“Everyone else looks at WHAT you have done; how much you have accomplished. But I, the King, I care far more about WHO you are…” 1 Samuel 16:7 (RSV)
Currently, I am sitting in a Starbucks Coffee, just a bit north of Charlotte. The sun is just beginning to rise and with it my day is starting to take shape. I moved here about 6 months ago and other than home it will be the longest tenure of any city I have ever lived in.
That’s a big step for me.
I have relocated to 4 different cities in the last 3 years, at some point or another calling all of them home. This time period has also included fairly lengthy, though not ‘homey’ stints in other cities. In other words, I am not exactly the first class example of settled, or as I am often reminded, ‘grown up.’
As a matter of fact, even though I am 25 I feel more like a kid than ever before. I have almost no assets and if we’re honest live pay check to pay check; at best. I am woefully single, and steady wouldn’t exactly define my line of work. I don’t have a 401k, a real and active 10-year plan, or one penny saved for my kid’s college fund.
Six months ago, that was a big deal to me.
It was then that I was still living in Chicago. Based on my upbringing and the life path that most of my peers have chosen, the natural, almost necessary response is one we hear from the wise sage Lloyd Christmas, “Man, you are one pathetic loser.” And I felt like one. I was in a compromised line of work and an even more compromised state of life. I felt as though I shouldn’t be pursuing what everyone else had ‘simply because’ and yet I was so alone.
I was in a trap that thought life looked like a suit and tie, a wife at home, and a new car in the garage. It was basically the 2010 Dream for recent graduates. (Surely there is a Chicken Soup out there for this?) And even though this no way fit my paradigm, I bought into it, and big time.
As I looked around it seemed as though all of my friends were either married, or living the single life in the big city. Here I was living the single life in the married city. I was living at home with no real sense of accomplishment and certainly no understanding of value. As a matter of fact I thought I brought absolutely no value to the situations I found myself in. I was literally wasting away while my inner self was dying.
I couldn’t empathize with peers about marital bliss or market blunder. I wasn’t working toward any professional goal and was in no way close to owning anything, let alone a house. My social landscape looked like either a ramped up Cleaver household, or a dulled down Entourage experience. (1)
And my church life? Non existent. I simply couldn’t hear one more four-pointed sermon on prayer; each point systematically starting with P, R, A, and Y. (2) Many days I felt completely and totally worthless.
That’s a big problem.
And so I packed up and moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. There had been a unique opportunity for me there and I decided to take it. Want to know the funny part? The morning I took off I didn’t want to leave. I almost couldn’t bring myself to get in the car and drive off. Nuts, right?! I was completely miserable (San Diego…) and yet didn’t want to leave. The thought of starting something new, something unknown was at the time a much bigger risk and scare than continuing to exist in emptiness.
And have I found true fulfillment and happiness here? Is Charlotte the Mecca for believers looking to redefine themselves? I don’t necessarily think so. I do think this time has allowed me to step back, to step away from ‘life as I knew it’ and take a look at what Kingdom life, Kingdom value, is rooted and established in.
The Kingdom life in no way is formed on the ideals and principles of the American Dream. Now, don’t read into what I didn’t say. These two can overlap. We continue to see in the scriptures that though this Kingdom of Heaven isn’t OF this world, it is most certainly FOR this world. That we need uncompromised people of character in the mess of life both claiming Christ’s truth as well as showering people with His love.
THE Kingdom perspective is completely and entirely flipped. In this Kingdom, value exists simply because of who we are and more importantly whom we belong to. It has nothing to do with what we have, or in some cases haven’t accomplished.
You see our real value has never been placed in what we have done. It has always been placed in who we have been created to be. And the answer to that question can be found from the very beginning. We are image bearers of the Most High; children of THE King. (Gen 1:26).
Though it is a constant struggle, my value cannot be attained, gained, or entertained by what I do in this life. It must be a consistent reminder that I am a human being; not a human doing.
This is a big relief.
Look at the book of Ephesians. I love it! Read just the first chapter. Look at what Paul is outlining. He is establishing value amongst the body. None of it has to do with on earth accomplishments. Notice what isn’t there. He doesn’t say, “Of all the churches I have visited, your youth ministry is rockin’!” Or, “Look at this sanctuary! Whoever was the architect of this…you are the man!”
No! He spells out all the things we are and have been able to claim from day one as a child of THE King. He encourages that they are a people that are “chosen to be holy and blameless”, “predestined to be sons”, “recipients of grace”, “the praise of his glory”, “included in Christ”, “marked in him with a seal”…and that is just the first part of the book! And we can stake claim to the exact same values!
So whether you are on wall street or in the poor house, we serve a God whose value system isn’t based on the worlds. We have a Father begging us to come home. To come and be wrapped up in his arms, to be coddled and rocked as he whispers to us, “you’re Mine.” I’ve got you” “You are my child” “It’s going to be OK.” I love you…”
And that…is the biggest blessing we could ask for.
(1) I see where this could be read into as exceptionally offensive. And that is not my intention. The reality is that some of my married friends are happy to stay at home because the reality is they are already with the person, or persons they care most about. There just isn’t a lot of motivation to take time or money to go meet and interact with people that can’t match up to the one(s) they live with I can only hope to one day have the same.
Likewise, much of the ‘going out’ life of my single friends in the downtown area was based on genuine community; community that had been established in work arenas, church landscapes, and conversations amongst mutual friends.
In these there is no problem; I just didn’t fit into either one.
(2) I am not slamming the evangelical suburban church here. I think my own spiritual desert was large in part due to my poor attitude and extenuating circumstances. I went in to church with a poor attitude and thus left with one; nitpicking the entire way. I am still not convinced the (capital C) Church looks like what we were brought up to think it looks like and am convinced more than ever it is not the hope of the world as so many pastors and leaders have suggested. That, I believe, is Christ himself.