“She is so successful.” “He is on a path and going somewhere.” “Isn’t it amazing how she’s so purposeful and productive?”
People talk about intentional living like it is the epitome of Christianity, like success in the eyes of our peers is the goal. “Don’t waste time.” “Get busy.” “Do good.”
But Jesus cares so much more about our heart for Him than our work for Him. True that faith without works is dead, but works without faith are useless. And where does faith come from? How does it grow?
In the soil of empty hours, as much as in busy ones. Faith grows with time.
In a culture obsessed with wasting time as quickly as possible, it’s a foreign idea for us to waste time slowly and purposefully. But I think purposefully wasted time isn’t actually wasted. Our culture has become a strange juxtaposition of hundreds of minutes wasted browsing Facebook and no minutes wasted letting our thoughts wander. It is when we allow our minds to quiet and our thoughts to slow down that we can uncover a seed of creativity or nourish the roots of faith.
Being successful is good. But how do you define it? With so many options in life, using time wisely and being good stewards of it is something to be commended. But when success becomes the god of our lives that is when we fall. All too easily it becomes a contest to see who can do the most, make the most money, change the world fastest, climb the career ladder quickest or check off the most life milestones before they turn thirty.
Life is a race. But not the kind you think.
It isn’t a race against other people. It’s a race against time. It’s a race against yourself. It’s a race against the pressure to conform, to measure up, to be enough, do enough, to say the right things, to change the world, to impact the right number of people. It is a race against outside expectations. We are accountable to God, first and foremost. We were made with broader vision, bigger dreams and greater capabilities than any other species on the planet and it wasn’t accidental. With that comes responsibility. A responsibility not to waste our lives. But also a responsibility to enjoy them.
One of the greatest lies that we’ve been lead to believe is that our lives are only worth something if we produce things that other people value. That is incorrect.
If that were true, almost every poet, painter, author and inventor, would be worthless (and many of them were considered so in their own day). It would also mean that every child would be worthless. Because, what do they produce? Words that don’t mean anything. Pictures of scribbled lines. Loud noises. Food made out of dirt. Not exactly the kind of things people value. And yet children are intrinsically valuable. Why?
One of the most beautiful things about children is their perspective. Everything is 10 thousand times more important to a child than to an adult. They are not ignorant, carefree little creatures like people so often pretend. They have deep emotions and serious concerns. At the same time, they are able to enjoy things at a level that most adults have forgotten exists.
We live in the shadow of success, in that grey danger zone of “making an impact.” And if the impact isn’t big enough by our own personal standards, then our lives aren’t fruitful. When we allow success to become our idol, and try to make the outwards signs of our faith the basis of our faith, we fall into a trap. Working for God, instead of living with God.
The greatest impact we can ever have on the world is by loving Jesus so much that His love transforms us and the way we treat others.
Instead of applauding the obvious successes, instead of praising only the people who get things done, let’s start praising the people who live life well. Each of us are called to make an impact in this world in different ways, and all of us are called to love people. The kind of love that Christians are supposed to be known for grows best in an unhurried life that is centered on Christ, not success.
It’s hard to be spontaneous when your life is scheduled down to every single hour of every single day. Let’s take a moment to breathe. To slow down. To savor. Maybe we should reschedule our lives to reflect the characteristics we want to see most in them.
Sure, you may not be known for your genius ideas or big house, and you may not be on the Forbes 500 list. But you might be known for your kindness, your compassion or your sense of humor. You might be known for what Christians are supposed to be known for: love.