Sunday, November 7, 2010

Jesus' Prescription for a Healthy Soul

"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit...Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." John 15: 1-2, 4-5

Holy Ambition

With God's help, my desires for money and prestige have been tamed over the years (with occasional relapses). Back in junior high school, I remember evaluating future careers based on how much money I'd make. By the time I entered college, I had a double major in English literature and creative writing -- certainly not the typical route to a high income.

Over the years, however, I've noticed that my ambition leans toward worthier goals, focused on making a difference in the world for the glory of God. There is a place deep inside me that longs to influence others for good, have a sense of purpose, be a part of something that lasts beyond my lifetime here on earth.

Sometimes, though, I struggle with the question of whether this desire is truly pure of heart. (Prepare for some soul-baring here...) Here's when the red flag goes off: I hear about people who are my age and similar to me in many ways who are pastoring churches, leading ministries and non-profits, publishing books, sitting on boards, rubbing shoulders with the Christian "bigwigs" of our country and the world (not to imply that the "bigwigs" sought that out). When I see others doing these things, I think Why am I not doing things like that? My life and contribution seems so insignificant in comparison. Am I a Christian underachiever?

Am I the only one who has these thoughts?

The truth is, there is an element in my life of letting fear hold me back from trying "big" things. There's also an element of lacking focus -- I have multiple interests but excel at none. And there's nothing wrong with hungering for a sense of purpose or wanting to contribute or use my gifts and abilities for God's glory.

BUT...I think a bigger element is that I am right where I'm supposed to be, that I am having an influence in tiny ways that few will ever see (and who else needs to know but God anyway?), and that His main concern is that I love Him with all my heart, mind and soul and love others as myself. He doesn't care that I haven't gone to seminary, been published, planted a church, etc., as long as I am being faithful with whatever he's given me right now. He loves me as I am.

That doesn't mean that it's wrong to do the aforementioned sorts of things if God so leads. But for me, for right now, I'm just going to give Him my attention and trust that if I'm heading off course or missing something He has in store for me, He will show me the way. I will seek to be faithful with what I have been given and trust that there's a reason I'm exactly where I am and seek to learn from it.

I would love to hear if any readers also have these kinds of thoughts. I think "holy ambition" can also play itself out in the local church as some members become overinvolved or have their feelings hurt when they are not chosen to do certain things, lead ministries, etc.