I am so excited to write about this topic. Where do I start?
In the past year I have been seeking after God’s heart b/c I knew mine was not exactly in good condition. He has been so faithful and good to me. He has been working on my heart. Recently in the last couple of weeks, I feel like He has given me a breakthrough, a fresh revelation designed just for me.
This revelation has been burning in my heart like wildfire in the last couple of weeks. I am really glad to finally have time to write it down. This revelation has started a deep transformation in my life. I know it is having and will continue to have a profound impact in my life. I hope it will to you too.
So enough with the suspense. What exactly am I talking about? Let me explain.
Upbringing in China
All of my life I have preoccupied myself with productivity and efficiency. How could I not? I have been programmed this way by the world system since I was a child.
I was born and raised in northeast China in a big city. I spent the first 18 yrs of my life growing up in China. My parents, my schools and my country taught me to work hard, very hard. (I think most Americans don’t have a clue how hard the Chinese students work prior to college. I know b/c I have seen both sides.)
I received praise or criticism based on how hard I worked and how well I did in academics, and pretty much everything else. I lived to please and impress my parents, my teachers, my peers, my relatives, etc.
Validated My Belief by American Education System
When I was 18 yrs old, I came to USA as a high school exchange student. I finished high school, and then went on to college. I studied very hard and was rewarded with exceptional grades. No surprises there, as that was the only way I knew how to validate myself, and I was a very capable student.
So during my college years, my belief in “proving my worth by performance” was validated again, and this time was by the most powerful country in the world, the USA. So this just reinforced my belief in performance-based values.
Validated Again By My Job
I went on and go married, and got a good job. In my job, I went on seeking to please my superiors by good performance. This time it wasn’t so simple or black-and-white. I’ve had good and bad days in my job. The academic world is relatively black-and-white. You get what you deserve, pretty much. In the real world with a real job, there’s more of a human-relationship factor. Things can be a lot more complicated and messy.
I remember there were seasons in my job when I was performing well and giving my superiors what they wanted, and boy, life was goooooood! But then, there were seasons when nothing I did was good enough for them. It was miserable, and many times I felt so indignant and wanted to quit on the spot.
Going through all of that made me wonder: is this as good as it gets? What is the point of all of this? What is the point of life?…Anyway, these experiences made me realize that living my life trying to please people is a trap! People can be very fickle and unreliable, whether intentionally or not. If I were to acquire and retain happiness in life, I should not seek to please people, but only God. God’s character and standards never change!
But unfortunately that realization didn’t quite sink in as deeply as it should have. For the most part, I was still preoccupied with pleasing people and performing well for them. And of course, I still got rewarded and validated for my good performance, as the rest of the world system does to me.
What My Worth-By-Performance Belief Did To Me
As a result of this performance-based programming for many years, I believed that I was only worthy to be loved if I performed well and met people’s expectations of me. I did not see my value or worth in any other way! I conformed to the patterns of this world. That was actually the natural outcome of conforming to this world. (Romans 12: 1-2)
I really didn’t realize how this belief in worth-by-performance has saturated my whole being, until very recently. Like I mentioned above, I have been seeking His heart and His will for me through various channels (books, prayer, worship, inner healing, etc), and He has been faithful to answer my prayer.
God has shown me that for most of my life, I have been living with a striving spirit. This is evidenced by the fact that I always keep a to-do list. I always want to get something done. I always want to learn new things. I always want to make things more efficient. I always want to appear a certain way to people.
I also measure myself a lot by how much money I make, how big of a house I live in, how nice of a car I drive, what kind of friends I have, etc. The most recent striving effort is doing everything I can to secure my future. The list can go on and on. I always feel like i need to do something in order to feel good about myself. It can be absolutely exhausting and spirit-killing.
What It Did To My Loved Ones
God has also shown me that not only do I do this to myself, but I also do this to my wife. She gets it the worst b/c she lives with me daily! When I come home from work, typically the first thing I do is scanning the house to see if it’s a mess, and what chores has she done or not done. Did she do the dishes like I told her to? Did she fold the laundry? Did she sweep the floor? Did she…? You get the picture. BTW, we have 3 little kids, so yes, there’s plenty to do around the house.
I have been doing this to her for most years of our marriage, and it has caused much strife in our relationship. (Of course, I am just starting to realize this, otherwise I would have stopped doing it a long time ago.) It has caused me to value her based on what she can do for me, not on who she is to me, even though I would never admit to this statement in the past.
God Is “Wasteful”
I can’t remember the exact moment this realization came about, but things have been coming together recently, and I have come to realize how “wasteful” God is. Think about it from the physical or scientific perspective. We, as humans, cannot comprehend the vastness of the universe. There are billions of galaxies out there, and each galaxy has billions of stars, if not more. We live on this tiny little planet in the solar system called Earth.
I don’t believe in aliens, so we are it. So God created the whole universe just for us. From a human perspective, I wonder: did He really need to create the whole universe just for us? It seems like such as waste. He could have stopped with our galaxy perhaps, and that would be awe-inspiring enough. But no, He didn’t stop there. Why?
I can’t say I know all the reasons, but I do believe one of the reasons is that He wants to show off His extravagance towards us, or His “wastefulness” towards us. He wants us to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that He has got it covered! He has got everything we will ever need. We just need to enjoy Him!!!
Another good example is our planet Earth. I am not much of an agriculture person, but my wife is. I have learned a lot from her. I also can’t help but notice how lush the earth is. When the earth brings forth all that vegetation, grass or trees, it is not stingy at all. That’s why every year I have to spend time mowing my lawn every week, otherwise it will overrun everything.
