Between What Is and What Could Be
One of the biggest struggles I have had in regard to life purpose is living in the tension between what could be and what is. Dreams and desires God seemed to put on my heart remain out of reach. Potential I see in myself stays dormant, for years.
Often the biggest challenge isn’t figuring out what I want or discerning God’s will, it’s simply holding on to faith that it will happen. Often, the hardest part is the waiting.
If you find yourself in the in-between right now, take heart. Every calling goes through a time of testing and waiting. The bigger the calling, the more preparation required. God is in the waiting. And through it, He purifies us in ways only waiting can.
When we first receive a calling––a burning in our heart that we can’t ignore or sudden clarity in which everything clicks into place––it is exhilarating. But over time that high wears off.
We begin to comprehend the cost. We realize there is stigma attached to our dream. We realize it will require sacrifice.
Perhaps we get passed over. We realize our skills and knowledge are lacking. We learn that others don’t believe in us and aren’t supportive of our dreams. It becomes clear that the road will not be easy and we will have to fight for it, if we really want it.
We begin to ask, Do I really want it?
True callings withstand the test. Selfish motivations don’t. At least, that has been my experience.
Wanting to be Used by God
I have pursued certain passions because I enjoyed them, felt intensely alive while doing them, and saw ways to honor God through them. I expected smooth sailing. God loves me, I thought. He is on my side. He will open doors and provide a pleasant path forward.
Instead, opposition came, and it shook me.
Roadblocks rose up, doors closed, resources dried up, and I was left confused and devastated. Had I heard wrong from God? Had I been wrong to believe in myself, to follow my heart? Was it wrong to want to be used by God?
The shaking exposed a lot of ugliness hiding inside me. Namely, selfishness and pride. I had thought I was a pure-hearted girl who put God above all else. I am pretty sure that is how I appeared to others. Sometimes I was that girl. But mixed in with my pure passion and love for God was a desire to be seen and a deep-rooted sense of entitlement.
As soon as my hopes were denied, all my ugliness came out.
Pride: The Deadliest Sin
To my shame, I admit that while God told me straight away that I had a pride issue, I didn’t repent of my pride for a full year and a half. I didn’t even think to repent. I simply saw my pride as a problem to be solved.
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.
– James 4:10
“I can’t promote you until this pride issue is taken care of,” God said. “I can’t promote you while you feel this entitlement.” So I thought long and hard about how to become more humble. Then I would be exalted. Then I could move forward. Then the doors would open and the recognition would come. Then I could finally step into what I was made for.
There were many painful, humbling moments during those 18 months, mostly painful because my pride was very much alive and kicking. I wrestled with what it meant to not think less of myself, but to think about myself less. (What a catch-22…) I was intentional in lifting others up. I tried to be okay with being overlooked, unappreciated, and undervalued. Yet the exaltation didn’t come.
And all the while, I grew increasingly frustrated and resentful.
Finally, while doing an extended media fast for a different reason, I came across a sermon by John Bevere on YouTube entitled The Hidden Power of Humility (which has apparently since been taken down).
It changed my life.
I was calmly eating lunch as I listened to Bevere talk about David and his oldest brother Eliab. When the Israelites are facing Goliath, David brings provisions to his older brothers on the battlefield. Eliab, however, suspects that David is coming on pretense to see the battle, and he accuses David of pride. He reams David out, saying he has evil and presumption in his heart when he asks about the situation with Goliath (1 Samuel 17:28).
“True humility can look like pride,” Bevere pointed out. David looks proud to Eliab when he is actually humble. He is asking people about Goliath, not because he is concerned about his own glory, but because he is concerned with God’s. In actuality, Eliab is the one who filled with pride. How do we know? In the previous chapter, when the prophet Samuel comes to their house to anoint one of Jesse’s sons king, Eliab is the logical choice as eldest son. But God tells Samuel to reject Eliab because of what is in his heart (1 Samuel 16:7). So Samuel passes right over Eliab and anoints David instead.
“What’s the only reason God passes a person over for promotion?” John Bevere boomed. “Pride.”
Suddenly tears were streaming down my face. It felt like God was speaking directly to me.
That was the day my hardened heart broke. It was the first time I was able to understand how ugly and ungodly I had been. It was the day I finally repented of my pride. That day my heart cry changed from, “Fix me so I can fulfill my destiny!” to, “Please don’t let anything ever separate me from You.”
I was finally able to lay it all down on the altar––my expectations, my desires, what I felt I deserved. I finally understood that I wasn’t entitled to anything.
Now, I can see change in myself. I’m less worried about how I appear to others. I’m less focused on what I deserve. I’m less restless, less concerned about how fast I am moving forward, or if I’m moving forward at all. I’m not perfect by any means, but I can see that I genuinely think about myself less. Wow.
Seeing the humility I’ve developed, I feel deeply grateful. Because I know that I was incapable of changing myself. I tried. I failed. But God in His mercy brought me through the painful process I needed.
And now I understand that my heart changing to be more like His is more sweet than achieving any dream I could imagine.
God is committed to your character development.
I mentioned this in the first post of this series, but it bears repeating. God caring about your character may not sound terribly exciting, but it actually is. Society measures success by results, but God cares more about you than results. To Him, you are the goal.
Sometimes precious dreams will die. In fact, all dreams need to be surrendered. It’s painful, but that sacrifice is nothing compared to the greatness of knowing Him. The dreams that are from the Lord will come blazing back to life at the right time. And this time, instead of finding yourself at the center, you will find that He is.
But whatever was to my profit I consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.
– Philippians 3:7-8
Have you struggled with holding onto a dream or calling? What has given you strength in the waiting? What dreams have you had to let go of? How has God changed you through the process?
For more on Purpose & Potential, check out:
Purpose & Potential: Caught up in the Millennial Race to Relevance
Purpose & Potential: Discerning Your Calling
Purpose & Potential: Living in Freedom