God's A Drama King

It’s so difficult to know - really truly know - and believe that the life we are currently living is temporary and fleeting. It’s easy to be aware of and comment on how quickly the time passes, but the funny thing is that we have nothing else to compare it to. We can compare March to January or 2019 to 2018, but there’s no real way to compare our current life with eternal life - the life that’s coming. And then to comprehend that what we are doing in this life will fade away while death here brings about something lasting and forever, now that sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie.

This gets even more challenging for me when I measure my heart’s desires against the value of eternal life. This morning, I realized all over again that I want to love Jesus more than I want to love anything else in this life. And if that’s the case, anything I pour my heart into and care about has the opportunity to become an idol in the face of my faith.

I was listening to a lecture by John Piper about how Jesus wants us to experience and go after the joy of knowing Him and glorifying Him. He talked through what it truly means that “to live is Christ, to die is gain.” In death, we lose nothing (because of Jesus’ death) and in life, we experience Christ through what Piper called “staying alive to the theater of God” that is the world. He further described this as wanting “Christ to be magnified in his life and in his body.” He finished this thought by saying, “Christ will be made to look magnificent in my dying when in my dying, he is made to look not like loss in this world, but gain.”

And I thought, it’s easy to magnify my joy for so many things, but these things are nothing compared to what Jesus has done for me and what He has prepared for my future. I thought about all the things that fight for space in my heart and in my life, when Jesus has blessed me with space in abundance - these things are not to be craved, but He is to be.

I want my desire to see the Holy Spirit move and work on the Earth to be greater than my desire to be married or always have enough in my back account. I want my desire for Jesus to be known to be greater than my desire to do well in my work. I want my desire to share his promises with those who’ve never known them to be greater than my desire to know that other people are enjoying my company. I want my daily perspective to dwell in the knowledge of eternity so that the way I live is truly reflective of what I believe. I want less space between me and Him. I want His heart to be my heart. I want to be able to say without any hesitation, “You can strip it all away, Lord, and I would still have the greatest treasure/everything I need, because I would have You.”

We’ve continuously created need for things in this life to fill the space that God originally created to have for Himself. We’ve made up our own versions of what a ‘complete’ life will look like. But our completeness exists with our being satisfied with all that God is for us, the bread of life. We are so quick to do what Piper called “turning away from a flowing fountain and scratching at the dirt…”

The things that make up our life are gifts - but they don’t exist in eternity; not even marriage lives on in Heaven. But it’s because we have everything we need in Jesus and our eternity is set with Him. Our call is to bring Heaven down and make His kingdom here, which we have the choice to do in many ways.

I know the next phase is something like understanding what kinds of gifts these things that make up life are and how to use them well in glorifying Him, because even though I want to be complete in His fullness, I do still have dreams for my life that have come from a place of wanting to be kept in the shadow of His wings as His daughter and child. And I’m sure that with time, the purpose of each gift will be made known. But the gifts will never take their rightful places if my heart is not first wholly His. I want to stay alive to the fullness of God’s drama through what He has gifted in this theater of His.

Worthy of Gifts

We cling to the things we think we can make stay, but until we release our grip - until we find ourselves standing whole on our own without them, those things will never be to us what they should have been in the first place. In order to fully understand the gifts we’ve been given, we have to be able to see them as they are exactly as they are; gifts that don’t belong to us, but that are presented to us. They aren’t given as rewards for good performance or perfection, but simply because we are worthy of gifts. It’s not that we’re deserving of them, but its because our worthiness was predetermined by Christs’s decision to cast His net wide and cast His net far and scoop us up, claiming us as His own.

James 1:17
So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two faced, nothing fickle. He brought us life using the true word, showing us off as the crown of all His creatures. (MSG)

Accordingly, this makes our gifts His gifts; His to give, His to take. Our response should be an unwavering unchanging thank you. A cupped palm, an opened hand - no more white-knuckling or squeezing for dear life, but just release. Release in the face of awareness that our wholeness doesn’t come from these things - our wholeness exists outside of these gifts. Our gratefulness gets to arise whether the gift stays or whether it goes. Our worth is unchanging all the while.

