I have to tell you about the only thing I’ve done in my life that’s worth anything. I have to tell you about it not to brag or to take credit, but because it’s so important and so transformational, that I can’t bear the weight of keeping it to myself. One day, about a year ago, I gave up on my own plans for my life.
“Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” – Matthew 10:39
Now this was a while before I ever even seriously thought about moving to Honduras, and I’ve spoken to many people both before and after that experience about what it means to give up on our own lives. How do we actually go about letting God take control of our lives? What do we have to believe and how do we know we’re doing the right thing at the right time? If we just believe harder, will it become perfectly clear?
All too often, we’re worried about having God show us the path or the way in our own life. The reality is that the answer has been hiding in plain sight the entire time. You’ve heard John 14:6a where Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life,” but have you really let that sink in? As you ask God to show you the way in your life, he is going to show you himself. What specifically you’re going to do next month or next year doesn’t matter. What does matter is how deeply you’re digging into Christ right now. He can’t show you anything more than himself, because there is nothing more. He is the way.
Having a set of beliefs is valuable, but only as valuable as the actions one is willing to take based on those beliefs, and perhaps only as meaningful as the actions one actually takes. I decided to take action to get out of the way in my own life, and let God do with it what he intended.
Now you’re thinking, “Ok, good for you… specifics please…”
So that day, about a year ago – I don’t remember the date, but it was a Sunday – we went to church like every good Christian should. (As I write, it’s a Sunday… I didn’t go to church this morning. Don’t tell anybody.) I had known for some time that I was supposed to join the prayer team, but I selfishly just didn’t want to. So this particular Sunday, I simply stopped fighting the urges that God had implanted in me to carry out his will for his glory. I told God, “Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do it.” He told me, “You already know what I want you to do.” It was simple… I walked up to my pastor and said, “Hey, I think I’m supposed to be on the prayer team.” He sent out an email. I was on the prayer team.
That’s it. That was the first domino. God doesn’t call us all to find a billion dollars in venture capital and open an international non-profit. He doesn’t tell us each to devote our lives to the study of international politics to figure out how to change the global landscape. He doesn’t have us change the world from the top down. He always works from the bottom up, calling us only to faithfully put one foot in front of the other. It’s the little actions we take on a daily, even momentary, basis that all add up to the work God wants to carry out through us. The little actions themselves are often exceptionally unremarkable.
Jesus was the ultimate subversive. He doesn’t work the way you would expect him to work. He didn’t come in power and authority, but he came in squalor and humility. But then that squalor and humility turns out to be the ultimate power and authority after all! He doesn’t work the way you think he should… he works so much better than that.
And he rarely gave a straight answer. Everything is a parable with this guy! Don’t you think his disciples got sick of him when they would ask a simple question, and he’d roll into some long story about a greater truth? They’re impatient people just like us, and I guarantee you that happened. How many times are we impatient with God? Same thing. We want him to tell us what to do. He keeps gently reminding us that he’s already told us a million times.
Now I said this was transformational, but there’s a couple things about transformation. First, it takes time. You’re not going to get prestigious assignments at work until you’ve made it clear to your boss that you are capable of handling the more basic assignments you’ve already been given. Now that isn’t to say that spirituality has the same competitiveness and comparison as a traditional workplace (because it doesn’t), but there are some spiritual cornerstones we must have in place in our lives before God can put the full weight of his will on us without crushing us. He does so gently and in his time, by responding to our seemingly simple, small, faithful actions. The construction process of transformation takes time.
Second, transformation is always ongoing. There are some things I have been able to overcome as a result of giving in to God’s will. There are many things I have not yet been able to overcome. This is probably (almost definitely) because I haven’t truly given my entire life over to God yet (yeah, definitely). There are sins I want to hold on to. The band Blind Pilot does an incredible Gillian Welch cover in which she writes: “I wanna do right, but not right now.” I pretend to want all of God, but I want to keep some of the sin for myself. Thankfully, we have a God who is as patient as he is demanding, and he allows his ongoing transformation to continue to work in me. Transformation is ongoing.
“Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever. We must take it or leave it.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
So simple, small, right action. This is our calling. This is how we discover the true character of God. Sometimes quickly in large doses, but so much more often slowly and deliberately, as God in his infinite wisdom and infinite love spares us from the crushing reality of himself, only ever revealing to us as much as we can handle.
In this way, he satisfies our ultimate desire. The one for him that he planted deep inside each of us. Nothing in this world satisfies permanently. It always takes progressively larger quantities of earthly things to satiate us, right up until the point when too much of an earthly thing destroys us. The only thing which we can forever continue to experience more of, and be continually and fully satisfied by, is God. He is infinite and infinitely good. The amount of himself he has already shown us is enough to fully satisfy, and the amount of himself he has left to show us is enough to continue to satisfy us for eternity. Remember, he’s infinite. Did I say that already? That means that there are a few categories in which you can talk about your knowledge of God:
- There’s the character of God that you actually have knowledge of and know to be true.
- There’s the knowledge of the notion of the infinity of God and his infinite goodness.
- And then there’s the actual inexhaustible infiniteness of God of which you cannot possibly even conceive.
Yeah, I think that should be enough for us. And it would be far too much if we got it all at once. God gives us a chance to understand more of himself little by little through small, immediate, faithful actions. So go and do something small today, something you already know God wants you to do. It will inevitably become part of a much larger and more wonderful, eternal story.