More. Everything in our culture seems to drive us to want more. More money, more rest, more relationships, more knowledge, more stuff, more beauty, more health, more success, more popularity.
We are a very goal oriented culture and it is almost a given that we should want more of everything good. It’s something that we don’t even question. Who is going to turn down more money? More love? More youth? Successful people set a goal to achieve more and then work to meet that goal, right? We would be better if we just got more work done, were more focused, and were more efficient.
Even when it comes to church and spirituality…more Bible reading, more worship time, more people in church, more outreach, more mission trips, more talented musicians, more giving, more God time….more, more, more, MORE!
I’ll be completely honest…I’m sick of more.
It started about a year and a half ago. I had a separate blog where I reviewed Christian living books. Publishers would send me books to read and I would write a review of them. I would have some choice over what they sent me, and many times I would request leadership/success/reaching your potential books. I mean, if all I was getting paid were the books I was being sent, I might as well get something important out of them.
But I began to grow tired of these books and even come to resent them. I was no newbie to the leadership/success genre. I’ve been in leadership training, gone to conferences, and read voraciously on the topic since I was in middle school. From early on, people around me recognized me as a leader and I’ve always had the reputation of someone who gets things done well. But I think it was the dichotomy between the main concepts in these books and who Jesus is that finally did me in. It’s one thing for a secular guru to write this stuff, but for every megachurch pastor in America to publish a book on success, supposedly from a Christian angle, I began to see too many troublesome patterns begin to emerge.
- Just because some pastor has a big church and is famous doesn’t mean he had anything to do with it or has any clue how it happened. The reason these guys get these book contracts is because there is an entire segment of the population desperately addicted to their own success and who will grab at anything that promises to “show them the way”. It is like a drug addiction and they are addicted to themselves and their accomplishments. Just like a heroin user, they are chasing a dragon…and the dragon is the high they get from feeling big and important. But here is the dirty secret that no one wants to admit…no one becomes famous or successful on their own, and a lot of it is pure luck.
- The whole premise of these books is one big lie. Some books say it directly, but all of them at least imply, that if you follow these XX number of steps, then you will be as successful as the author. And then we believe the converse of this: if you are not successful, it is because you are not doing these things enough. First, refer to #1. The author doesn’t have a clue if it was what they did that caused them to be a success. Second, we have all had times where we were the person behind the scenes making the person out front look good. Many times, the person out front has no idea what it takes behind the scenes for them to look so good. Lastly, no two people are alike. We don’t have the same personalities. We don’t live in the same places, have the same backgrounds, or have the same circumstances.
- If the first step isn’t to talk to God or listen for Him, the advice is useless. Why? Because we have no idea if what we are doing is what God wants us to do. So you build a huge multimillion dollar empire. What if God never wanted you to do that? How many people would take the multimillion dollar empire even if it was against God’s will for them?
And that is why this concept of more is so troubling to me.
We just assume that if we are getting more, if we are meeting our goals, if we are growing what we have and what we are doing, we must be doing what God wants us to do. We even go so far as to see someone who is not as prosperous and question their relationship with God, because “obviously God would bless them if they would just do better”. Just like in these Christian success/leadership books, we intrinsically assume that more is better to the point of never even questioning whether it is better. We just believe what we’re told and chase it. I’m tired of it.
Or maybe I’m just tired. In many ways, God has taken away my ability to chase success. As I right this, not only am I so miserably tired that I’m having a hard time not thinking about sleep long enough to put together a complete sentence (thank you, Idiopathic Hypersomnia), but I also without warning ruptured a calf muscle 5 weeks ago and am fighting more pain than I am willing to admit. Last week, I went four days without a shower because I was just too tired. I’m too tired to even spend five minutes painting my toe nails. If I’m chasing anything, it’s adequacy.
So what is left? If I’m not chasing more, then what is life? If I’m not constantly refining myself, disciplining myself, working harder, doing more, what am I? Am I a rock, stuck in place and going nowhere?
It has forced me to recognize something big. So long as I’m chasing “more”, I don’t have to be okay with me as I am, but as soon as I stop, me as I am is all I have. That is important. If I’m constantly pursuing more, it’s okay to be me, because any flaw anyone, including myself, sees can be excused by saying that I’m working on it. As soon as I stop, I have to accept myself just as I am and say it’s not just okay, it’s good.
I think this is where we as Christians mess up when it comes to the Gospel. We say we are justified by Jesus, but instead we justify ourselves by the fact we are constantly trying to be more like Jesus or be closer to Him. We are justified by the notion that we are a work in progress, so that means it’s okay we aren’t perfect yet. Pursuing more and better becomes our crutch in justification. But as soon as we abandon the pursuit of more, we have to be okay just as we are, and that is terrifying. We only have Jesus to justify us then, and we are completely at His will.
Christian growth is kind of a misnomer. You can’t understand what growth is until you realize you don’t have to grow anymore. You’re free from constant self-improvement. You are free from the world’s trap of more. The Holy Spirit works in you. The God of all the Universe directs you. You are made okay by the one who died on a Cross for you. You don’t grab for more; you release more. You let go. You give up and give away. When the Holy Spirit lights up in me, I couldn’t fall asleep if I wanted to…and it doesn’t make me tired. My hands are too weak to grasp for any more, but my heart powers me to obey the Lord, nothing more. It is time we stop asking God to help us and instead ask Him to take our control away and be powered by Him. The greatest prayer I pray is, “Lord, take control over me. Work in me, on me, and through me, so there is nothing left of me but You.”