Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Goals Make Bad Gods

We're all 'aspiring somethings' until we make it.

Aspiring writer.
Aspiring surgeon.
Aspiring rhythmic gymnast. (I know you're out there somewhere! We're all jelly of your ribbon dancing stick.)

Somewhere deep in my hidden heart, I think I'm an aspiring pole dancer. So strong! So elegant! And the crazy shoes... mmm. (Dear Jesus, can I have a do over? Preferably with a thigh gap?)

You know what we are after we've made it?
After we've achieved the thing we were yearning for, leaning into, aspiring toward?
When we get there, we become... wait for it... "Aspiring Something-Elses."

Hi, welcome to the human condition. You will never be satisfied.

It can be both embarrassing and empowering to identifying we are aspiring to out loud. Especially when we may seem lightyears away from the possibility of grasping it... Like, when a 400 lb 80 year old says they want to run a marathon. You want to be supportive, but eeeeeh. Yeah. It's just awkward for everyone.

So I'll go first: I'm an Aspiring Writer. I have many pokers in this fire. A children's book, a middle grades fiction, and an adult novel. And my blog. My blog is my "writing gym" where I exercise my writing muscles.

(Speaking of the gym... On the way to the gym this morning I was an Aspiring-To-Be-Not-So-Fat Person. But after 20 minutes of running, I was transformed into an Aspiring-To-Be-Reading-A-Book-Instead-Of-Sweating Person. MMmmkay good.)

Back to aspirations!

They're pretty great. We live in a culture that prizes goals and going for it and succeeding enormously. (If you doubt me, please spent five seconds on Pinterest. For that life time dose of inspiration.... you're welcome.) And that's beautiful. But what if it all falls apart?

My aspirations used to be my God. They guided me in the way I should go. They defended me from the enemy of purposelessness. They defined my identity. They gave me joy. When I floundered, I reached out and grabbed the life raft of aspirations to lift me up out of the muck.

Life lesson number 439.2:  Aspirations make bad Gods.

They can be so easily ruined.
When they fall apart, so will you.
Plus, when you achieve them... Poof! They morph into something else. Talkaboucha' frustration.

I used to laugh at people who said that Jesus should come first. Because, how would that even work? I mean, we have to have goals and jobs and make our way in the world. If Jesus comes first... wouldn't we all be pastors? Or at least Bible School graduates? No thanks, I said. Jesus is my wing man, while I aspire aspire aspire.

Then Jesus gently let my aspirations implode.
My god wobbled and fell.
My framework for self-definition was destroyed. And really, it almost destroyed me. There was a season when I prayed many times for a truck to run me off the road because I didn't have the hutzpah to turn the lights out on life myself. All because my god died.

Now I'm kind of getting it... a little bit of it... it's growing in my heart... what it feels like to let Jesus come first. To prize giving yourself away over gaining recognition. To choose smaller and poorer if it means staying nearer to the hurting for love's sake. To choose less for the sake of of all of us. To choose low for the sake of the Other. To hold my rightness with soft hands and gingerness, for the sake of the Kingdom.  To submit to being weak: not trying to claw my way out of it to be awesome again, but asking God where he needs a weak warrior to bring up the rear.

Turns out there's a lot of us limping along here in the back of the pack. Turns out Jesus leaves the 99 to search for the 1 staggering beloved.

Turns out aspiration (a me center life) is a weak and frustrating substitute for a life inspired by grace, compassion, and love... a life that is about a bigger story than my own recognition and success... a life that is about bringing the love of the Kingdom to the world.

Now I aspire to be faithful. There is freedom there. There is grace for the failures. There is a strong helper for the long way.

And when I hit days like today, when I really have nothing left to give but faithful weakness... I believe God smiles and says, "Well done, good, faithful, and unshowered servant. Come into my rest and watch Project Runway with your mint chocolate chip ice cream. The laundry pile will make an excellent perch. And the blessing of God Almighty--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--be with you as you cry because your favorite designer got axed and Tim Gunn didn't save."

As a long-time, hard-core, give-no-quarter Aspirerer... as a lean-inner, a push-harder-er, a perfectionist of the first degree... can I tell you how radically beautiful that is?

It is.

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