These things, these gifts, are people, moments, experiences, and relationships - these are the colors to our life’s canvas, these are the amazing opportunities we have to see and know all the hues and all the levels of saturation with which our Savior chose to paint our world. These are the mirrors that reflect His light, these are the ways we can experience Him.

Our tendency is to see gifts through the lens of happiness. We assume that because the gift has been given, a new level of happiness is alive to us, but that’s not necessarily the case. Our happiness does not hinge on gifts. We get to experience birthdays and holidays and milsetone markers, but one of the greatest gifts of my life was something that could be described as tragedy. Out of the tragedy came the gift of clarity, freedom, new life and redemption. “Does this make her happy", is hardly the motive from which the gift was given. There is an un-rootable joy to be found in the knowledge that happiness does not determine our wholeness.

We don’t know redemption until we find ourselves with something to be redeemed. We don’t experience the full realm of our savior’s capability until we experience emptiness, until we experience things that require restoration in the same way that Jesus dying on the cross required resurrection to be fulfilled.

Until we experience things that require redemption and resurrection, we miss the full scope of our ability to know gratefulness regardless of what our gifts look like. Until we can separate our personal happiness from the gifts we’ve been given, we’ll never know the depth of the well that Jesus has poured for us. So when we take our gifts and view them from a lens of deep-rooted joy grown from the prosperity we already have from the fullness of our worth (which is the adoption into righteousness by God’s declaration of our worthiness to him) we give our gifts the ability to color our world with all the fullness they truly have to offer. There is a wealth available to us that comes from lifting open hands to heaven and keeping a song of thanksgiving on our lips.

My new self-assignment is to go through my day listing ten things I’m thankful for. I want my perspective to be as rooted in gratefulness as possible, because I know how caught up I can become in trying to create my own happiness by clinging too tightly to the things I think are mine to cling to. When I hold so tightly, I fail to let God be God and I forget to trust Him, thinking that my own grasp is more powerful than His authority. So thank you, Lord, for this new day. Thank you for the coffee brewing in the pot, the sunshine and sounds of life falling through the open door. Thank you for the rest, thank you for words. Thank you for the ability to grow and become stronger than we have been. Thank you for family and the hearts of my friends. Thank you for how you have colored my world and laid out blessings before me that I may get to experience all the details of your love for me.

The Exchange for Freedom

How can we break the chains of others if ours are not broken first?

I once heard a pastor reference that, in all the re-telling of the stories we find in scripture, the disciples are never once found praying for themselves, only for others.

But me, I meditate on the things of myself all the time - I’ve been selfish with my path to freedom, because if we don’t first do that for ourselves, how can we ever know how to help the others that we love. We end up drawing them into more bondage, more weight, if we don’t take care of ourselves. It’s not self-help, it’s self-realization instigated by self awareness: knowing ourselves.

We can be shown our worthiness, we can be shown that we belong, we can be told of the light we carry and the things we are capable of (which is truly all things), but the experience of these is what we need because we are an experience-driven world. The truth can be heard, or it can be experienced. We can hear about it and even re-tell it, but until we’ve lived it, we truly have no idea.

There is no manual for spiritual freedom. But what there is is a grueling, beautiful, stripping away that is required for a rebirth into the supernatural. There is also your choice to let it happen. Have I lost you yet? Stay with me.

Experience is the most powerful anecdote that we have. It paints the picture, provides the emotion, and tells the story in first person. It creates the story. But experience re-told is just a story, albeit a very powerful one. But we don’t crave the story, we crave the experience. So what of the experience of broken chains and freedom? For that experience, your life has to be the re-telling of that story. It requires something greater than words:

The stripping away of judgement, condemnation, and comparison just as you have experienced it for yourself.

