Discovering Freedom in All the Things You’re Not

frog-1274766_640Do you ever lose track of who you are?

It’s so easy to do. Pressure at work. Ministry demands. Family obligations. Creative urges. Financial concerns. And with summer here, we often connect with others who haven’t updated their vision of us in a long time, creating a whole new layer of dynamics.

It takes some of us years to understand the difference between laying down our lives and letting others yank them from us. We sometimes think being like Jesus means saying yes to every request for help or ministry, putting on patience and long-suffering like spiritual hospital scrubs, and meeting people’s expectations of what a Christian should be. We can be led to believe that losing ourselves in Christ means disappearing into other people’s needs, into other people’s ideas of what we are to be about in this life.

We forget that Jesus was a disappointment to many people. That’s right. Jesus wasn’t the Messiah many expected. To a lot of Israelites, He was a letdown. Still, that didn’t make Him change course. Jesus knew who He was and, just as vitally, who He was not.

He is perfectly equipped, then, to help us see when we’re making sacrifices He hasn’t asked us to make. He never called us to be everything to everyone. Trying to be what we’re not saps energy from being what He did design us to be. Part of the secret of staying on course is knowing who we are in Him but the other part is knowing who we’re NOT.

In John 1, the apostle makes a point of telling us that John the Baptist was NOT the light but he came to bear witness to the light. Even in biblical times, it must have been easy to get lost in other people’s expectations. The crowds demanded that John identify himself. Imagine if the people following your ministry asked you if you are possibly the long-awaited Messiah, Elijah, or the Prophet, as they did John? Tharugged-cliff-1031575_640t could be either a temptation for your ego or a goad to try to live up to their heady expectations.

John, though, is clear with himself and with them as to who he is not. He is not the Christ. He is not Elijah. He is not the Prophet. John’s calling was to be “a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” John 1:23 ESV

John understood a simple but profound truth. If a person is designed to be one thing, he or she is not designed to be another. As we embrace what we are not, we become freer to be who we are.

In the Body of Christ, a hand is designed to serve multiple functions, a heart to serve only one but where would the hand be without the beating heart? And if the hand tried to be a heart, how could the heart perform the functions of the hand? Each part needs to embrace its design and understand, also, what it is not called to do.

Maybe this is the season for you to ask God to help you know, not only who you are, but also who you are not. Many artists will tell you it’s just as vital to see where NOT to draw lines as it is to know where to draw them. They refer to it as “negative space.” That’s the area that surrounds an image. It helps define boundaries and bring balance to a work of art.

Imagine the relief of remembering we aren’t all called to do everything all the time for everyone. There is a holy security in knowing who you’re not. Some of us spend too much of our lives trying to live in our negative space but if we respected the boundaries God’s drawn around our design, we’d find ourselves in sharper focus.

Listen to that voice crying in the wilderness. Many are called to keep their heads about them while others are called to lose theirs for the sake of the kingdom. Because John knew who he was not, his voice still cries out to us today, even though he was one who lost his head.

What has Jesus not called you to be, loved one? The answer may just set you free.

I am so excited for you all to read my next book, Jesus and the Beanstalk (Overcoming Your Giants and Living a Fruitful Life) due to release September 20, 2016! It’s just around the corner. Soon, I’ll be able to share the first chapter but today, I’m thrilled for you to see the beautiful cover design! It’s available for preorder from online bookstores and the bookstore down the street from you! I think you’re going to love it and I know God has plans to use it to help many people unleash their giant-killing potential!Jesus and the Beanstalk

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    The Conversation

  1. Kathy says:

    I really needed to read this today as I grapple with the idea that I “should” attend a bible study this summer after my prayer group breaks but have been reluctant to commit. Going to let go and see what the Lord has for me this summer instead. Thanks!

  2. I learned this lesson the hard way, Lori. I threw myself into everything I was asked to do and a few things I wasn’t asked to do. After a couple years of that – and an attempt to ignore my exhaustion with the “this is for God so I need to do it” argument – my physical, mental, and spiritual health collapsed. It took several months for me to recover and now I try to listen to God’s voice. The tendency’s still there but I’m doing better.

  3. Sandra Lovelace says:

    The longer one works to meet the expectations of others, the longer it takes to recover the person they are without that ritual. May the Lord guide and equip us all in that process for His own glory and our good. Amen

  4. Terry & Patricia Lampel says:

    Good stuff, as always, Lori! We live in a “being” world, not in a “NOT-being” world, so this is good motivation to rethink those old habits! Thanks, Lori… God love you… Be Encouraged!