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The Purpose of Significance

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I’m really good at being busy for the Lord.

And I know I’m not alone.

Many years ago, I was Women’s Ministry President, Children’s Ministry Director, and a Youth Sponsor—all at the same time. It was exhausting and in the midst of the busyness I realized I had forgotten how to sit at Jesus’ feet and just be.

So I finished out my term as Women’s Ministries president and declined reelection. I found a replacement for the Children’s Ministry and informed the youth pastor I could no longer be a sponsor.

I thought this “learning to be” would be easy, but it was not. I had looked to my roles and the spotlight as indicators of my significance, and with nothing to do, my heart panicked.

Identity is so much more than my roles, reputations, accomplishments, past, present, or future. Through faith I’m believing that I’m accepted and secure in Christ. Although there’s still an internal wrestling, especially on days when I’d rather give up and move to the wilds of Alaska, except for the snow thing and the dark days.

But this significance thing? I still don’t have it figured out. Significance and pride are so interwoven in my heart that it takes the grace of God to unwind. I’m writing and living from that tangled place.

The desire for significance is not an ungodly desire, but I make it ungodly when I chase after success in my roles, approval ratings, and reputation. Only God can fulfill my desire for significance and it’s only when I began exploring God’s definition of significance that I discovered three areas that, when combined together, make significance simple to understand.

Part 1 of significance is tied to our purpose and it’s only when we embrace our purpose— as defined by God— that we can grasp part 2 of our significance, which is our position:

Ephesians 2:6, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” NIV

1 Corinthians 3:16, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s spirit lives in you?” NIV

2 Corinthians 5:17-21, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” NIV

I am God’s temple, but it’s not about me.

After I die to my own sins, God raises me up and seats me with Christ, not so I can lord it over people, but to serve.

God makes me a new creation and pours his grace over my life, not so I can be blessed, but so that I can effectively be his minister of reconciliation to a lost and dying world.

My purpose is tied to my position. I am not in this world for my own pleasure and happiness, although I have a great deal of things that make me happy and bring me pleasure, like sharing song and words and beauty, but ultimately I have been given a position that needs good fruit.

Our position as God’s ministers is to make him known and to reconcile the world to him. But we can’t do this if we don’t know him or understand our identity in him.

This is where I can scare myself into inaction because the gravity and responsibility of this position is weighty. It also explains why I sometimes flat out refuse to take the next steps in growth in my Christian walk.

All those years ago, God was calling me to let go of my positions so that I could sit at his feet and begin to understand the significance that he calls me to, but I was scared to obey. I liked being in charge and having “important” things to do. I wrestled with giving up my positions in the church because I was afraid of losing significance. What I gained out of the perceived loss of significance was the beginning of the journey to truly embracing my identity in Christ.

As I took the time to be in his presence rather than be busy in his church, my definition of significance was replaced with his. Bearing fruit and serving others through the ministry of reconciliation is a gift.

It’s a weighty gift because I know how hard it is to stay grafted to the vine and engaged with culture. I know that if I reject the position God has called me to be as his temple and as his minister, that the purpose of bearing good fruit is pointless.

There will be times when we’re tempted to find our significance in other things, we’ll misrepresent God to the world, and we’ll do and say things that are opposed to his holy righteousness. Our purpose and position can feel impossible to accomplish. But it is possible and we find the key to success in the final area of significance.

When we combine the three aspects of significance we will find that fulfilling our purpose and position is accomplishable.  Till next time.

perfect brokenness perfect completeness

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You know that ‘thing’ that threatens to break you?

It’s that thing you deny exists and try to run away from? Yeah, that.

It’s okay, you can turn around and face it. There’s hope when you walk towards it and through to the other side because I’ve lived it.

Perfect has been a ‘thing’ for me. I bristle when someone calls me perfect or perfectionist. Perfect hair, perfect smile, perfect performance, perfect response and yet, within the bristle, is a craving for it as well. It’s the craving that made me examine my heart and the hold that perfect had on me.

It has long held me hostage in my relationships, my mind, and in the quiet space of me and God. Perfect has used my fear of rejection to keep me in a place of denial that I really do have issues with perfection.

The deal, though? Perfect became a noose. It became a strangler in my journey towards authenticity in my relationships, with myself, and with my God. As I attempted to break up with perfect, perfect’s hold threatened to break me.

As I began to crumple under the pressure of perfection, God began a different kind of breaking in me. You see, if perfect had broken me I would have been left with shards of perfection that I would have tried to hold and pretty soon my hands would be full and perfect would fail, I would fall and break again into tiny pieces.

God’s breaking is a healing kind of breaking.  And it’s a necessary break. Perfection was so woven into the fabric of who I was that the only way to put me back together again, in the way God saw me, was for him to completely and utterly break me. I needed to be so broken that perfection could be separated from the essence of who I am.

When brokenness happens because God is doing the breaking then he can be trusted to do the putting back together, and the putting back together is the part where his touch can bring healing and a whole lot more wholeness than I ever could bring in my own strength of breaking up with perfect.

God broke me and I was left in shards at his altar.

The initial breaking was painful. Like, I want to never lift my head again painful. It caused sleepless nights where I writhed in heart pain and questions. I would lie in bed listening to the creaking of the old house and the cycling of the furnace and the sound of the coyotes in our backyard and wonder. I would wonder if my heart was repairable. Everything I based my identity on-performance, acceptance, and approval-was suddenly stripped from me.