The realization that there isn’t right and wrong, but there is the truth of Jesus and what your individual soul, what your self means to the creator of the universe, a realization you have to experience for yourself.

The new knowledge that you are responsible for your own choices - you hold the power to choose and you are your own accountability, so what now are you going to choose? What outcome do you want?

When you have come to know this freedom, intentionality and vulnerability both follow. They become your new unavoidable truths. Truths worth sharing, vital to re-tell.

We first break our chains to break the chains of others. We say yes to freedom for ourselves, stripping away lies, untruths, disbelief, and a less-than-worthy opinion of ourselves to experience the breakthrough. And once we’ve known it, then we can share it. But we have to be willing to know it and keep ourselves open to its depth; depth that draws others in. Freedom wants to be known and to be shared, we just have to stay accountable to it.

Petite Allegro

There is something that is a part of the regular structure of a ballet class called petite allegro. Petite allegro basically translates into small and brisk and describes a particular kind of combination of jumps. It’s crucial for a ballerina to know where every single part of her body is at all times and what kind and amount of energy each part is exerting. In petite allegro, the memory,  quickness, endurance, and execution of a dancer is put to the test with this jump sequence. Not only is the dancer forced to remember each step and perform them fluidly, but also use the sequence to travel across the stage, occasionally changing directions. It’s purpose is to make the audience believe that what’s happening on stage is easy and fun, but for me, it was never either of those two things. 

Petite allegro was the part of class I despised the most. I was much more into the slow moving combinations of class that involved flexibility and strength, like grand battements or pliés. My feet did not like to move quickly and they certainly did not like to remember the number of tiny movements strung together from beginning to end – I was way more interested in the end goal than the process of getting there. A long slow curtsy  to say “thank you” at the end of class? Now that was something I nailed every single time. 

As much as I’ve tried to forget, the pattern of a petite allegro is burned into my memory forever: tombé pas de burré, glissade, jeté, and then to the left. I would consistently struggle my way through to the last movement just in time for the final plié and stretch to finish. My ballet teacher would expect this going into the jumping portion of class and knew my challenge with petite allegro. As encouraging as she was by making me do it again and again, she would always end by saying, “Audrey, you’re much too concerned with the end goal and not concerned enough with how you’re getting there.” And she was right. I only wanted to think about the where and the when, never the how. I wanted the completed ending, the final destination, the end scene and roll the credits, thank you and farewell.

 Along with my other struggles, this mentality has translated into every other area of my life. I know what I want the particular ending of things to look like, but I struggle to take the necessary steps to get there. It’s not laziness or lack of motivation, it’s getting caught up in how to go about doing it that’s always the problem.  There’s nothing worse for me than having to think through every single teeny tiny piece of the puzzle in order to arrive at the grand finale - I try to avoid that at all costs and instead blaze a trail full steam ahead in the direction I think I’m supposed to be going. But life doesn’t work like that, and I’m thankful that it doesn’t, even though I would be much more comfortable 100% of the time if it did. Some of you are reading this with zero surprise - hi Sister. Some of you are reading this and recognizing the same qualities in yourself, especially if you’re an enneagram 7...

So, what do we do?  How do we combat the desire to skip through the hard stuff? Well, the good news here is that the “hard stuff” is necessary for the finish that we have in mind. Our grand finale won’t be the magnificent thing we’ve always imagined it to be if we’re not taking the time to give the journey the respect it’s so deserving of. We can arrive somewhere having grown, gotten better, and learned more about ourselves, or we can arrive the same as we were when we started.

The latter doesn’t sound so bad until you think about the beginning and the end of your life; imagine fighting through the same problems over and over again only to realize that making a simple change in your approach and focusing a little more on the in between yields a different result - a better result. One that leaves you more accomplished, stronger, more mindful, less bitter, living with freedom.

I’m still working on this and I bet that some of you are with me on that. So please, if you see me skirting the rules to get by, encourage me to go deeper and really learn the steps; to take my mind off the end goal, trust God through the process, and let the timing of my life play out beautifully by default.