One of the real benefit in my journey to learn, or probably more accurate, to experience what it means to truly abide in Christ, is the lessons I learn about myself. Seeing myself for who I really am, the good, the bad and the ugly. And really more importantly, how God lovingly, gently, patiently, and yet persistently leads me to see myself and leads me to change. Seeing how God interacts with all the good, bad and ugly in my life helps me to lead and see others in a far better way.
Something I have struggled with for a long time has been the inability to disengage from “doing.” I am constantly doing. I am constantly thinking about doing. My mind is constantly doing. My soul is constantly seeking to do. God has been revealing to me how little I rest, not a rest from activity but resting in Him.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matt. 11:28-30
Matthew 11 is very familiar to me, but I realize I don’t fully understand what Jesus is calling me to. I look at my life and it is not characterized by rest for my soul and an easy yoke and light burdens. The pattern of my life has been to work, continually engage in activities and service, whether as a leader/pastor, husband, father, or friend. It’s more a mindset and attitude than just mere activity. Sadly, even in prayer, or times with God in the Word, or even worship is about “work.” It’s about doing something. It’s an attitude of doing. It’s an attitude that has been a part of me for a long time, as long as I can remember. It’s an attitude that seduces me into thinking that “doing” is how I will feel like a successful person and a worthy follower of Christ. It’s something I learned from Elijah House called, “performance orientation.” It’s a faulty idea that a person has to earn the love of others.
My journey with Jesus has brought me a long way from where I was. He has administered much healing in my life. For that I am so grateful. So are the people around me. But alas I am a person still under construction. Recently, God has been revealing to me that abiding in Him is about rest, the kind Jesus was talking about in Matt. 11. He has revealed to me that instead of resting in Him, I go and go, work and work until I am exhausted, physically or emotionally or spiritually. Then instead of resting in Him, I just disengage. Maybe it’s sleeping more. Maybe it’s just vegging, forgetting about all my responsibilities and tasks. Maybe it’s just mindlessly watching Youtube or television. That is not rest, that is more like escaping and disengaging. Then, out of guilt or feeling the pressure of doing, I push myself to engage once again. Yes, I’m aware, keenly aware that living like that is not good or healthy. But more importantly, my Father in heaven knows and is leading me out.
I just read a quote from Eugene Peterson the Holy Spirit used to gently spank me.
Christian spirituality, the contemplative life, is not about us. It’s about God. The great weakness of American spirituality is that it is all about us: fulfilling our potential, getting the blessings of God, expanding our influence, finding our gifts, getting a handle on principles by which we can get an edge over the competition. The more there is of us, the less there is of God. Eugene Peterson
Yup, there is it! The more there is of us, the less there is of God. So much of what I do is about me, not God. Even learning to abide in Christ has been about me! So there’s the challenge. How do I live a life where there is truly more of God and less of me? I mean to really live that way. I try to live and be aware of giving God the glory in all I do. I try to decrease so Christ can increase in my life. But, so often, even as I try to live with this awareness, at the core, it’s still more about me. So therein lies the challenge.
Eugene Peterson said, “The more there is of us, the less there is of God.” Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” To live a life that is truly more about God and in doing so, discover the rest that Jesus is talking about. That is the challenge. And so, as I continue this journey of abiding in Christ, I take a step in response to Jesus’ invitation to come. I take a step to let Him teach me and find rest from my soul.
Less of me and more of God. Now that’s a great step for Lent. Thank you, Father. Thank you, Holy Spirit. And thank you, Lord Jesus. Please teach me to find rest for my soul.