It seems I have a deep, almost unquenchable desire, to play a vital role in the theatre that is my life. It’s not that I want to be the star of every show, I just want to be indispensable to it. In government speak, it’s called being “essential.” The most unsatisfying experiences of my life are when I am doing something that anyone else can do just as well as (or better than) I can. I want to feel that whatever I am doing, wherever I am doing it, that no one else can bring it to the table like I can. It feels good to be valued like that. But I am ashamed to admit that it can border on addiction for me. Just when I think I have it licked, it comes roaring back like an insatiable beast threatening to sabotage my gentle, contented life. My solid ground becomes unstable and I start to concern myself with what others think of me instead of what God thinks of me.
I was just one voice in a sea of hundreds last night. If I had not been there, it wouldn’t have really made a difference. I didn’t like that. I could feel the monster rising, the one that causes me to posture, vie, manipulate, and strategize to achieve approval, praise and kudos from my peers. I loathe that monster. What started out as a benign event turned into a spiritual battle of wits between my ugly self-important ego and the beautiful desire to glorify God above all else. I’d like to say that it was an easy victory; that I am the kind of spiritual giant that quells the onslaught of barbed poisonous thoughts with a strategically placed rebuke here and a carefully quoted scripture there, but the battle raged on – at least for the moment. This wasn’t about the event at hand anymore. It was suddenly far more personal. I’ve fought this battle before under a different flag – and I learned a thing or two the last go ‘round.
Personal victories are won or lost in the battlefield of the mind. God, being a creatively efficient being, graciously sends reinforcements in the form of Divine whispers, synchronistic encounters with works of great literature and wise counselors, laser-like song lyrics, and whatever else happens to capture our attention. And if we are paying attention, (otherwise known as being led by the Spirit) victory over degenerative thoughts lies within our grasp through the power of God. Like I said, I’ve fought this battle before and it can get nasty and it can last for years. Poisonous thoughts beget poisonous thoughts until vision becomes shrouded and truth becomes hidden in obscurity. Thankfully, there is a beautiful, just, good, loving, gracious, patient God who sees us and throws out lifeline after lifeline until we are humble enough to recognize our need. Then the sweet rest of peace washes over us and we are once again centered upon our solid ground.
Standing on the precipice of an all-too familiar battle, I took a different tack this time. Instead of trying to hide the ugly in some corner of my mind and cover it with a façade of goodness, I laid it all bare before my Creator and gave full and complete access to that part of me that claws and strives for recognition and fame. As subtly as it began the tempest began to subside. The monster was rendered powerless. Wisdom took its place and I was at peace. A battle that had once been permitted to rage for years, was this time quelled in moments. If I was an Old Testament prophet, I’d build an altar out of stones and name it “I’ve finally learned the lesson – but I’d better not get too confident in my own strength or I’ll be forced to learn it again.”
What recurring battles rage in your mind? We all have them. Mine might seem ridiculous to you – but you have your own unique struggles. They reveal the parts of our character most in need of Divinity. Has there been a battle raging in you for too long? Don’t you want to be done with it? Listen, look, notice; somewhere you are being given a life-line. Grab it and hang on for life!
The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity. 2 Corinthians 10:5 (The Message)
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:2 (The Message)