The sentence my friend said over lunch that totally rocked my world
Over the salty, umami goodness of Mediterranean food, my friend Melissa and I talk about life, kids, and work. She’s an entrepreneur who’s working hard to build a successful business. And then, somewhere in the middle of our conversation, Melissa said the most interesting thing… “I’m learning that it doesn’t have to look a certain way.”
This struck me as odd—my friend, who is in the industry of “do it this way” or “this should look that way,” realized she was allowed to forge her own path.
As someone who loves a hearty step-by-step checklist, the idea of straying from the suggested path was strange. Doesn’t the term “best practices” imply that what works for one should work for all? Aren’t we told all the time that we can checklist our way into more success, more happiness and a better life?
Or, as Melissa said, is it true that it doesn’t have to look a certain way?
After reflecting on my friend’s words, I realized that I struggled with them because I want my life to look a certain way.
I like results, formulas, and guaranteed outcomes. I want better-life-formulas and articles like How to Make Your Kid Perfect Overnight, 10 Dates to Marriage Perfection, and Get Close to God in 5 Easy Steps. I want to reach my desired outcome as quickly as possible.
My desire for this kind of life results in a modern-day legalism and false sense of control.
I want to boil my life down to a series of laws (or as I call them, best practices), that, if followed, guarantee success…but all the law can do is condemn me. When I don’t live up to my own standards, check everything off the to-do list, or do everything I believe I “should,” I feel defeated, frustrated, and hopeless.
My hope for all these laws I’ve created is to gain control. I want the certainty of the good life. However, the answer to uncertainty is not to be more controlling, but to recognize Who is in control in the first place: Christ.
As Wayne Muller writes in A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough, “It (the Christian life) is a dangerous life because it refuses to be predicted, planned, controlled, evaluated… It is dangerous, because we must finally abandon the comforting illusion that we can, in any way, control the outcome.”
But I don’t like this truth. I want a life that can be predicted, planned, controlled, and evaluated with the right systems and best practices in place.
I’m desperate for my life to look a certain way.
But Christ doesn’t want my life boiled down to a formula—he wants to see it lived out in the unique way He designed.
God tells us through Paul that we are His masterpieces, His poem, His art (Ephesians 2:10). And what is the job of art? To be what it was created to be and to be enjoyed by it’s Maker.
So how do we do this?
Let’s be who we were created to be.
When we become legalists and control freaks who follow the formula, we’re living someone else’s life. We’re an automaton instead of art.
We so often believe that what schedule works for others should work for us, that how others educate their kids is how we should educate ours, and that how our boss leads is how we should lead.
But that’s not true.
The broad spaciousness of God allows for different ways and methods. He customized our life just for us.
Our world is waiting for us to wake up and be who we are. In these crazy times, we need everyone’s gifts and talents to share the gospel, to love on the kids in Sunday school, to visit the neighbor, to write the report well, and to pitch the client with integrity.
Let’s allow ourselves to be enjoyed by our Maker.
We all have laundry to do, errands to run, and deadlines to meet…who has time to be enjoyed by her Maker?
Christ delights to see a human fully alive. At least, that’s what St. Irenaeus said. God didn’t make one human and then make photocopies—He created individual people with individual personalities, gifts, hopes, dreams, and passions. As Emily P. Freeman writes in A Million Little Ways, “Christ moves around in the world through the filter of your you-ness.”
Our God is waiting for you to quit living a formula and become art He created you to be. He designed you with a plan to meet the world’s needs long ago. The works He planned are custom-fit for you. No one else He created can do what He’s got for you.
Over the salty, umami goodness of Mediterranean food, my friend Melissa shared the truth that it doesn’t have to look a certain way, and she was right. Instead of following the formulas or grasping for control, we can forge our own path. He delights in us and the world’s greatest needs are met when we are who God created us to be.