I think a lot about what I am not. I’m not debt- free. I’m not the right weight. I’m not controlling my eating. I’m not taking care of my cars or house well. These are all fairly common to all of us and I don’t really spend much time stressing about it. But there are other things I’m not, especially when it comes to my Christian life. I know I’m not good enough to earn God’s love. I don’t have a problem with that one because that statement is so clearly biblical. Early in my Christian life that idea was so firmly built into what I believe that I can accept it and truly appreciate God’s love in spite of me. But what about all those things that we should be as Christians. I’m not very compassionate sometimes or not compassionate enough. I’m not prayerful enough. I’m not spiritual (what ever that means) enough. I don’t read or know my Bible enough. I’m not loving enough. I’m not passionate enough. I’m not holy enough. I’m not pure enough. The list goes on and on and on. I am very good at being Not.
So I have spent a lot of my prayer time over the years talking to God about what I am Not, wondering why I am Not and asking Him to change me. The problem is that it stops there. It seems that nothing ever really changes. I have placed the ball firmly in His court and I wait for Him to work some divine magic so that I become what I should be. Until He does His thing I am still Not. It’s not really my fault. I am simply “waiting on God.” Sounds spiritual doesn’t it.
What I’ve realized lately is that focusing on all the things I’m Not keeps me from being all the things I am. While I sit paralyzed by all the Nots, I miss the opportunities to express all that I am. And that is a disservice to myself, those around me and an affront to God, who created all that I am. I understand that there is a place for healthy self-evaluation, but not a morbid introspection that rejects all the positives and maximizes the negatives. And some folks, fearing that they could fall into pride and boasting by looking at the good in their lives, disdain the very good that God has built into them. While people remain spiritually lost, these folks spend their lives guarding against pride. What a great and tragic loss to the Kingdom of God.
The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, said, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.”
He also said, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.”
Paul doesn’t seem like the kind of person who focused on what he was Not. Instead he focused on what was ahead. He didn’t judge himself but let the Lord be his judge. He focused on the kingdom work at hand. When I read that I was terribly heartened and cheered. I was hopeful that I too could live that way.
Being what I am means acknowledging that I do have certain gifts and talents. Not of my own making but of God’s. It means acknowledging that there are certain “assignments” that God has prepared for me in this life. It means looking at my life with a view to be more of what I already am and less of what I am not. It means asking how I can engage more with my wife, kids, co-workers, church, looking for those opportunities that God is creating for me. It means stepping into my life, being bold and simply letting myself BE.
A.W. Tozer, a great preacher and writer from the 1950’s, expressed it this way, “My God, I shall not waste time deploring my weakness nor my unfittedness for the work.”
I’m sure there are a lot things that I will never be, but so what, I’ve got enough of what I am to last me a lifetime.