“Outside the will of God, there’s nothing I want. Inside the will of God there’s nothing I fear.” –A.W. Tozer
This past weekend I faced enemies that were both familiar and new. How does one measure success? Some might say in numbers. Others might say in fulfillment. Still others might say in the level of our obedience to God.
One thing I am sure of: God called me to South America for two and a half years. I came, I have served, and the time is coming to an end. Our church has grown, we have solid leaders who are capable of taking over the ministry, and best of all, those in the church have captured the vision that God wants EVERYONE to know Him. They will take the Word of God to every corner of the city and the nation. I pray that God keeps their passion alive.
So why, when looking back over the past two and a half years, do I feel the pangs of failure? Why, in the midst of so much “success” do I sense that I have somehow not fulfilled my part? I see so many holes; the aspects that I did not handle with maturity. I let down my arms and wonder how I could rise to the challenge of the next job that is actually in the area of my gifts. What if I can’t do it?
Normally, I would chastise myself for thinking such things. How insecure of me. However, instead of passively dismissing these thoughts, I decided to press deeper. After all, these ponderings aren’t normal for me anymore. I truly do walk in joy and peace. Rather than an attack, they seem more like a call to grow.
When I read the quote by Tozer, I could agree with all my heart on the first point. “Outside the will of God, there’s nothing I want.” True story. God has shown me that I can trust Him with the desires of my heart, and I do. Believing Him for the journey is not nearly the struggle that it used to be. I am walking forward in faith.
However, the second part has me reeling, “Inside the will of God there’s nothing I fear.” As God expands my understanding and my vision for how He will use me, I feel more and more inadequate. Instead of looking at people who inspire me and thinking, “Wow, I am going to live a life with that kind of passion!” I find myself falling on my face before God and wondering how my life could amount to anything. I have nothing of real significance to offer.
Believe it or not, through this brokenness I believe that God is moving me to the next level in my relationship with Him. He is showing me that my realization of my incapability and inadequacy is not a sign of insecurity, but rather is an awareness of reality. I am truly incapable of fulfilling what God has planned for me. It’s a new emptying of self, so that He might fill me more with Himself.
I studied Isaiah 6:1-8 in my retreat, and I was taken back by the reaction of Isaiah when he saw the King on the throne. “Then I said, ‘It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies!’” What was the seraphim’s response? A cleansing coal. Forgiveness. A new calling.
As God lifted my head and renewed my passion, a new peace flowed over me. God can work with a laid-down lover. He can use an empty, willing vessel. What He can’t work with as freely is an instrument that keeps trying to find significance and fulfillment. One who needs to feel like it matters.
I have learned that the only place my fulfillment can come from is in my private time with God. My success is in my emptiness and humility before Him. There is nothing that I can achieve that holds a candle to my time spent there. It is a great feeling to know that God has used us, that He has brought fruit from an obedient life. However, if it were to all fall apart tomorrow; if in a few moments all the fruit died and I was left alone facing the criticism of those who really don’t know my heart, could I stand? No…may they find me in the same position, rain or shine, success or failure: on my face before my King.
Maybe that’s what the second part of that quote means: that my peace is secure only in my emptiness before Him. The Bible says that there is no fear in love. What if my entire being was consumed with keeping my eyes firmly fixed on Him? In this dance, I stumble so. However, as the music plays, I am not the lead. With my hand securely in His, I feel each movement, gentle and slow. He breathes; I breathe. He sways, and I am carried away. I lay my head on his chest and I can feel His heartbeat. Lord, let me stay here. Just let me stay here.
I have learned that emotions really give us a choice. We can choose to feel them and grow weary, or feel them and allow the awareness of our humanity to make more room for Christ’s rich love. I choose to dance. In this love, I am safe and secure.
This is my prayer: