No, this is not a post about a Norwegian band. I just had an “Aha!” moment that I want to share, even if it’s just for my own benefit, so that I don’t forget it. It’s amazing how often we have these revelations about stuff we already knew, or thought we knew.
This particular Aha moment, or rather series of moments, all had to do with expectations. More specifically, the world’s expectations of me, what I sometimes think these are. It hasn’t been a conscious obsession, but more a constant, subtle tug in the back of my mind. I don’t know whether it is because I turned 30 a few months ago, or whether it comes with being engaged and thinking about married life and the future in general. Maybe it’s a little bit of both. Social media and advertising create an image of what someone of my age, “class” (I hate that word) and culture should be doing and achieving. It can get really confusing because some of those images contradict each other. On the one hand I’m supposed to be financially independent and able to provide for my family when I have one. On the other hand I’m not supposed to settle for mediocrity. Day jobs are made to look like a sign that you’ve given up on your dreams. Yes, I want to dream and achieve those dreams, yes, I want to learn new things and yes, I want to be able to provide for my family. But it’s not always possible to do everything at the same time and that shouldn’t be a reflection of a person’s character. It’s just reality.
Basically, I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself to be and do everything. Obviously I fail, so I get despondent and put myself in a box with a label that says something like, “Incomplete man”. I could go into more detail but I want to focus on the solution. And the solution, quite simply, is Jesus.
Now, I’ve always been a guy that questions statements like that because they sound like typical church talk. So how is Jesus the answer to my insecurities?
I’m not sure if I can give a satisfactory answer, suffice it to say that God’s been repeating the same message over and over to me. One thing that’s become clear again is that Jesus needs to be at the centre of everything. Nothing can make me feel complete, if Jesus is not the overriding reason for it. If I’m only working to make money or to climb the corporate ladder, it becomes the typical 9 to 5 rat race. As Louie Giglio put it, “you’re doing time” instead of doing good”, because you’re just counting down the days and minutes until the next big thing happens – a promotion, a raise, praise etc. When I go to work because I believe that God’s put me in that specific place for his specific purposes, it becomes a totally different experience. When I know the people around me matter to God, that how I interact with them can show who he is, the other stuff becomes almost irrelevant. This principle applies to every aspect of my life – my relationships, especially my future marriage, my finances, my dreams (travelling to be specific), things I want to learn. If they all serve a greater purpose than my brief time on earth, they take on a greater value than anything the world can advertise.
I’m constantly reminded of the parable Jesus told of the servants and the talents. I really want to make the best of what God has given and continues to give me. But I don’t want to look for the contents of his generous hands, without seeking his face.
And so what Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 makes more and more sense to me:
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Again, for a long time that sounded like poetic Christianese to me, but these days I can only say ‘Amen’.
I think it’s important to remember that God made us. Simple thought, I know, but it’s significant. The words of Isaiah in chapter 43 spring to mind:
Do not be afraid. For I have bought you and made you free. I have called you by name. You are Mine!
God knows the people he’s made intimately and loves us deeply. The video below illustrates this point very nicely. It’s from a children’s book series from Max Lucado, but I think anyone can relate and everyone can be encouraged by it’s message.