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A Vision Worth Living
Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. I want to actually believe that and live that way. I’m not sure about you, but I have to say that more often than not, I resonate with the first part of that verse more than the second. I have this tendency to see what I don’t have versus what I do have. I also typically focus on what is wrong versus what is right. This feels like a curse and the opposite of a spiritual gift. If I am fully transparent, I can even struggle with The Lord being my shepherd. And as much as I hate to admit it, I still find myself being self-sufficient, leaning on my own understanding, and doing things in my own strength.
A few weeks back I came across the story of Mabel. Please take a moment and either watch this video or read her story here. Mabel has something I desire to have more of—power. However, this power is different from what I have for so long viewed power to be. Mabel, lying in bed, unable to move, see, hear, or talk, had power that for the most part is not discussed, highlighted, praised, or celebrated. Again, please go read or watch Mabel’s Story.
You see, the Kingdom of God is an upside down paradox. It’s a place where Mabel has the power, not the superstar CEO, social media influencer, or the upcoming celebrity pastor we praise, celebrate, and try to mimic. We live in a culture and society today that subscribes to leadership podcasts, reads self-help books and opinion articles, and consumes the TikTok of the day for our inspiration and validation. It’s no wonder that we are struggling with more depression, loneliness, anxiety, and crises of faith.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. - Psalms 23 NIV
I have been reading some really great stuff lately that includes many new and fresh ideas that are pretty challenging to me. The latest book I read was Scot McKnight’s A Church Called Tov. Tov is the Hebrew word for good. In the chart below, you can see the themes of the book revolving around Nurturing Habits of Goodness: Nurture empathy, nurture grace, put people first, tell the truth, nurture justice, nurture service, and nurture Christlikeness. It’s this circle that took me back to the story of Mabel. She understood the circle of Tov.
A vision of a life worth living—what does that vision look like for you, for me? I pray that it’s Tov, good, like God intended. I believe we don’t have to look beyond the Gospels to see this life played out for us. It's Jesus. However, if we just read the Gospels and talk about Jesus as the Savior and focus only on His death, burial, and resurrection, we can forget about His life. I DO NOT want to diminish in any way that Jesus conquered death through His resurrection, but we need to realize that Jesus' life actually shows us how to be a human.
“Jesus came as a human being not to teach us how to go to heaven, but how to be a fully alive human being here on this earth.” - Richard Rohr
So, this leads me to the end of the book and the last part of Nurturing Habits of Goodness, which is nurturing Christlikeness. Chapter 12 opens this way: “IN THE CIRCLE OF TOV, when we practice the habits of empathy, and comparison, extending grace, putting people first, telling the truth, promoting justice, and serving others, Tov emerges in the culture and we all become more like Christ. Goodness (Tov) becomes an agent that influences every aspect of our lives.”
These “aha” moments I’m experiencing are causing my perspective on leadership to begin to shift. Granted, my lens is pretty narrow, and my experiences have been pretty limited, but this chapter has really shaken me to the core. It has challenged my view of leadership, especially in the Church. Again, if we use Jesus’ life as our model, we have to consider how Jesus' life and leadership compare to what we are listening to, reading about, watching play out in our ministries, or implementing in our own development plans.
In reading the Gospels, we see a pretty stark difference compared to what typical leadership looks like today. This leads me directly into self-evaluation of my leadership, my life, my impact, and my interactions with those all around me. How am I caring for people, extending grace to others, and displaying empathy to a wounded world? Do I care too much what others think about me or what type of “influence” I’m having? McKnight said it so well: “Instead of focusing on “leadership development,” we should be focusing on Christ and Christ alone as our model, and Christlikeness as the core identity of every Christian - yes, including Christian pastors.”
A Vision Worth Living…I circle back to that statement and idea and consider the beautiful, complex, and messy story of Mabel. The journey I’m on right now does not cause me to desire her life. My eyes are still attracted to a different prize, a more appealing reward that in all honesty doesn’t look like hers. I am equally conflicted and convicted because as a follower and disciple of Jesus, I know where I am right now is not where I need to be. But, that is where God’s unfathomable grace comes in. Right in the middle of my conviction, Jesus sits with me and understands. He encourages me every moment of the day that there is another way, a better way, and He displays patience with me as I fumble along the path. My journey is a little messy, and that's completely okay! There will be hundreds, if not thousands more “dying to self” moments in front of me that will produce new life and transformation, which will in turn usher me just a bit closer to Christlikeness. I have my journey, and you have yours. We should never, ever think it doesn’t count and that God isn’t working in it regardless of what our temporal vision sees.
“We were built to count, as water is made to run downhill. We are placed in a specific context to count in ways no one else does. That is our destiny.”
― Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God