Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Sense of Purpose - Painting with a Grey Pallet

As I look towards the New Year this year I find myself struggling with something that is always nagging me in the back of my mind. I realize that it is again one of those "voices" from the past that I still have yet to shake. It is the voice that taunts me, ridicules me, and whispers that I am no longer building anything significant with my life.

In my old church, every act we did was significant. We were the elite of God's Army. We were the ones who heard his voice and we were the ones that were in the process of bringing the Kingdom of God to earth in this day - no in this hour.

Every act of kindness did not stand on its own. Instead, every act of kindness was a blow against the enemy's kingdom.

If you served anyone or anywhere in the church, you were supporting the advance of God's kingdom.

If you gave money, you were planting seed that would be returned 10 or lately 100 fold.

If you gave a gift to the pastors it was not simply a gift. No, you were laying your gift at the feet of the Apostles.

If you sang on the worship team or even just in your seat it was not just a simple act of adoration. Here, you were breaking through the heavens so that the Kingdom of God could come down.

If you prayed you were doing an important job, you were binding and loosing. You were causing something to take place in the heavenlies.

If you were a good parent or a good spouse you were discipling hundreds by your example.

If you were righteous at work - if you did a good job - you were in the process of taking over that secular job for the Kingdom of God.

If you made money in your secular job you were a part of the transferring of the wealth of the Gentles to the Kingdom.

If you kept your home and yard clean it was a witness to your neighbors and thus you were taking part in the great harvest of souls.

If you drove a nice car you were showing the prosperity of the Lord that was promised to the saints.


This has been the hardest mindset to shake. In a way, it was so hyped up that it felt like a drug. Coming off the drug has made me feel dull. Dry. Worthless. Of no value.

What does my life matter? Kindness is simply kindness. Giving is simply giving. Prayer is simply conversation and worship is an intimate experience. It is all so un-glorious to the side of me that used to get all her importance from what she did.

I seem to be painting in a pallet of gray as opposed to the brilliant colors that were used in the past.

Part of me, I'm sure the drug addict side of me, longs for the brilliant colors of just a few years ago. Those colors made me feel so important - so vital to the work of God.

And so today as I wrote this out I realize that I want to be somewhere else a year from today. Here is where I want to end up next year:

I want God to take this seemingly gray pallet of colors that I now have in my hand and, with me, paint a beautiful picture. I think if I don't give up - If I continue to be faithful with the brush and colors he has given me - that He will miraculously cause my picture to come to life in the most beautiful colors ever imagined. It will exude His brilliance and all who look upon this picture will understand that a miracle has been wrought. They will understand that the simple strokes of gray have been made into color only by His hand.


Rick said...

For me, most of what you posted falls into the "let your yes be yes and your no be no" category. So much of the same thing went by in my past, too, until it seemed that we needed to add the high-faluting language to make the simple things seem more outstanding. But being alive in the moment for me means simply praying, simply helping, etc. I want to be in a different place, too. But not back there with the gaudy painted on colors over the real meaningful stuff of life.

Anonymous said...

Barb, while your past is not the same as mine, I do grasp your point. But some of what you speak of, such as kindness, is bright with the color of God's kingdom being shown to the world. Of course, showing off our prosperity is not.

A book that has helped me understand how important life today is for the kingdom that is coming and the new creation is N. T. Wright's "Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection and the Mission of the Church". I highly recommend it.

As you begin this new year I do pray with you that Father will bring to life that gray pallet into an array of colors you cannot imagine today. I think for all of us some of our pallet remains gray but over time less is gray and more is vibrant with those colors.

Fred Shope said...

Barb, it seems to me that the things in your list are full of bright colors in and of themselves if they were done out of love for God and others. The other stuff that is added to make the simple acts seem bright and shiny was simply bad paint that did not last.

We may not see the brightness of our own actions, but God does. And he's the only one that matters.

Anonymous said...

I can totally relate and can tell you that many brothers and sister who have exited churchianity have dealt with the same feelings. I call it spiritual freefall. All the old landmarks are gone and to top it off, the Lord is telling us to resist establishing new ones too quickly.

Nearly everything in the church system is so scripted we lose the spontaneity and wind-like nature of the Spirit (John 3:8). Indeed, we lose our identity to the system rather than keep it in Christ.

As co-heir and traveller suggest - the issue is allowing a redefinition of what color is. Has the church system told us red is grey for so long we started believing it?

Here is an article that might be encouraging.

Journey on my dear sister!

Barb said...

Rick, it truly is simple. The high-faluting language was just that. Here's to a different place for us.

Traveller, I will pick up the book and read it. Sounds exactly what I'm looking for. Truly I think the colors are there, my eyes just need to be trained to see them.

Co-Heir, Thanks, I wonder what exactly will remain from my life before. I know that some was done in faith. But so much was done for my own gain. My hope is in Him and His goodness.

Douglas, thanks for the link to your article. I loved this: "My exhortation to you then is to reject the fleshly compulsion to regain your footing." I am so impatient with this. Thanks!

Rich said...

Hi Barb,

I had to laugh when I read this, "It is the voice that taunts me, ridicules me, and whispers that I am no longer building anything significant with my life."
Two thoughts came to mind, two different expressions but perhaps seemless in His spirit.

The inner knowing (revelation) that we ARE His house (building), Christ in us the jars of clay, He is the exceeding great treasure in us as us, and the building I see going on in you is our Father is fully forming the life of His Son in you, again the attraction is to Him the living, moving being One in us as us. Those who will get it-will get it!

Anonymous said...

Barb, I'll post a profile since this is my first comment after reading for some time. You have accurately described one way we use religion to deal with the internalized-shame with which many believers continue to struggle even after they have dealt with the issues of their guilt.

While internalized-shame manifests itself in various and paradoxical ways at its core is a deep feeling that "I am not enough." At one extreme it can take some people to reject love, grace, community, etc. because they can't imagine ever being enough. At the other end it can drive others to the heights of success with all the toys and praise that comes along but in the dark of night that person feels that it is not enough and they have to do more to be enough.

One response to internalized-shame is hubris. That is doing something that has value and using it to feel that we have value from doing it. Rather than healthy pride "I am proud of the work I did" it is "I have special value as a person because I did something - praying, giving, etc.

It is part of the shame-based system used in some of our religious systems to hook people into serving the needs of the institution by using their struggle with feelings of shame/diagrace. It becomes addictive.

Long story short: To the extent that we have internalized-disgrace (heartwounds, rejection, abuse, etc.) to that degree we are challenged in internalizing grace. It can be good truth. We can preach about it and teach it and even imagine how others deserve it but then doubt is for ourselves.

Thanks for posting such a clear picture of how shame-based systems use institutional service to maintain hook people into what always fails to be enough to overcome their need and why we come back for more. It's so parallel to the issue of why shame-based people stay in abusive situations.