I'm at home sick today, looking out my window into the courtyard. There is a complex beauty to urban architecture, especially when trees and flowers strategically accent the lines and angles laid down by the designer. Near the far gate of the courtyard sits a small, beautiful garden... the kind you would pass by a hundred times as you go about your business without even realizing it's there. Today, however, my pacing has slowed and I am captivated by its tranquil beauty...
Suddenly the peace of the moment is shattered! The neighbor in my courtyard is shouting at someone. "You can't tell me what to do! Shut up! Quit trying to control me! You better walk away! Walk away!"
Her situation is new, but the story is ancient. It's being retold. The tranquility of another garden was demolished long ago.
Adam and Eve chose to elevate their opinions above God's... to do what was right in their own eyes, instead of resting in their trust of the Creator and Sustainer of life. They chose to walk away from the source of love and provision and meaning. It was you and I in that garden staring at those trees, choosing between His way and ours. I have made that choice over and over this week... I often choose for myself. I often mistrust. I often miss out on true life.
The invitation back into peace, wholeness, joy, love, adventure, and true life is an invitation to walk away from the tyranny of self... an invitation to leave the land where you are king and where your will is the measure of what is good, right, and perfect. In order to experience true fullness, you must empty yourself of your opinions and hopes. You must, once again, make Him the object of your hope, desire and allow him to be your God.
My neighbor is painting a picture of this truth! What is she saying? "I am the ruler of my life! I say what goes and I won't submit to anybody! Get out of my area because you are threatening my sense of control! This is my area, and I have everything the way I like it... the way I think will bring me lasting happiness and everything I want! I know what's best and you are not it!"
Does she really know what is best for her life? Do any of us? Is it to welcome others in as long as they don't challenge our fragile sense of self-worth or control? Is it to maintain our feeling of significance at all costs? Is it to be in control of your destiny and your sense of ethics and morals? Where does this struggle come from?
Try this on for size. Imagine if the story is true and God was the source of our joy and significance and life, and we pushed him out. Who did we put in that seat? Ourselves! When someone in our culture is co-dependant or down on themselves, where do we point them? To themselves! "Love yourself! Respect yourself! You don't need them! You are beautiful just the way you are!...etc." Where do people go when they want to improve? Self-actualization! "Be the best you can be! Press your limits as an individual!" What is the measure of what is good? Each person's view! "You gotta do what's right for you! This is true for me! We all have our own paths..."
The problem is we are trying desperately to replace God with Self. It does not work. I am not God. You are not God. In our hearts, deep down in the darkness, we would all like to be, but we are not. And we end up placing all our decision making, and hopes and joys and expectation for life onto ourselves, but we can't stand the weight of it all! We crush ourselves in the process! I thank God for the day I crushed myself, hit rock bottom and realized the reality of my need Him.
Now, I find my joy and significance in life in Him! My identity is not based on my performance or my looks or other people's thoughts, but in His Word about me: I am His beloved and nothing can change that! I can be honest about my shortcomings. I don't have to hide the real me. As I move forward in rugged honesty towards God and others, He changes me... He shows me how to improve. He sets the bar way higher than I ever did on my own, and then, like a good friend at the gym, He spots me, so the weight of His expectation for my improvement doesn't crush me! And the best part is this: I am free to be selfless! I do not always walk in this freedom, but it is mine for the taking and I am learning to explore this new land of putting God first and loving others as myself!
I have to say it again... The invitation back into peace, wholeness, joy, love, adventure, and true life is an invitation to walk away from the tyranny of self... an invitation to leave the land where you are king and where your will is the measure of what is good, right, and perfect. In order to experience true fullness, you must empty yourself of your opinions and hopes. You must, once again, make Him the object of your hope, desire and allow him to be your God.