Recently, I stumbled across a sermon series by Bill Hybels, called "Simplify." I listened to it, thinking all the while it was going to be full of useful advice on how to simplify our lives... pretty obvious, right? He talks about simplifying finances, simplifying your schedule, simplifying your job, and so forth. For the most part, I was right.
Except that in one of the messages, he says something to the effect of "Don't ask what you should do; ask who do I want to become? And when you schedule your life around that idea, the rest will fall into place."
I can't really explain why, but that little question made me stop and think. What is it that I want to become? Why am I wasting time on doing things that have nothing to do with what I need to be? Why do I do those things?
His talks of calendars and tithing didn't phase me: I already do those things. I fail horribly at using calendars in general, but you know... I have one. But simplifying my soul was something that I hadn't really given much thought. Simplifying my mind is darn near impossible, and there is no such thing as spiritual Ritalin.
The best way to become something is to work exclusively on that thing, until you achieve it. But what is it that I want to be? Once upon a time, I wanted to be a world-famous musician that toured everywhere, and wrote music that impacted people's lives. I wanted to write a game-changing novel that redefined the spec-fiction genre. I wanted to deeply touch people with the gifts that God gave me.
Except that I wasn't. Oh, I'm well aware of it... for better or worse, I am glaringly aware of my shortcomings as a writer and musician. But I was missing the whole point. I was still focused on what I wanted to do, instead of what kind of person I wanted to become.
Who do I want to be? What kind of person do I want to be?
I want to be kind. Wise. Thorough. Thoughtful. Cheerful. Generous. Helpful. Excited about life and what God is doing all around me.
So why haven't I filled my life with things that will let me achieve these goals? In all honesty, God isn't as much concerned with what we do, as much as how we do it. I may only be a simple technical writer, but am I cheerful? Am I generous? Thankful?
Sadly, if I hold myself to scrutiny in the mirror, I fall short... very short. I am not nearly as generous and kind as I want to be. I'm not nearly as wise as my wife needs me to be. Not nearly as forgiving as my kids need me to be. And patient? Pfah. Nowhere close. And the answer is, I have taken my freedom in Christ for granted.
This reveals to me two things: 1. God is where all these good things come from, and if I try to be them on my own, I will continue to fail. And 2. I need to live my life in a manner that leads me in that direction, and remove distractions that keep me away. It's not going to happen by me feeling sorry about it. Not going to happen by me saying "I'm just going to be spiritually fulfilled from now on!" Remember: there is no spiritual Ritalin.
No, these kinds of things are only tapped from the unending source: God the Father. Through the Spirit, God gives me the ability to become all those things. But they're only usable to me if I am walking in the right direction. That's not to say they have anything to do with my will! But God is not going to force Himself upon me, I must choose to follow Him and daily ask for my portion of humility and grace. I know God's grace is not dependent on me, and yet for me to utilize it, I must humble myself and accept it for what it is. To become wise, I must apply God's grace generously to my worldly self on a daily basis.
Only then will I become the man that God wants me to be. Only then will I be able to do what I want to do.
Only then will I become who I know I am.