given name. What would happen if we let God speak to us about what he says our name is?

Who remembers the writing assignment in elementary school where you had to ask your parents why they named you what they did, and what your name means? Or how many of you have spent hours on ancestry.com trying to find that great-great-great-great-grandparent that isn’t connected yet?

I spent a semester researching a portion of my maternal grandpa’s extended family after finding out they had been ordained Church of God ministers–and discovering this only after I had begun the process to be ordained in the Church of God, which I didn’t think I had any ties to at the time! I dug through old Church of God yearbooks, tracking their moves, and I read hundreds of articles from the Gospel Trumpet reading prayer requests from them, as well as full articles written by them describing their lives, their ministries, and the ways they were seeing God move. While I got to count it as a paper for a class in my seminary education, it was fascinating in its own right just to understand a little bit more of my heritage.

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

So the well-known quote goes. So why do we fight so hard to find significance in our names? To find heritage in our family name and purpose in our given name? I know I’m not the only one who has spent countless hours googling the root, history, and meaning of my given name! My name means “ewe” by the way–a female sheep. I’ve read the story of Rachel and Jacob dozens of times. Yet I keep going back.

And I am finding more. These past few weeks, God has been speaking to me about what my name means–not just my name in general, but my name as it specifically relates to me, how he sees me, and who he created me to be. And it matters. Knowing how God sees me changes how I live. It changes what I care about and what I pursue.

We long for significance. We have a deep need to be given a name that means something. We make memes that say

“How cool is it that the same God, who created mountains, & oceans, & galaxies, looked at you & thought the world needed one of you too?”

and we wonder and we hope that it is true. Too often we compromise and settle for a name that already exists. We take on the name of our occupation, of our social group, of our status. But here is the awe-inspiring truth: God named you. He named you with a purpose. He named you from a place of deep intimacy, of having carefully crafted every part of who you are. Though he knows the number of hairs on your head, he does not think of you as a number, as just one more human among all the other humans. He is the God of unending creativity, and he created you to bring something only you can bring to this world, if you will let him be the one to name you. And here is the best part: he is dancing, giddy, excitedly waiting for the chance to tell you, to take you deeper into who he created you to be, and it is the journey of a lifetime.

Image credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Embodied Living Hope

I sing of perfect love, who breathes dreams to the soul

This is a poem/song that I wrote primarily during vacation in North Carolina last summer. It was born out of a time of reflection, taking time to sit in silence, listening to what God was saying to me in that moment as well as attempting to summarize and articulate some of what God had been teaching in past months and years. These words continue to speak deeply to my heart of some of God’s truths and promises, and I hope you hear God’s passionate love as you read.

Embodied Living Hope

Oh hear, you weary ones
Come rest, you battle-worn
I sing of perfect love
Who breathes dreams to the soul

We bring our joys, our scars
They story His faithfulness
We long with yearning hope
To be made like our Lord

As I walk through the flame
Of God’s faithful acts I will sing

I play in the presence of almighty God
For I’m known by the scarred, exalted Son
Filled with Spirit of resurrection power,
I am embodied living hope

I gaze into his eyes
Eyes filled with passionate love
I feel joy rising up
As I’m named: Child of God

As I walk through the flame
Of God’s faithful acts I will sing

I play in the presence of almighty God
For I’m known by the scarred, exalted Son
Filled with Spirit of resurrection power,
I am embodied living hope

I’m clothed in his glory
In the power of his name
No darkness can hold me
No chain can remain

I’m clothed in his glory
In the power of his name
No darkness can hold me
No chain can remain

I play in the presence of almighty God
For I’m known by the scarred, exalted Son
Filled with Spirit of resurrection power,
I am embodied living hope

Generosity and Grace

I’ve been learning a lot lately about allowing myself grace. I have, for a number of reasons, chosen to take this summer to slow down. I’m being more strict with myself about taking a full day off every week, and am trying to figure out, as a workaholic, how to do this “rest” thing. Similarly, as much as I hate the term “people-pleaser,” I draw way too much of my perceived self-worth from being helpful and useful. I’m learning how unhealthy these tendencies are, and I believe it all comes back to worship and love.

