"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
Those words have been ringing in my ears for a month now. Because in my own mind and when I'm feeling full of myself, I know that apart from Him I can do quite a lot. I guess it depends on how you define "something." I can create a flurry of activity that keeps me from quality time with God. I am extremely good at making THAT happen. I can generate what folks will perceive as productivity and performance and quite competent work. I am able to multi-task like a fool.
What I read in John 15 though, is "apart from me, you can nothing of lasting value for the Kingdom of God." And what I have experienced lately is "apart from me you can do a lot of things, but you will wear yourself out in the process and be no closer to me in the end."
I have fought off the Lord's advances like a child fighting sleep. You've seen it. You know the child likes sleep, needs sleep, and will be grumpy and dissatisfied without sleep. And you know what a pill that kid will be unless she just gives in and relents to the rest.
It was easier to avoid Him than to face what He wanted to do in me. But we all know that avoidance doesn't really work with our relentless pursuer. I told Him years ago that He could have me, and He intends to hold me to that. I have avoided solitude, and prayed only for general things like other people and little problems that crop up; and I have tiptoed around the one big beast that infects my thinking.
I am a performer. Not in the bright lights-on-stage kind of way, though I do enjoy that. But in the "I must do things perfectly so that other people will recognize my awesomeness" way. And of course, that twisted mindset just sets you up for a series of failures. Because for everything I do well, there are 12 things I completely drop the ball on. For everything that I do apart from God, I am left with a sense of empty victory that drains my spirit. It creeps into my job, my marriage, and my worship. I had hoped the Lord had instilled in me a drive for excellence, and that all of this could somehow be used as a gift from Him. (isn't it awesome how we can lie to ourselves!?) By labeling my need for outer perfection in performance as "excellence," I have spent years wearing myself out and rarely relying on His creativity, inspiration, and His sustenance for my soul. Apart from Him, I can do quite a lot that other people can recognize and applaud. But it's really not FOR Him. At its best, it's maybe ABOUT Him, but most likely FOR me.
We all worship at the throne of Self. We all have the one thing we'd rather the Lord not mess with. The thing we'd rather not cleanse, and that we can defend to the point of exhaustion. As my pastor said, the thing we get defensive about is the thing that the Lord wants us to lay down. I get extremely defensive when someone questions my ability in an area in which I feel I am doing well. When people underestimate me and my "abilities," I turn inside-out.
But the time has come to make the sacrifice at the mountain of God. To lay down this need for acclamation, multi-tasking, and perfection. The make my stand at the foot Sinai and let the Lord visit me, as He did with the people of Israel just before giving them The Law--the ways in which they were to LIVE. They cleansed themselves before the Lord so that He could truly direct their steps--so He could lay out His plan and His way before them. I must consecrate this area of my heart and set this twisted thinking before Him and let His holy presence burn it up.
I don't know how to live apart from this sin. I don't know how to give up the drug of affirmation. I hardly know how to be still and know that He is God, as stillness is unnatural for my kind. This sin thrives in busyness. It feeds off activity. It gets a buzz when there is a task to be done. I'm not sure where to go from here, but the death of this beast is imminent. I broke this week and cracked under the pressure of expectations at work. I wanted to scream at the universe, "I'm JUST ONE PERSON! I CANNOT DO EVERYTHING! I CAN ONLY DO WHAT I CAN DO!!!!!"
When I cracked, I thought at first that it was sadness seeping in, like a flood of depression--or worse, my grip on sanity. But this week I realized that what I'm experiencing is the beginnings of this sin seeping out. It feels a lot like sadness, as this sin has been a constant companion for as long as I can remember. It's dying, and that's just never fun. There's a reason Jesus calls it taking up a cross to follow Him. It's a death-march of Self. Kicking and screaming, we're marching up Golgotha. I'm going to leave it there and wait for the Resurrection of the Shelley He created me to be. You're allowed to watch, but just don't clap when it happens. Praise the Lord.