We are each given one life to live. One life in which to make a mark, to leave an impression, to make a difference. When we were created, we were given that mark, that creative edge which, when shared with the world, would lead people back to the Creator. Back to the One Whose image they, too, were made in. Back to the One for Whom they were made to draw near to, to find themselves in.
Somewhere in our free world, however, the gift we were given, the mark we were created to leave, was perverted and became a tool in the pursuit of self-endorsement. Our mark has become a copy, a mere shadow of the life we were created to live. Somehow, in the frantic pursuit and demand for individuality, many of us have lost just that.
Think about it: we spend how many hours a day/week watching other people – whether on television or in real life – do what they do? Those are hours which are not devoted to doing what we were created to do. We are living in the shadows of other people’s successes, other people’s dreams, other people’s marks.
We go to church, or to concerts and conferences, and we spend our time and our money, often times, to admire someone else’s gift. I’m not knocking church or concerts or conferences at all. In their right place, they have great value. But in their wrong place, they become a dark shadow under which we live, under which we hide. Often, they purpose to thrust us into our own created place, but we have learned to take them in like a cup of coffee that temporarily warms a desire for comfort that is actually much deeper than the desire of our bellies.
We listen to endless podcasts and worships sets on Youtube, drawing encouragement, hope and inspiration from them – often daily. This, too, is good in its rightful place…in its created place. But when it becomes the substitute for the message you were made to preach, or the song you were made to sing, it becomes a dark shadow under which your mark remains hidden. Again, in their rightful place, they build and strengthen, but in the place of substitution, they stifle and subdue.
I think there is a fine balance between drawing upon the gifts and graces of other people’s lives, and trading in our own. And I think this balance is found in one place: encounter with God. When we drift through life, and even religion and the spiritual life it invites us into, without passionately pursuing regular encounters with God, we do nothing more than live in shadows. Everyone hates superficial representations of the real thing, but so often we settle for them, because we aren’t willing to press beyond the borders already defined for us. We aren’t willing to enter in, beyond the outer courts of worship, and approach the fiery heart of God.
So many people are content to simply congregate, to warm their hands by the fire that culture or religion has provided. But the fire of God’s presence invites us to go deeper, to find ourselves in Him, and to discover and become the original mark we were made to carry.
Many people are dissatisfied with church because they stop at the gate, where everything looks and sounds the same. They never press in, and therefore they never encounter the reality which the church exists to invite them into: encountering God and finding themselves in Him.
Many people criticize the very gifts they idolize in others, because they have never picked up their own and walked through the privileges and challenges of learning to use them. They have never stepped into the process of breaking new ground and breaking through the borders previously assigned there. It is always easier to watch someone else’s story unfold than to step into your own.
Many people are dissatisfied with the way their lives have gone, and are still searching for some kind of fulfillment in the shadows of other people’s attempts to do the same. But the fulfillment which every human heart craves cannot be found in the shadows we are surrounded by. There is only one shadow under which we will find our fullness, our reason for being, and that is the shadow of God’s wings. Under His shadow, we learn to soar, not settle. Under His shadow, we become, instead of succumb. Under His shadow, we do not wander, but are found, and then released to do what we can only impotently dream of doing outside of His presence.
As we encounter God’s presence, we are undone. Being undone means the outer trappings, the decorative wrappings, come off, and the gift inside gets revealed. Encountering God’s presence, not just once, but over and over again, makes it impossible to live in someone else’s shadow, because we have seen His, and we have found our own. We become so aware of the reality that we were made in His image, and that gives birth to a passion to be who and what we alone have been created to be, so that the shadow we cast carries power and presence, not just an empty thirst for admiration. When we encounter God’s presence, no carbon copy will do. No lesser assignment will suffice. No pre-packaged version will ever be appealing again.
Because when we encounter God’s presence, repeatedly, it isn’t about us anymore. The search for significance is over. We know, in His presence, that we are known by Him, and that becomes enough. And life then becomes about showcasing Him, rather than showcasing ourselves. Our mark then becomes about revealing the One Who has made us incredible, instead of seeking to prove that we are so incredible. Our hunger is no longer dictated by the trends of the world around us, but by an inner longing, fueled by the fiery heart of God. And out of that hunger, out of that longing, out of that fire, true greatness is born.
Dear Woman of Breakthrough, pursue encounter with the presence of God, today and every day. We need more than the shadows of religion, more than shadows of other people’s testimonies, in order to arise and live as we are called and created to. Take what you’ve been given for inspiration, but don’t stop there. Don’t settle there. Go after the presence of God until it becomes home to you, because when we live there, our lives will produce so much more than we’ve become willing to be okay with.
He is waiting for you, for me, for us…what are we waiting for?