I was unable to perform to my level of standards in music.

I was failing in church leadership.

Friendships were broken.

I’ve been rejected at the core of who I am.

I have complexion issues, wild hair, and a tongue that’s difficult to control.

I’ve lived through some dark days of groping for God in my own strength.

These were some of my shards and he’s been piecing me back together. He’s filtering through the rejection and discarding the lies that I have long believed about myself.

He is teaching me to say ‘thanks’ for those monthly outbreaks, crazy hair, and to slow down and think before I speak.

He’s showing me that he’s the one who does the growing in my spiritual walk, not me and my efforts.

To be honest, I’ve run from the breaking. I’ve scurried like a rabbit before a prairie fire not realizing that I’m not the rabbit, but I’m the prairie grass that brings life and beauty, and sometimes the prairie needs a good burn.

Perfect.

Only when I’m broken of perfection can I be made perfect by  a perfect God.

Perfect in the biblical sense means to be made complete. My relationship with perfection prevented my completeness in God. God’s desire is for me to be complete in him. I can know him completely and love him completely when I am released from the noose of perfection.

I’ve grown since the initial breaking. I’ve come to see God’s hand in the breaking and to trust him with the healing because as I submit to the breaking and the healing I see how he has discarded the threads of perfection and picked up the pieces of me that glorify him best and he is shaping me into the woman he wants me to be.

So, yes, perfect and I have broken up, and yes, we still get together. But the breaking up with perfect is really done best when I submit to a brokenness before my God and when I do, I find that I receive long-lasting healing instead of the bandaids I apply to my ‘perfect’ issues.

Perfect brokenness is what I strive for now. Complete brokenness before a God who sees me, heals me and loves me enough to break me in order to make me new.

He is perfect and there is none like him and in the security of love he provides I find the true meaning of perfection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

stepping into grace

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I’m doing a lot of confessing here and it’s time for another one:

I adore fall.

I love the beauty in the changing leaves, the crisp temperatures, and the October blue skies. I love watching the farmers gather the crops and the glow of the setting sun on the dried corn calls to me and awakens a yearning within. But there is another reason I love fall.

Summer brings with it anxiety and self-criticism. I tear myself down about the big and small flaws of a body that’s jiggly from bearing four children which only intense training would repair and said person lives fifteen miles away from any gym. That kind of self-criticism. I battle these thoughts all summer and by the end of the summer I’m weary of reminding myself to stand tall and confident and all I want to do is crawl into my cozy sweaters, jeans and ankle boots.

My perception is not necessarily my reality and I know that my value is not tied to my physical appearance or my productivity, but I still struggle with this truth and my heart tells me the struggle goes much further than just my outside appearance.

I’ve been writing about breaking perfect and I’ve dealt with perfection in my relationships, in my thought life, and now I must address the one area that affects all the others and that’s when perfect interferes with my relationship with God.

Often what we do on the outside indicates issues on the inside and this is true for me. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to wear more layers and long pants, but when I look at the deep in my heart I see what I’m really trying to do with all my covering up and accessorizing. I’m trying to cover up my imperfections, or at least my perceived imperfections, as if I can distract God with spiritual accessories. I might be able to fool you and myself, but I will never fool God.

Hebrews 4:13 lingers in my heart and reveals my futility in trying to hide. This verse states that nothing is hidden before God and that everything is exposed and laid bare. Everything. My impatience. My anger, selfishness, dissatisfaction, my doubts, and my fears. This verse releases me from the exhausting effort of hiding my weaknesses.

My weaknesses are not liabilities and something to be hid, but they are opportunities for me to come boldly to the throne of God to receive grace. Grace is not a pat on the head and the encouragement to keep trying to live right or even the freedom to live as I please, but it’s the empowerment that enables me to exchange impatience for patience. Anger for acceptance. Dissatisfaction for contentment.

I hide behind perfect because I’m ashamed of my failure at my inability to make these exchanges on my own. Hebrews 4:13-16 stops me in my tracks. It shows me how wrong I’ve been for trying to cover up my heart ugliness behind the facade of perfect, and I’m relieved by the exposure because the hiding gets exhausting, and rubs against my need for truth.

This is the truth: God sees all and knows all and will–he will give me grace when I need it. I don’t need to slink, sneak or sulk my way to his throne, but because of Jesus- the one who faced all the same temptations I do and yet did not sin–because of him, I can boldly, with confidence, come to the very throne of God and receive empowering grace.

Grace to face my imperfections and say: ‘thank-you’. Thank-you for my struggles. Thank-you for my fears. Thank-you. Without imperfections in my life, I wouldn’t need God and and I desperately need God.

He’s authentic in every way with me and desires authenticity from me as well. He sees me. He sees the things I would rather pretend do not exist and do not love about me. But he sees into the hidden recesses of my heart and loves me despite the ugly that’s found there.

I can strip myself down to all the ugly and he will receive me and empower me to choose his way of living. Impatience for patience. Anger for peace. Dissatisfaction for contentment. Doubt for belief.

I’ve been invited to boldly come to him and so have you. We don’t need to get prettied up, even though it’s fun to get our pretty on. Ours is the kind of relationship where we can come confidently in our beauty and in our ugly because grace trumps perfect. We don’t need to stay in the shadows, but can walk boldly up the red carpet to his throne, fall at his feet and receive empowering grace. We can exchange our version of perfect for his perfect love poured into us through his grace.

 

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