Success or Empty Performance?
What is success? What is vain performance? How would you know? I am meeting more and more people that I would previously have said are models of what success is. You name it, they are doing it…. influence, output, status, leadership, generosity, supernatural… The more ‘successful’ people I meet, the more I realize success is not what it appears to be. Most of it is a thin external layer of performance that covers a deep desire to feel worthy or loved. It is a external fix for an internal vacuum. So, how do you fill the vacuum?
Recently I received an update from a highly successful 70+yr old business friend of mine who is battling prostate cancer. The way he has walked out the challenges in his health, family and business are an absolute inspiration to me. His ‘conclusion to the matter’ rocked me:
“Life is about learning to experience how much God loves us;
not proving how much we love him.”
It was one of those statements that invited me into a new level of living. I have since dialogued further with him and asked him to send a letter that I could let you in on… So here it is. Read it like the words of a loving and wise father or grandfather who has lived well, seen everything and is passing on success keys for you to live by…
Recently we were talking about how life is learning to experience how much God loves us, not proving how much we love Him. Unfortunately religion, which most of us have experienced, focuses on our disciplining ourselves to prove our love for God.
Performing for our identity is such an easy trap to fall into. We are raised in families that tend to focus on our performance, while often attending churches that emphasize the same. It doesn’t stop there. We are also judged at school and work by our performance. It becomes the most natural thing in the world to begin to believe that our worth is equal to our performance. We then find our identity in our roles as husband, father, worker, athlete, etc. It becomes the most natural thing in the world to equate our relationship with God to proving how much we love Him. We lose sight of the fact that our identity is simply being God’s beloved son or daughter and resting in that identity.
My primary responsibility
As we have discussed, for many years God has used a wide variety of inputs, events, people, etc. to slowly reveal my hyper focus on performing. My primary responsibility has been to surrender to what He is doing in my life and stop trying to change myself. Let me give you a recent example of God’s changing the way I think.
Paul Young, the writer of The Shack, has a new non-fiction book being released in a few days, “Lies We Believe About God.” He released the first chapter to encourage people to buy the book. He wrote about a lie we often believe:
“God loves me but he doesn’t like me!”
This is a strong lie that we all believe at one time or another, probably more often than not. One of the ways God has been teaching me is through asking God specific questions and journaling what I believe He is saying. God used several books written by your friend Tony Stoltzfus, to encourage me in that practice.
Here is the question I asked God:
“Papa, are your fond of me? Do you find anything in me that is lovable, that is enough, that is worthy of my being loved?”
There is a huge difference between believing God loves us and believing that he is fond of us.
Here is what I wrote, believing it was His response:
“Doug, of course as your Creator and Papa, I love you. But as I think of you I want to communicate how fond I am of you. When I think of you I get this strong sense of fondness, with a smile coming to my countenance. You are in progress and will continue to grow and develop, but you don’t have to change anything for me to be pleased and fond of you. I am pleased with you just like you are. I am proud of who you have become and when your name comes up I often tell others (Jesus, Holy Spirit and angels) about how special you are. I am especially proud when I get to introduce you to others. ‘You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.’ Love and fondness, Papa”
God is amazingly fond of you; you are his beloved son [or daughter] in whom He is well pleased.
Love, your friend,
As you read this letter what impacted you the most?
Where have you jumped on the treadmill of empty performance?
What will you do about that?