Also consider how much food we consume and waste every year, esp. in USA. But every season the ground faithfully brings forth food, including feeding the animals that we eat. Every season the food-bearing plants die, and comes back to life in the next season, and the cycle repeats. God has never been stingy at providing us with food that nourish our body.
Recently I also started thinking about the human life-death cycle. If you think about it, it is also a great “waste” in many aspects. I have 3 little ones, and I am teaching them a lot of things that are so trivial and plain to me. It made me realize that humans have had to re-learn the same stuff in every generation since the beginning of time, like walking, reading, talking, making things, doing math, riding a bike, and so on. What a waste! Why didn’t God just create all of us to begin with, and we will all be a lot smarter by now? Well, again, what seems like a waste to me is a great mystery of God that contains profound blessings.
You can probably think of many examples of God’s “wastefulness”. But the picture is clear: God does not withhold anything from us. He is very “wasteful” towards us!
The Alabaster Jar
I have always wondered about the meaning behind the alabaster jar story in Matthew Chapter 26. It goes like this:
6 While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, 7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.
8 When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 9 “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”
10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you,[a] but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
It’s very obvious that the woman did something very special to Jesus that nobody else has done prior to this point. From a human perspective, it’s reasonable to agree with the disciples who wanted to sell the perfume for a high price and give to the poor. But surprisingly, Jesus not only didn’t stop her, but actually praised her! I bet his heart was rejoicing greatly that finally someone could relate to him, and is reciprocating the “wastefulness” towards him. Oh, how He longs for us to be “wasteful” towards Him in order for us to gain a deeper appreciation of His heart towards us!
Life Is Not About Productivity, But Relationship
It has taken me almost 35 yrs to learn this lesson, but it’s been worth it. It’s not too late either. I hope you understand so far that I am not saying productivity is not important. it is very important and it definitely has its place. But it’s NOT what life is about. It’s NOT what God is about either.
A lot of Christians already know this in their head, like I did. It’s the correct answer to give, since most Christians know many verses that talk about salvation is not by works, but by grace. But knowing it in your head vs in your heart are very different in this case. It makes all the difference in your life actually.
I have given you a picture of what my life was like when it was all about what I could produce. It was not a very good picture. It’s really a dead-end that always seems to lead you somewhere you want to go. I know that if that was the path I wanted to take, then someday when I’m on my death bed, I would regret my life. I want my life to be about people, about relationships. After all, it’s people who I will ultimately spend eternity with, not stuff. Also, anything that’s ever been done on this earth has been done by and through people. So if I need something done, I need people first.
One example I have thought of is missionaries who live on financial support. A lot of missionaries don’t have a “regular” job so to speak. They live on financial support from others. Typically a missionary gets support from several people who have a good relationship with him/her. In a way, the missionary is really getting the financial support from God through faith b/c God is using the supporters to provide for that missionary.
I have never pictured myself as a full time missionary b/c I have never pictured myself getting financial support from other people. I’ve always pictured myself working to pay for myself. This is b/c I only feel like I’m worth something if I work for it myself. Again, I’m seeing my worth through productivity, not through relationships. But relationships can and will provide for my needs way better than personal striving. My prayer is that God will continue to open my eyes and deepen my understanding of this profound revelation.
Another example I thought of on the opposite side of the spectrum was wars. Humans have fought wars since the beginning of time. The human race have had local, regional, civil and world wars. Wars destroy things that people have spent centuries or decades to build. How many times in history have people burned down or bombed to ashes civilizations that have had hundreds of years to develop and build up? Wars really make productivity a moot point. And if you think about it, if there had been good relationships between people, wars could have been totally avoided and even shunned.
Letting Go Of My Agenda
With all that, I have come to realize that it’s time to let go. It’s time to let go of my own agenda, completely, and replace it with God’s agenda. You might ask: what exactly does that mean? Or what does that look like? Well, I’m new to this, so I’m still trying to figure it out too. LOL.
But for starters, to me, it means that I’m giving up my own agenda for my life, however noble it might be. It means that on a daily basis, I am, oh Lord help me, no longer prioritizing my own goals and dreams, but I am going to chat with my heavenly Abba Father, and ask what He wants me to do. It means I am prioritizing His will and desires. It means total obedience. It means denying myself and carrying the cross daily. It means put to death my flesh.
Recently I heard a brother say that all Christians are dead men walking, b/c we were already dead since the day we gave our lives to Christ. It was a great reminder of how I should think of my own life. It puts things into the right perspective, which is kingdom perspective.
I know this will be extremely hard. As a matter of fact, it will be impossible without His help, according to His Word. But it will be the most exhilarating and adventurous life I will ever have! it will be living my life to the fullest! That’s what gets me really excited!
With the few moments I’ve had as a Christian living for His agenda, I can tell you that during those few moments, I have experienced unprecedented freedom. I asked Him why don’t I experience that freedom more often? His answer to me: I’m too busy living for my own agenda and pleasing men. When I do that, I subject myself to the world system and all the junk that comes with it. It’s inevitable that I will care too much about what men think of me, and how I look in front of them.
Ouch! But it’s so true.
The freedom I experienced when l let go of my own agenda, and live for His agenda was so addicting. I felt so alive! I want more!
I am gonna get me more, until I take my last breath on this earth.
I hope you find this blog post encouraging to you. That’s why I took the time to write it. I’m usually kind of private about these types of things. But if it helps the Body of Christ, I am willing to come out of my shell more often :-).