“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
-Jesus (John 14:27)
On Friday, women's tennis pro Serena Williams finished her professional career, when she was eliminated in the third round of the US Open in New York. She is widely considered the greatest player in women's tennis history, after dominating for decades. And at nearly 41 she's still beating some of the world's best.
She started the tournament in a shocking way by defeating the second ranked player in the world. It looked like it could be a cinderella story- the greatest ever coming back for one more championship at the end of her career (I'll take that story any day over Tom Brady!!).
When she was interviewed after that win about her expectations in a tournament like this so late in her career, here's what she said:
"I don't have anything to prove. I don't have anything to win. I have absolutely nothing to lose."
And I'm thinking about her words today, because those are words of freedom. Those are words of maturity.
As a disciple of Jesus, I'm finding that the older I get, the more those sentiments are becoming my own as well. But for me, it's not because I've won 23 grand slams and started a successful fashion line. It's because my worth in God's kingdom isn't about my impressiveness nearly as much as I think it is.
Even as a Christ-follower, I've spent decades thinking that I've got something to prove to God and to those I lead. Public accomplishments, the size of my church, the speaking gigs I get booked at, the reputation I cultivate in our community, and how well I'm liked should all point to success. I want to be Serena-Williams-good one day, and finally look back and say, just look at my track record! I have nothing left to prove. But that's not how discipleship works.
It's not our track record that leads us to peace, freedom and maturity, but God's track record of faithfully loving us and walking with us. For us, having nothing to prove is because Jesus is the source of our value, freeing us to love well and walk in peace (and even make mistakes) as we try. And while wanting to be faithful is a wonderful desire, the pressure to constantly prove ourselves to others and to God will never let up unless we learn to receive grace and walk in the spirit.
I love that when Jesus promises his peace to the disciples, he reminds them that it won't be worldly peace- the kind that comes from a lack of conflict or from being in a secure life position. Rather, the peace God brings will come because God has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit as we journey. The "fiercely tender" Holy Spirit, in the words of writer Sarah Bessey. The Spirit that reminds us of the deepest truths- that we are loved, that we are not alone, and that we are empowered to be agents of reconciliation in a hurting world.
You don't need to be Serena Williams to realize the pressure is off. The tomb is empty, you are the beloved of God, and it doesn't all depend on you. So go out and play with all your heart today. You have nothing to prove.
Jesus, I want to receive your grace today. Lighten my heart.