By: Guest Writer MARY RABE
I’m the kind of person that has always had pretty high ideals and lofty goals. I strive for excellence in everything I do. My mantra is “always do your very best”, and I have a seed planted in my heart that whispers, “God can use you and your family to change the world.” I don’t want to be “just like everyone else”, to blend into the background and not make a difference. I have a dream to impact the world for God, and a passion and drive to fulfill His will for my life.
All of that sounds pretty great, right? And really, the basic idea is great—work ethic and goals and leading a purposeful life are wonderful things! However, there is a fine line between living your life on purpose, and letting that desire for excellence become a slave driver that leads you onto the slippery slope of an acts-oriented life. I fell into that trap myself, somehow confusing God’s loving plan for me as something that I needed to fit into and figure out rather than something that He created me for and will bring about regardless of what I myself actually do. I began to think of life in “black and white”, like there was always a “right” option if I could only find it, and all of the other choices were wrong; or at best, there was one option that surpassed all others (“excellence”) and the others, while acceptable, weren’t really God’s best for my life. I went through my days often feeling worn down and beaten, wondering what God really wanted from me and for me, and feeling like a failure when things weren’t turning out right in my parenting, marriage, friendships, etc. Obviously, this is a recipe for disaster!
It wasn’t until I met with a counselor and started to “dig” into my thinking more that I even realized how I had twisted something good into something so very ugly. I’m still walking this path of healing, and I have a looooong way to go to recover from my “black and white” mindset, but God has opened my mind enough to start to see life in a very different light. Instead of there only being two options (“right” and “wrong”) or only one truly excellent choice, what if God has really given me a plethora of perfectly fine choices, and He loves me exactly the same no matter what I choose? Now, I’m not at all saying that there is no such thing as sin and evil, or never a time when there is a “right” and “wrong” choice; there are definite circumstances and situations when a choice is flat-out wrong because it is sinful. What I’m talking about is more about daily life choices, things that God hasn’t already spelled out in His Word. God is happy with me when I choose to be responsible and clean my house, and He’s also happy with me when I instead decide to listen to my tired body and sit on the couch to read. He loves me lavishly when I give extra money to my church, and He also loves me lavishly when I instead use that money to buy my kids ice cream.
God isn’t sitting up in Heaven with some kind of scavenger hunt checklist of “the best choices” for us to make, shaking His head in disappointment when we choose the “lesser” option; He is our Good Shepherd who has led us to a wide green meadow full of all kinds of happy and GOOD choices. Do we want to lay on the grass in the sun? Do we want to lounge in the shade and snooze? Do we want to play in the river with friends? Those are all good choices. God never intended for us to use excellence or being set apart for Him as some kind of slave-driver to live “the best life we can”. If God wants to use us for His glory, He will—regardless of our accomplishments (or lack there-of).
Something my counselor told me that has really set me free is this: “Being ordinary is not common.” It’s ok to just be us—everyday, ordinary people with a heart for God, enjoying the life He gave us. There is a lot of pressure to somehow be great in this world, to leave our mark and make a difference; there aren’t many people at all that just rest in who God made them to be and where He has put them, trusting Him to bring about the work He has for us and living in faith and love for Him. He can (and does) still use our “ordinary” selves to do amazing things; didn’t He prove that time and again in His Word? He used fishermen, shepherds, little kids, shop-owners…everyday, average people to fulfill His amazing plans. It isn’t what we do that makes our lives stand out for God; it’s what He does. The pressure’s off, Guys. Enjoy the meadow, and don’t worry about asking God if every blade of grass is ok to eat. I promise you, He’s happy with whichever one you choose.
“He fills my life with good things”
Psalm 103:2-5 “Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things He does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagles!”
Galations 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
Psalm 118:5 “When hard pressed, I cried to the LORD; he brought me into a spacious place.”