“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
– Philippians 3:12
I like to think of myself as one who does not accept second best.
But I do it all the time.
Not from others but from myself. And not physically, but in commitment, in discipline to this vision I’ve carried for so long.
I often give up, I do.
I prefer the comfort of “good enough.”
Sheri and I drive to the mall in peace, insulated from the need and struggle all around us. We’re taking the opportunity of a free weekend night to hit a couple sales and see if there’s anything we like among all the things we don’t need.
It can be so easy to believe nothing is forcing me to push forward.
The girls are happy at home, reading and practicing music. Things are good here. Why risk messing that up with sticking my neck out for idyllic principles no one would understand?
The fears can whisper so comfortingly and convincingly, they sound like my own voice.
We park and walk past all the retail stores overflowing with new items, the mall already advertising Christmas with garlands and canned music and a giant tree of lights. The other shoppers of all types and ages prove it’s safe to assume no one else here needs any of this either.
There are too many people here. Too many people accepting the convenient comforts and forgetting that progress and true satisfaction only comes from the opposite. From the inconvenient and the uncomfortable.
In this world of ease, doing the harder thing has become the right thing.
Why do I know this so firmly? I don’t own the insight; like all I know, it came to me. I didn’t even ask for it, but it was given to me, like everything I possess. I’m a steward of this and all I possess, and I prove myself a poor one time and again.
I’ve seen true need and it’s in many of these people’s eyes. I want to help them, speak to them. I want to use well all I’ve been given.
I know the gifts that came to me from parents, family, teachers and friends are to be shared and that requires commitment most of all. I know this. So why don’t I commit? What am I afraid of?
And it comes to me as I stand before the giant Christmas tree that the answer to this question is the secret to progressing in my vision and calling.
I know all things truly worth having involve sacrifice. To be disciplined, we have to sacrifice. How many of us know it? How many of us will actually do it?
Those who can commit to practicing what they preach are the ones who will succeed at changing lives.
The alternative is wasted chances, stagnation, common imitation and apathy. Am I not pretending I don’t make this choice every day?
But hang on. For many years, like a typical Type-A, I’d hear this advice and think, “I have to try HARDER!”
We don’t need to try harder. We need to get smarter. Remember where the call came from. Remember who you serve.
Love. Love is our motivation. We forget to call on the source of our true strength in our weakness.
If I was braver, I’d stand in front of this bright tree and tell them all, “You are loved and you are called! But you’re loved and called as broken and fallible human beings. Don’t try to fill that need with things, with prestige. Your need isn’t for stylish things or favor, but for love and the purpose only love can bring. Then when you work or play, it’s truly productive, and sacrificing all of this doesn’t matter.”
That’s it. I need that reminder too. Without our Inspirer, we can’t help anyone. We’d only be giving them another distraction. We need patience to forget about immediate results, and let completion and perfection remain far off. But we can joy in the progress, even if it isn’t visible right away. We can commit to the longer journey, the promised fullness underway that’s only beginning.
And we can speak what we know as creatives, reminding ourselves and others that success is inevitable with enough time and commitment.
Maybe this is my first gift of Christmas this year. To commit to the best and discipline ourselves to sacrifice for what really matters—this is how we’ll help others with the resources and wisdom we’ve come to possess, our true possessions to offer through art that reveals its wonder and beauty.
I know I’m being crazy. It’s not like I think shopping is evil or everyone here is bad. And it’s not that I really want to speak to the strangers at the mall; I’m just being theatrical. But part of me really does want to.
But I’m starting with you. And maybe you’ll speak to your people, and together we can beat back some of that noise we too often mistake for ordinary comforts, this easy normal life here in the west.
The one that whispers to forget your dream, your calling. The one that undermines and snickers. The one that’s from a dead-end, defeated, dying world.
And you and I and all the rest of the people just walking around, we need to be reminded sometimes that we all belong to the light.
For the higher purpose,