January 24, 2018

Why Do You Do What You Do? (A Peek Inside My Journal)

Why do you do what you do? I don't ask, ready to pounce with shame or humiliation. I ask, because the Lord's been asking it of me, and it's become a question of daily importance and priority for me.

The question blazed like a hot laser after another sleepless night when I hadn't been able to rest my eyes because I hadn't been able to settle my soul. My mind flitted from one unfinished task to the next, and each filled me to the brim with a new set of worries.

Each task and each anxiety, I realized, circled like nasty vultures around one thing: writing, and more specifically, sharing the writing I'd already completed. Beneath the tasks were lingering fears screaming with such certainty that I'd heard them as truth: Who do you think you are? You're going to fail. You just can't cut it. Why are you even doing this to yourself in the first place?
I have a book coming out, and as I've learned by now, the months leading up to a book's release are fraught with not only uncertainties, insecurities, and loads of work, but with danger. The inherent danger is an unrelenting obsession with myself.

Work is dangerous. We create, mother, run companies or classrooms, sell, or nurse, and somewhere in the midst of planning, plotting, preparing, and producing, we can so easily lose sight of why we're doing what we do and who we're doing it for. I always know when I've lost sight of the why and who when I am quick toward discouragement and comparison and desperate for specific results.

When the question cut through my heart--Why do you do what you do?--I realized that my desire is not for a more honed gift, greater opportunities, or wisdom so that I might better serve others or highlight the goodness of God. My desire is for my own glory. Vocation and the skills, opportunities, and wisdom needed for our specific vocations are all gifts from God, but my twisted heart had convinced me that I'd wrought my own success. This is really the only way a desire for self-glory grows untested: when it rests on top of the belief that I have done these things in the first place. And so, with this wrong belief in place, I must then hustle in order to keep what I have or make it grow. I must achieve more in order to build myself up.

No wonder I couldn't sleep. The whole world had been waiting for my command and control!

God gently took me back to the basics, much like to where he took Job when Job peppered him with questions. He took me to the most basic of the basics: I am flesh and blood. I'm dirt and dust and to dust I will return. I didn't make my heart start beating or put breath in my lungs. All that I am I was given--my personality, skills, breath, and life. Even the place and time in which I reside. My husband Kyle and our kids are similar miracles, moving and breathing beside me through this life.

I am in fact just coming awake to the world around me and seeing how much I don't understand or comprehend. How do birds fly? In what way does hydrogen and oxygen fit together to form water? Sometimes I think I know things, that I've thought them and understood them on my own, but when it comes to making and sustaining the simplest parts of this life, I know nothing and have no power to make or sustain anything.

I think maturity means coming to a greater sense of our own helplessness and powerlessness and at the same time turning to see how much God is doing and has done, how he is sustaining our hearts and lungs and the trees and the birds right outside our windows. And how a baby is formed in the secret and how a soul comes to faith and how love and grace happen. This is why God is worthy of all glory, because he's doing everything and gifting everything, and we're doing nothing but what he's given us to do--breathing, mothering, ministering, thinking and understanding, believing. Everything is a gift because everything we see is his design and ongoing provision.

We experience his generosity as he invites our participation in his continued creating. 

I am a participant and God gives me both the material and the work he wants me to do. I feed my babies but he sustains them. I write words on a page but he teaches both the writer and, if he chooses, the reader. I enjoy relationships but he created the way they thrive and went first in love and grace and mercy.

Yes, I think maturity means thanksgiving for the smallest aspects of life and wonder at God's power in our powerlessness.

So when the question comes from God and when I repeat it to myself in moments of anxiety or discouragement, my soul must say, "All glory to God."

And you there, working daily in your home or your office or maybe even both, what will you say? There is soul rest in only one answer. Because he will not suffer those who attempt to steal his glory, who are haughty and think the work of their hands has wrought their own success. We must wait for him, look for him, thank him, rest in him, and trust him. This is why we must not plot and plan and protect and preen outside of knowing all things as gift, because we are mere dirt and he has made us who and what we are. He will continue his work of gifting and sustaining. We must continue participating in the work he gives us by faith and for his glory.

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