Remember when you were in elementary school and the “S” on your report card meant “Satisfactory”? Maybe I needed inner healing from a young age, but for some reason that mark always stung. I wanted to excel, not simply be “good enough,” which was what “S” translated to in my mind.
When I came to Jesus, or rather when Jesus came to me, I remember being so full of joy and feeling so loved. My heart felt full. So full I could sing. And so I did! The church I went to at the time held a talent show, which in today’s church culture is called a kid’s concert. I chose to sing the only Christian song I knew: Jesus Loves Me. It’s still one of my favorites (turns out the simple truths are always the most powerful). I don’t remember what any of the other kids did to display their talents, because I was five, and because I just wanted to share what was in my heart. Comparison and competition hadn’t yet plagued me.
I do, however, remember the mark I did receive that day. After singing my best song, my truest song, they handed out awards. Mine was among the last to be given. Everyone who went before me received a ribbon that said, “Great” or “Excellent“. I got one that said, “Good.” And suddenly, I became aware that I had not excelled, and my gift became the subject of scrutiny – scrutiny that moved from the outside to the inside. My heart, which had sung from it’s center, was taught that it could “do better.” And so for many years following that day, I sought to try harder and bring better.
This is prevalent in our world of constant upgrades. Success is not marked in our culture by passionate pursuit, but by improvements in progress. We have somewhere lost the joy of the journey, and discounted the value of the single breath that carries the will to live beautifully. Some are seeking to rediscover it, but overall, we are plagued by comparison and competition, even if only with ourselves – and even if we desperately don’t want to be. Just the slightest bit of coasting mentally, emotionally or spiritually lands us in the current of this societal trend, and we become subject to a race we never intentionally signed up for.
But what if there’s a different race we’re supposed to be running? One that isn’t marked by progress or performance, or even the drive to be fully satisfied somehow? What if there’s a race that is simply marked by love and whole-hearted commitment? Of course, everyone knows the goal of a race is to finish, but what if the goal is not the real prize? What if, even while we fix our eyes on finishing, on reaching the end goal, we discover that the race of faith winds through the garden of Eden, where intimate relationship leads us into delight, and out of duty driven by disappointed expectations?
What if there’s a rating system where “Satisfactory” and “Good” are the highest marks, not the mediocre ones?
What if there’s a life that is pierced by adoration, and not accomplishments or approval?
When you’re chasing a God you have to please, because life and the world have told you you’re not good enough yet, striving becomes so normal you don’t even know it’s not supposed to be that way. You get swept up into the current of the world’s value system, and you keep working harder for a sense of approval – even if only from within yourself – that never really lasts. Thus, the constant merry-go-round of life upgrades and hacks that help us become better.
But what if we’re already good enough? And what if the only thing keeping us from realizing it and resting in it is that we’re drinking from the wrong well? In a world like ours, where technology brings water out of walls with computer-controlled motion detectors, wells where you draw your own water can seem outdated and unappealing. When we’ve gone off in pursuit of what’s “better,” what began as “good” can seem like it’s not good enough anymore.
I get it. And I get how we get caught up in it. But what if we pushed paused in our lives long enough to revisit the well of God’s presence and to taste again – with undistracted focus – just how good “good” really is?
What if we got off the merry-go-round and sat down in the garden for just a while?
My hypothesis is that we would be unhooked from the I.V. stream of constant striving and instead learn to rest in the beauty of God’s goodness, which would only reinforce the understanding that He loves as we are, and we are good enough. The striving can stop. The “do better” can be silenced. We can bring our gift, our selves, and delight in His presence while He delights in us. The results of such a life – rooted in goodness and no longer striving for greater – would be astounding, I think.
The reason I think this way is two-fold:
First, a number of years ago God reminded me that – while man’s “good” was an inferior mark – from His perspective, it was the highest mark. When He created the world and all that He placed in it – including us – He called it all “good”. And He built into all of it the ability to reproduce after its own kind. In other words, “good” would produce more “good“, naturally. There wasn’t a need to improve on what He had created.
That need entered when Adam and Eve ate from the tree they never should have gone near – the tree that served to make them wise in their own eyes. Before the fruit of knowledge that was rooted in self-sufficiency, all of creation – including mankind – was completely dependent upon and satisfied by God. After that fruit, satisfaction wasn’t enough for us anymore. We constantly craved “more” and “better,” and the result has been that we are rarely ever truly and permanently satisfied anymore.
The second reason I think learning to rest and be satisfied in God’s goodness would have astounding results is that His goodness naturally reproduces that which is good. So, while we come to Him as we are, as we learn to rest and trust and delight ourselves in simply Him, He changes us. He causes us to grow and mature, until our lives naturally produce beautiful things. Things unattached to the world’s value system. Things that may never be marked by the world as “great,” but which, in God’s eyes and in His Kingdom make a mark that Heaven smiles over. Things that will bring glory to God, and things that will keep our hearts free from the need of the world’s approval and affirmation.
There is a cry in my soul to live unhooked. To detach my family from the rat race that we call life in our world, and to reattach ourselves to God’s delight. To His purpose. To His nature, built into us. I want to drink daily from the well of His presence, and be completely satisfied there. And from satisfaction, I want my life to pour out goodness. I don’t want to chase greatness anymore. Even in the Kingdom of God, men have been taught to chase greatness. To become better. And if we’re not careful, chasing God can turn into just another avenue of self-improvement, rooted in the insecurities spawned by a world that casts its judgment over our performance and entraps us in the constant struggle to strive for more.
Jesus said we would do greater things than He did, but He never meant for those greater things to be a comparison in quality. He meant for them to be a reproduction of His life in us, naturally producing more goodness in every direction as we dwell in His love and live life according to His definition. He meant that, as we align ourselves with His heart, our intimacy with Him would give birth to the miraculous. If we all, who are called His followers, lived this way, imagine how great the influence and witness of His love and power could spread out over all the earth.
God does great things. He gives great gifts. He imparts big callings and destinies. But if we chase after those things, we will do the same thing in the religious world that people do in the everyday world. We will strive for greater. We will work harder in order to achieve things. We will never be satisfied, and find ourselves always searching for more, always trying to be better and do better…which opens us up to all kinds of cheap and unsatisfying substitutions that become detours away from His goodness.
The answer is simple, Dear Woman of Breakthrough. The path of release, the way to “unhook” ourselves from the wrong race and get into the right lane of the right race is to delight ourselves in the Lord alone. To drink deeply from His presence. To taste and see for ourselves just how good He truly is…until His “good” is good enough for us. Then we can breathe in Him, move in Him, live and have all of our being rooted in Him and in His love. And what will be produced from a life like that, the world can never achieve. Because it will be born from the God Who is love. There is not a human invention which can improve on that. And there is not a human invention that can quench the thirst of a soul like only God’s love can.
May you be freshly inspired today to search your heart and your life for the marks of striving to be better and do better, and then to bring them to the well of God’s presence and dump them in. May your heart and life be purified from the need to prove anything to yourself or anyone else, from the temptation to run the rat race of working hard to accomplish something that will need to be improved upon tomorrow or next week or next year. May you be released from the compulsion to go after greater, and may you be led back to the simplicity of resting in God’s goodness, and seeing yourself through His eyes, until what you bring to Him is brought with joy, confidence and the deepest, purest love.
May your highest mark become His highest mark, and may all other rating and value systems be abandoned and surrendered, so that your life can naturally blossom into all it was created to be. Rest, beloved, in His amazing grace and perfect love!!