I am an over achiever. My brain is always thinking about ways to make things better. I love multi-tasking. I give myself a virtual high five if I can avoid traffic through some “shortcut.” Even when I was a kid I liked spree as a candy because it was the most cost effective and efficient form of sugary bliss. I have the Ivy degree and a good looking resume. I over achieve, therefore I am.
…and I now live in Africa.
Not surprisingly, it’s been a tough year. Daily I must fight my inner force towards momentum. I must slow down. I must narrow my list of goals continually. I must accept that no matter how orderly I think a single file line can be, Uganda will always prove me wrong. And mostly, I must trust that God is working–whether I am running or not.
This is absolutely brutal on the old self-esteem. It goes against my will and can-do attitude. It shows how tiny I am in the grand scheme. The reality is, I am not necessary to the sun coming up every day. (Shocking news for all of us, I know.)
Knowing that to be true, I wish I could say that this battle gets easier. That I am able to relax into this reality and just moonwalk forward in trust and faith. But more often I find myself unsettled–and often by well meaning Christians. Every day emails come into my mailbox about how I can better market Jesus and make the kingdom greater. In our world of purpose driven living and God’s perfect plans in Jeremiah–my already bruised ego can be led to believe that failure to conquer the world for Christ daily means I am making Jesus cry. Again and again, I am told that God needs me to be the model Christian leader, employee, church member or his kingdom will not come.
And you will excuse me if I say that is total crap. Which is not to say that we don’t need to seek God’s calling in our life and when he tells us to leave our family and go, that we can stay on the sofa. God does USE us but the modern thinking that God NEEDS us for anything is just not biblical. God does not need me for jack. In fact, the very thought is ridiculous, albeit not new.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him? Psalm 8
The fact that God even blinks in our direction is downright divine insanity and what we can see consistently, is that God uses the failures of his people to bring his glory: Abraham, David, Peter, Paul, etc, etc. I’m guessing that’s because we are all sinful people–even the very best of us. God knew if he had to wait for our successes, nothing would get done around here. So if anything, maybe we should be looking for failures in our lives to use to glorify God! Which is why I almost wept when I read this earlier this week:
Look at God’s incredible waste of His saints, according to the world’s judgment. God seems to plant His saints in the most useless places. And then we say, “God intends for me to be here because I am so useful to Him.” Yet Jesus never measured His life by how or where He was of the greatest use. God places His saints where they will bring the most glory to Him, and we are totally incapable of judging where that may be. Oswald Chambers
This I identified with. I feel pretty useless in the face of poverty, injustice and even in the battle against ants in my home. The truth is, I am not saving the world through my work here in Uganda. Even my very best financial analysis or most comprehensive spreadsheet will not really feed a child. So, why am I here?
“To love your brother as yourself.” (Mark 31)
You probably know some Christian that loves so much that you want to be with them. Peggy & Clancy? Kelly? Katie? When you are with them, you believe that a God of enough love exists. You feel known. You feel strong. You are able to praise God in a new way. As believers, this is the great vision God calls us to. To love as best we can. And even that won’t be enough and we will fail at it. But if I really applied myself to sacrificially loving folks–like Jesus did for me–I think I would find my purpose and place and the when things go to hell at the office or a whole week just refuses to behave, I wouldn’t lose myself like I do now. And often, it’s not for lack of trying. I am here, in Uganda, as an attempt to love the staff and children here and encourage them but almost every day I confuse the value of presence with the satisfaction of purpose.
Note, this is not to stay that God flees from success. In fact, I’ve been studying Nehemiah for months now as he rebuilt the temple wall in Jerusalem. There are many times when God has stepped in and corrected injustice. And as believers we are called to seek more righteousness and care about justice. Over and over we are commanded to care for the poor and helpless. I truly believe that the world we live in can be better and that we, as followers of Jesus, can be a part of that change. I’m not afraid of tackling poverty, disease or cultural differences because our God is greater, but I think there is a conversation missing about our role. Our role is to pray, wait on the Lord, trust and be obedient when he asks something of us. Not to commando into the jungle and bend injustice to our will. Not to argue and bicker with people that disagree with us. Not to “fix” all the sinners out there. We are supposed to love those around us so much that they are drawn to Jesus within us. It really seems that Jesus looks to actions of restoring justice as rally calls to himself. Ultimately it is not about the justice which is finite, but about the relationship which is eternal.
So, I ask all of you to pray for me. Pray that I do not get so caught up in the ministry, the theology or the ideology, that I lose sight of the relationships. Pray that I am strong in prayer. Pray that I am wise and patient and long suffering when need be. Mostly, pray for love–God’s love to flow out of me. In fact, pray this for every Christian you know.
ps: If anyone is interested, two books I have read that cause me to challenge so much of modern Christian prose are, “Humility: True Greatness” by CJ Mahaney and “The Call to Joy & Pain” by Ajith Fernando. Two books I highly recommend!
7 thoughts on “over acheivers lament”
Couldn’t have said things better myself. Your thoughts pretty much sum up a lot of what we’ve been learning here in TZ as well. God doesn’t need us, but he certainly wants us to participate with Him in the work that He is doing. Our main calling is to be obedient in what He has for us each day, no matter how purposeful or purposeless it may seem. Thanks for sharing Tina!
It’s funny to get comments from the two of you because personally I would have easily added you both to my list of Christians that share a contagious love of Christ with them always. When I am with you–or read about ants vs bees–I see God shine through you so brightly. It shows how little we know about what is happening in our hearts.
Although, when you are done and head home, you will have built a dam, beyond many other accomplishements. So that is kind of a huge and technically I think is cheating. 😉
Love you guys and so blessed to be on this journey together. I hope some time next year, all of us will be in Oregon together and can have a good time catching up on our adventures in Christ!
Thanks so much for sharing, Tina! The Lord was honestly just speaking about that to me in my quiet time this morning – that simple command to love others with the love that we’ve been shown through Jesus – it’s so simple and yet so powerful, and yet so easily overlooked when we’re wondering how God wants to use us.
This is fantastic Tina! I love that God puts us in circumstances (usually painful) that turn up the volume of His voice. Praying that you will continue to hear Him (without so much pain) Your are such an encouragement to me!!
Thank you Tina for this thought provolking article. “We are supposed to love those around us so much that they are drawn to Jesus within us.” This resonates with me as as I start thinking of a new school year and my continuos search for the best way to reach disconnected students. Hang in there. The children of Uganda need you.
I can honestly say that the love and attention of a teacher that I had in the 6th grade changed my life. Mr. Eaton was the first person to treat me like I was smart and the first person to show me that I could lead. I know for sure that my life would have never included college at Yale, leadership in all my jobs and the courage to at least try to battle come of the big injustices, if not for his care in my young life. So I am excited to hear that my words are encouraging you to reach out with more of Jesus love. I know it will have impact beyond what you can even imagine! Hang in there. The children of New York need you!
AMEN! Thank you Tina, I really needed to read this right now. You are a blessing.