Sunday, October 23, 2011

Failing Formulas

We hear lots of testimonials. Stories of rags to riches in business,  anecdotes of financial failures to success, testimonies of spiritual conversions from a life of destructive behavior toward healthy living,.... I think my story (so far) might fall under the category of "failing formulas."

Sounds bland enough. But, in my world, it's huge.

For 23 years I lived as though there was a formula for everything: "If you do A-B-C, the result will be X-Y-Z." If I followed the steps of 1-2-3, I'd have a successful education. If I do exactly these things, my marriage will be perfect. If I operate by a specific code of principles, my children will turn out right.  So I worked.  I obeyed the steps. I believed in the formulas. And I watched as others followed the same rules. But the principles failed me. The steps weren't infallible.  Heartache came regardless. And I watched as the formulas failed others.

In the following years, I gradually took a back seat to catch my breath and try to figure out the problem. I would be lying if I said I wasn't tempted to blame God. After all, the formulas I was taught... the principles I believed in... the code of conduct I followed... they were from Him. Weren't they? They were the rules I was taught at church. They were the thou shalt's and shall not's I thought I saw in the Bible. Weren't they direct promises from God? So... did He fail me? Or did the church fail me? Or was I simply misled? I'd operated under the principles of A-B-C. But X-Y-Z didn't happen. Why not? Maybe God didn't fail me. Maybe I just didn't try hard enough. Is that it? These were the questions that floated around in my head for some time. Years actually.

Then one day I learned a phenomenal concept: It's not about me at all. I spent years focusing on myself and how I could please God enough to gain some reward. I lived so long thinking that His pleasure or displeasure in  me was measured by a positive or negative outcome. I spent a lot of time thinking so little of myself that I was trying, trying, trying to follow a formula to get somewhere with God. I know it sounds like a paradox: focused on myself and yet thinking so little of myself. But the crux of the matter is this: I'd misunderstood God. I didn't realize that He was the only  doer that mattered. Furthermore, I didn't realize that His doing is what made me already complete. So all I needed to do was to BE. God made the world. He created mankind. He did His thing. And He continues to do His thing. He doesn't need me. But He welcomes me to fall into step with what He's already doing. He wants me to just be.

I can easily wrap my mind around a 5-step process toward success. Just tell me what to do. Give me a formula.   I can follow a religious structure. I can do church. I did that for years. I can do a style of clothing. I did it for years. I can do a brand of speech. All the right words and ism's... Again, I did it for years. I can do a formula in hopes of promised success. That's how I think. It makes so much sense to me.

Aren't many of us like this? We want to control instead of trust. We don't take a step unless we can see where we're going. We follow neat little formulas while saying, "this will keep me safe." It's taken me years to embrace that God is already doing His thing. And to trust that God is God and that He is the Doer and that all I have to do is to be. Yeah, this is tough. And liberating. And exciting. And scary. It takes an awful lot of faith. And letting go. Just to be.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I read this quote on facebook a few times recently and so now I have it on a post-it note on my desk at work to remind me what matters. I have no idea who to contribute this to. I suppose google would tell me if I looked it up....

"Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation,
because your character is what you really are
while your reputation is merely what others think you are."