- All the world doesn’t have to be a stage
I see you. I’ve been you. I am you.
I’ve been A Girl Striving.
I’ve endured pain, driven myself to pain, driven myself to perform, driven myself half-mad…all for praise. I’ve driven myself hard just so others would think that I am Exceptional and InControl. So they’d think I’m worthy of GoodOpportunities, GoodResults…and most of all, Worthy of Love.
I’ve repressed and suppressed to look de-stressed but it eventually always manifests in a cracking of my joy. Living as a slave to performance and opinions always does.
It doesn’t look the same for all of us, this performing for love and respect. Some of us audition for the part of ThePerfectPerson by HavingItAllTogether. Others of us audition by acting laid-back and carefree. Some try to make the grade for love. Others try to be cool.
Can I tell you something?
I’ve even made a performance out of prayer. Yeah. I thought if I waxed eloquent prayers, God and man might know I knew the right things to say. And then God’s words smacked me one day and I saw stars:
“The only kind of prayer I care about is honest prayer. The rest is just lip-service.” God knew when the words on my lips weren’t what I felt in my heart, and he was thoroughly not impressed.
The day my prayer life took off was the day I started getting real and honest with ordinary words with an extraordinary God….when I stopped trying to think my way out of emotions and just let myself feel them and confess them and seek God through them…when I started asking God to help me learn what it meant to pray in the Spirit.
He started giving me prayer experiences and words that moved me to tears and soul to rest almost every single night. I didn’t have to perform for them. I didn’t have to perform for His love.
Jesus came down to show me what love without performance looked like. He didn’t look at accomplishments or education. He didn’t regard wealth or poverty. He didn’t marginalize the misunderstood, the sinners, or the repentant Pharisees.
Because here’s the real truth about real love.
Real love is always a stripping back of the external things.
Real love looks at the heart.
Real love hugs the core of who someone is.
Real love cherishes who someone is.
Real love gently corrects.
Real love stands firmly committed in trial and after mistakes.
Real love is interested in the heart, takes the time to understand the heart, wants to free the heart.
This is the kind of love of Jesus. His love is simple, pure, humble, Father-directed and Spirit-empowered and powerful.
Jesus didn’t perform. He just surrendered to the Father’s will.
Jesus doesn’t want us to perform, either. He just wants us to surrender to the Father’s will.
And here’s the secret:
God doesn’t primarily desire perfection.
He desires humility.
Humble hearts know their need. Humble hearts know God’s grace. Humble hearts know God’s goodness and God’s power. Humble hearts know their own feeble strength. Humble hearts are able to share God because they don’t live in glass houses but brick shelters.
Hearts striving for perfection? All they know is vanity and a striving after the wind.
2. We have to allow deviations from our written scripts
And performance? It might just block God.
I’ve been turning it over in my mind lately:
How self-control is a fruit of the Spirit,
but the desire to control is the enemy of God.
Self-control helps us run full-force towards what God’s asking us to do and be by the power of His Holy Spirit. Self-control submits the self to God’s desires over ours. It allows us to stand and respond to that scary, tugging leap of faith God’s asking us to take or make or state.
It’s hard for God to move in big ways if we don’t give Him room to move in big ways.
We have to believe that the God who asked Jonah to speak a simple sentence to Nineveh is real. We have to believe the God who told Daniel what to say to the King is real.
We have to live like He’s real. We have to leave room in our prayers and programming and conversations for Him to move.
That requires us (me) constantly surrendering any desire to control to the truth that if it’s meant to be, God will help me overcome all challenges. God will help us overcome challenges in calling, ministry, work, friendships, and relationships. Control can kill all those things, because only God grows all good things.
3. Abiding kills performance
Performance is a grasp for control because I don’t trust God.
It always begins the same.
It always begins with forgetting.
Forgetting that Jesus loved me to death (-Ann Voskamp), and then later revived me to life
Forgetting how big God is or how big His love is
Forgetting the times that He has pursued me, protected me, held me, encouraged me, and done something out my nothing. In spite of me.
Forgetting that He’s already deemed me worthy of the best kind of love
Forgetting how to live out of that love
There’s really only one way to break performance and the desire to control the outcome. There’s only one way to begin to trust God again.
Abiding gives God control and frees me from performance.
Abiding frees me to live my life the way God wants me to.
Performing restricts God from working through me. Abiding unleashes God to work in and through me.
Perform to be worthy of love because you think that you’ll get joy…
and you’ll always just get emptiness.
Go to God with your emptiness and abide and you’ll always get joy.
Through the gift of worship, He gives us the gift of joy because He gives us more of Himself.
Can I be real with you for a second? You might still feel brokenness too, but joy in the midst of brokenness sustains to the full measure of joy God has in store. And He always has joy in store.
And so I have to go back frequently and remember. Remember that He’s rescued me from a prideful heart, a doubting heart, and a fractured heart. Not so that I could perform, but so that I could joyfully and humbly serve.
Which may be why I find myself stooped over steering wheel at a stop light talking to God about one of my fears. “Don’t ever become an act to me, God. I pray that you never become an act to me. Don’t let me forget how wildly and passionately you pursued me. Don’t let me forget how real and living your love is for me is, that you spoke to me in languages I understood. Help me live unscripted in the ways you call me to…”