But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. [...] And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
-1 Corinthians 13:8,13
Welcome to 2022, friends. A new year. I always feel this weird obligation to write something really inspired and focused for the first TFG reflection of the year. Something that drives you to go out there and get things done!
You know what I mean right? The whole Go-change-the-world-Lay-it-on-the-line--Believe-in-Jesus-and-yourself kind of stuff.
So let me encourage you with this mic drop of deeply inspiring wisdom:
A lot of what you do this year won't amount to much.
I know. After reading that, I expect you are now bursting with motivation and inspiration.
Thanks for coming to my TED talk.
No, really. I'm not trying to be pessimistic, just honest.
You'll probably waste a good bit of time and energy on ideas and goals that won't pan out. You may build a friendship that fizzles. You may step out and try something new, and it won't be like you imagined. It could be wonderful! And it could be.. meh.
And that, my friends, is called life.
But does it need to be?
Sometimes I wonder if we simply slap a Christian label right on top of the human desire to accomplish and be successful and get recognition... and we somehow convince ourselves that that's what matters most to God. The final product. The big accomplishment. The result.
This year for Christmas, my daughter Sariya got one of the most unique gifts that I've seen. It's called a Buddha Board. It's a beautiful white standing canvas and brush for painting, with a couple noticeable distinctions...
First, you are painting with water, not paint. And second, the specialized canvas dries quickly and your work disappears about 5 minutes after you create it.
The Buddha Board: Master the Art of Letting Go.
What a tagline! I hope whoever thought of that is getting paid.
For those focused on results, this thing will drive you mad. But for those focused on the process, and learning to be fully present, it's a gift of absolute freedom. How can you get frustrated when you'll have a blank canvas again in just a few minutes? Mistakes aren't permanent; neither are masterpieces. It's all to be embraced moment by moment. Even someone like me can't walk by without wanting to pick up the brush and paint something wonderfully ugly. It's extraordinary.
But let's not assume that nothing is being accomplished here. An aspiring artist, spending hours working on this disappearing canvas, may not create any wall hangings from it. But when the time finally comes to dip her brush into paint, the work they make will reveal the growth that she's experienced.
Jesus invites us to live a life fully present to God at each moment, and fully present to the people in front of us with a heart of love. Our job is to listen for the spirit and spend our days learning to build God's kingdom through the unique ways we've been wired. And as we step out and try new things and think new thoughts and love new people... some of it will not lead to great results. And that's ok. And some of it will be wonderful, but we'll have little to show for it. And that's ok too. Because the beauty that we create each moment matters, and we will be changed in the process.
In life, you cannot force any outcomes. But who you become as you create things, as you grow... that will remain.
Big actions and impressive moments will come and go.
Spiritual disciplines may bring great connection with God one month, then go dry the next.
Your retirement accounts may rise and fall with the economy.
Your attempts at reconciling with a family member may be rejected.
But the faith that is forged in the hard moments, that will remain.
The hope that is forged in both beauty and heartache, that will remain.
And the love the God gives as we learn to fail fabulously and succeed humbly... that will only multiply and grow until it spills from us to each person we meet.
That love will remain for all eternity.
I'd like to leave you with this very unique blessing that's been inspiring me today. It's from Celtic Daily Prayer, book 2:
“Be content to live an
misunderstood life among people...
Let Christ transfigure the darkness in ourselves & in the world.
Let there be great care to maintain the simplicity of presence...
Love what is obscure & little for there you will find Christ.”
Let's be people who are so deeply rooted in Jesus this year that we are more concerned with presence than performance, and more concerned with gracious hearts than great achievements. Let's entrust ourselves fully to Jesus, and be formed in humble love.
Jesus, set me free.