I’ve been doing some studying. Some reading. Some puzzle-piece-together-putting.
And it’s been about as unwieldy and awkward as that hyphenated mess I just typed. But I think it’s an unwieldy and awkward step in the right direction.
In this season of peace, this abiding, God has laid out some truths for me… some dots that I’m connecting.
First, I started with John 15. Okay God, I said, Let’s read this again… And I read verse 16, which says,
“You did not choose me, I chose you; and I have commissioned you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last; so that whatever you ask from the Father in my name he may give you.”
Did you catch that? (No, I’m not talking about Jesus’ copious use of the semicolon, which just makes me feel like my run-on sentences are justified.) Well, I guess there was more than one thing really…
What first stuck out to me was that he says he has commissioned us to go and bear fruit. I felt like that was a little wink from God, just because it called to mind someone commissioning something from an artist. And as a creative whose abilities lie in performance, whether on a stage or a piece of paper or on this blog, I feel hope.
Performance has become a dirty word in certain circles, and for good reason.You’re cringing a little just reading it, aren’t you? The idea of performing tends to call up images of pandering for approval, or showing off, or being insincere in your faith, or just going through the motions. And a performance (usually…) intends to incite positive response of some kind from someone.
It’s one of the biggest pebbles in my shoe. I’m always stumbling over things like motives- why am I doing this? Why do I create- and then feel compelled to share my creation with someone else? Shouldn’t delighting the eyes of God be sufficient for me?
To answer this, I’ve realized we must walk a fine line as artists. We must remember that what we create isn’t really ours. I mean- it both is and isn’t. (Isn’t our faith full of delightfully baffling paradoxes?) But the part that isn’t ours is the gift it comes from. God gives us abilities, gifts, whatever you want to call them- to glorify Him.
I put that in bold as if I know what it means to do that.
But a big grace of God’s is that he’s leading me into a new season of learning. Graciously, generously, he knows I’ll fail over and over. He knows that taking a brave new step will test my mettle.
And he knows that my mettle on its own will fall short- without Jesus.
That’s why the other piece of that verse that sticks out is that we’re commissioned to bear fruit- fruit that will last. Wow. I don’t know that I’m capable of producing that kind of fruit.
Scratch that- I’m definitely not capable of producing that kind of fruit. Like it says back in verse 4,
“Stay united with me, as I will with you- for just as the branch can’t put forth fruit by itself apart from the vine, so you can’t bear fruit apart from me.”
Another way to say “Stay united with me” is “Abide in me, as I abide in you.” Can you feel your soul breathing a little easier?
I can. And I’d read some verses from our churches Brave series a few weeks ago that reminded me who God is and what God does.
[God] redeems your life from the pit, he surrounds you with grace and compassion, he contents you with good as long as you live, so that your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.” – Psalm 103:4-5
“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him” – Psalm 103:11
“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:2
“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1:6
“He says, ‘Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” – Psalm 46:10-11
“As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the Lord?… It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle… You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great. You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way.” – Psalm 18:30-36
God reminds us that he is a shelter, he is a fortress, he is a shield. And if he is all those things, then it follows that we are not.
My issue is forgetting that truth and going about my life as if I’m the fortress. I’ve got to make things happen, hustle, hurry, worry, strive… perform. And when I’m doing all those things? My purpose quickly deteriorates into building up my own counterfeit kingdom, exalting myself.
But if I’m not the fortress, and if I’m not God, then I can’t protect. I can’t produce.
And I most definitely cannot bear fruit. If performing is all we have, it’s more like wax fruit, as one of the commentaries in my Blue Letter Bible app put it.
But the pressure is off, dear friends! We aren’t saviors, we are the Beloved of the Savior. Our fortress, our shelter, our true vine. Come inside- it’s safe to dwell here in Jesus.
I know it’s hard. For me, it’s hard because I’m so distracted by others who seem to be running a faster, better, more beautiful and Instagram-able race that I am. And for that reason, I’ve decided to follow less people on Instagram. It’s not a big deal, I’ve just realized that, as my friend, Kara said to me this morning,
Too many voices clouds your calling.”
Right?! (I liked it so much, I whipped up a free printable for you! Which you’ll find below. Okay, so it’s kind of rustic, but this is just for you- not for my shop or anything other than just being free encouragement. Especially because I just noticed I added an unnecessary “s.” Or does it still work, grammatically? Ah, well. Either way, it just goes along with acknowledging my imperfections. Maybe I’ll make a nicer version of this quote some time.)
So, it’s ok if you need to do that, too. I’ve decided I don’t need to be incessantly Instagram-able. And my goal isn’t to manufacture success- or something that looks like the success of others. I don’t really want their life.
I want abundant life- that comes through Christ. Amazing how much I’ve talked about longing for abundance here. To bear an abundance of fruit will mean abiding in Christ.
So, let’s stop performing. At least- let’s stop performing in our own power. Because as creatives, sharing your creations often technically is a performance. But when we abide in Christ, he does amazing things through us.
We’re wired to perform in some way. Let today be a day that we surrender our gifts to the Lord, who will complete the work he began in us, even if/when we try to take it from his hands.
Let’s run our own race. As dear Aimee reminded me recently,
Here’s the deal… Let’s all just stay in our own lanes running hard after Jesus within our own gifts. Let’s also cheer loudly for the folks running their own race in their lanes.
Comparison is a dirty, rotten scoundrel. It belongs in exactly no one’s lane.
Be your own kind of beautiful.”
When it comes down to it, that’s exactly what I’m getting at today.
If you need encouragement, I’ll tell you- you’re looking good over there in your lane, my friend! Let’s abide in Jesus together today.