When asked about what the top commandment is, Jesus gave two: love God and love others. However, I think I at least have a tendency to separate them too much. The second is an outflowing of the first. When a couple is in love, they are always learning more about each other. Similarly, as we love God, we grow in our understanding of who God is; it is by knowing and trusting in who God is that we are able to act in love towards others. A part of that trusting God, though, is trusting what he says is true about us. That’s the part I struggle the most with.

God is love, and it is through learning more about Love that we know what it looks like to truly and purely love another.

I’ve heard it argued that in order to “love others as ourselves,” we must learn to love ourselves. While it is true that it is only through healthy self-respect and boundaries we can love others (BrenĂ© Brown has some great resources on this), healthy self-respect doesn’t come because I focus on myself. We are healthy when we believe what God says about us. Though I may decide that I want to work harder all the time, God says I am made to have a sabbath. I have to decide to trust what God says over my own voice. It comes down to worshiping God, not myself, and trusting that God is good.

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (NIV, Matthew 7:11-12)

I don’t always know what is best for my life. Like a child, I have to trust that my Father knows what is best for me and will give me good gifts. I love these two verses; Jesus goes straight from saying to trust God’s goodness to the “golden rule,” the second of the two most important commandments. I’ve been struggling with trusting in the goodness of God regarding myself and my future; perhaps for others the struggle is in a different area of trust. However, I believe it is only by trusting that God is a perfect father who gives good gifts that I will ever really love those around me.

What do you think? Do you struggle to trust that God is good? How have you found your view of God to affect how you love others? I’d love to hear from you!

From Worry to Wonder

What if we worry because we are asking the wrong question?

Worry loves to drag us down, convince us that we are drowning. Many things can be said about worry and its varied causes and symptoms. I think we try to make worry more complicated than it really is, often sadly (at least for me) in an attempt to excuse and rationalize our worry. However, choosing faith and trust over worry is far from easy, and perhaps those topics that are simplest yet hardest require the most unpacking.

One area where I struggle with worry is planning for my future. I (like most) had a dream when I graduated college. For me, it was to get a steady, good paying job, to make a home, and to spend free time and vacations learning and traveling. For a few years, it seemed like I was doing a great job of making my dream come true. Then life took a sharp turn that caused me to change my plans and reevaluate my priorities.

I question what I’m doing with my life. I crave some assurance my life is making a difference, that it matters.

All around me, the world asks, “What are you doing to get ahead? What is your 5-year plan, and what is your 10-step plan to get there?” Now hear me, I fully believe in actively working towards goals; I just think life progresses more slowly, more gradually than our pristine 10-step plan allows for. Personally I think that’s God grace towards us. I also think the path is messy and indirect, and that’s what’s so scary. However maybe that’s also God’s grace to us. Jesus instructs us saying,

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:31-33)

We are supposed to not worry about our needs, but rather seek God’s kingdom and righteousness trusting God’s goodness for meeting our needs. The problem is, I’m not sure we understand or too often forget what God’s kingdom is and what it means to seek it. See, I believe we each have a purpose; a unique way we impact the world in a way no one else can. But what if seeking God’s kingdom has less to do with what we do, even with impacting the world for God, than exploring who God is and who God created me to be?

Impact is the byproduct of seeking God’s kingdom, not the method.

Worry, then, asks the wrong question. I worry when I ask “Will I get to the place I picture myself being in 5 years?” When we seek God’s kingdom we ask “How do the hopes and dreams you are giving me reveal who you are, God, and who you have created me to be?” That is a question I am willing to spend the rest of my life wondering and dreaming about.

What do you think? Does this resonate with your life and areas where you worry? Do you agree or disagree with my definition of seeking God’s kingdom? I would love to hear from you!

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bossco/4419787203  used under Creative Commons.