Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let our light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5: 15-16
The introduction was made. I didn’t trip on my way up. I stood proudly on that stage. Lips quivering slightly as nerves rushed through my veins. The only antidote of which was a couple of drinks consumed during the opening cocktail hour. I was ready to deliver a keynote speech that I had only practiced a few times. I finally made it. I was receiving the award I’d been craving for years- our territory’s Mountaintop Award. The results were a trophy and a speech to my counterparts at our annual black tie awards banquet.
The speech was one of the proudest accomplishments of my life. The feedback was out of this world. Someone I greatly look up to told me it was the best speech they’d ever heard. The speech wasn’t about my “successful” year however. The speech was about my life. I started out talking about the perspective of someone beginning in our profession, and those early days were brutal! I told some jokes, gave gratitude to several colleagues and spent time reminiscing. I then made a deliberate left turn. I took those remaining twenty minutes to confess. I confessed my outer appearance of a “successful” and “have it all together” man wasn’t actually the real me at all. I confessed in front of a room full of colleagues several truths in fact. A room that was filled with tears as I shared my story.
My childhood was a battle. I didn’t grow up in a “rainbows and butterflies” environment. In fact, quite the opposite. I had been going to counseling for months prior to that speech in January of 2017. I was a mess on the inside. I had childhood battles going on from decades prior protruding as an adult. Irrational fears, heavy anxiety, anger and worthlessness were the norm for me in my twenties. I shared with a group of colleagues what I now realize was only the beginning of the a completely transformed version of self. People finally understood why I seemed to have such a jagged edge around the office. People finally realized there was more to my story than their limited perspectives. People become aware that I wasn’t a jerk simply because I had a hard time letting people in. My exterior was for protection and they didn’t need to take it personal. I had no issue being vulnerable that evening, as I displayed sheer authenticity without hesitation. I had begun my hero’s journey, started my awakening process, and felt empowered to help others do the same.
Despite some personal challenges and changes, I followed the next year up with an even better performance at work. I was all in. My heels dug deep to ensure I would only move higher on our ranking system. The transformation I began in 2016 was merely scratching the surface of where I am today. I must say, it took that following year of “winning” via my performance to realize something startling: I SIMPLY DID NOT CARE. I spent a decade chasing status. I chased wearing the nicest suits to show off my success, which also served as “my armor” as I battled for more year after year. I went on a plethora of awards trips. I received plenty of trophies. Yet, the result was a whole lot more of the same: I WASN’T COMPLETE! I spent a decade chasing any accolade I could find. That’s what life had shown me was most important up to that point. I was in a never-ending cycle of chasing more in hopes to find that one reward, that one accolade, that one “win” that would finally fill the void within. The next summit would be THE SUMMIT. Just around the corner I’d FIGURE LIFE OUT. The exterior world of success, recognition, owning nice things, having an abundance of happy clients, being valued, being significant WOULD FINALLY SOLVE MY INTERNAL PAIN AND EMPTINESS. I could then (and only then) stop chasing. Regardless of what I accomplished on the outside, I never felt complete on the inside. I was finally beginning to realize the most important lesson of my life: nothing on the exterior can ever solve the void within; only a relationship with God can.
I heard a sermon by Steven Furtick recently called “The Father Saw.” Steven Furtick is the head pastor of Elevation church. I listened to years of his sermons on my road trip last summer. Unsolicited plug- I’d like to recommend Elevation Church to anyone seeking additional faith-based content via podcast or video. I’m here in Arizona, they’re on the East coast. I still rarely miss a sermon. I want to utilize this platform to thank Elevation for putting out content that helped my faith walk over the past year. Back to the message heard via “The Father Saw.” This sermon got me thinking about the verse above regarding being a lamp on a stand, which was also included in my recent post “God and Sports.”
Steven’s pretty direct in his messaging and this particular message spoke to me. I felt pulled to write more about my transformation story. The story that led me to having Romans 12:2 as a guiding light for my life, my motto, my purpose-driven verse:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
I cannot explain how much I chased belonging throughout my past. I placed so much of my self-worth in the hands of others. I assume much of this is natural as a human being, yet compounded greatly for me due to a childhood of instability (too much to share here, see early Surrender Project posts). I performed and then received what I craved: acceptance, praise, status and success. Yet if you put me on a stand back then for my light to shine, the room would have been pretty dim.
The message Steven was conveying was the lesson personally learned via my experiences over the past few years. What we chase matters. What we seek matters, as well as where we seek. Likes on Instagram, applause from colleagues, trophies, status or money will not enhance the brightness of our light. These things are merely temporary. We are under constant attack to conform to the world and be accepted by other people, yet God is the only acceptance we truly need. I crave to be a lamp for Him now more than ever, and I hope this continues. I want my works in this life to be a light that displays His brightness, not a dimmed light of performing in hopes for external recognition.
When I attempt to shine for the world my shine dims. The more I try to gain applause for my achievements in this world, the less I focus on the world that matters most. Think of a light with a dimmer (as noted in previous posts), we can gradually make a room lighter or darker. I envision my soul as that lamp on a stand and watch what happens to my light based on where I seek fulfillment. Am I focused on how my body looks to in comparison to others? Am I focused on how many likes I get on social media? Am I focused on where I am on my company’s production reports? Am I focused on what everyone else thinks about me as I seek validation? All temporary highs that I used to chase. All LIGHT DIMMERS!
I’m not saying we shouldn’t stay fit and be healthy. I’m not saying we shouldn’t put forth effort and do our best thoughout life. I am saying when we become obsessed by finding validation externally, instead of from within and from God, we’re setting ourselves up for a pretty dim light. We truly shine from within. We cannot be truly bright in this world when our priorities are external over internal. We cannot shine for others, be a beacon of inspiration and hope, or be a true servant of Christ if we’re constantly focused on pleasing people. Where we get our validation correlates to the wattage of our bulb. I was reading BeautyBeyondBones recent post regarding people pleasing earlier this week. Another unsolicited plug- she’s built a great following with her talented writing and great perspectives on faith and recovery! People pleasing is a subject I’ve written quite a bit about, as it’s been a personal struggle for years. I was reminded of an incredible verse I always revisit when I find myself tempted to permit someone else’s actions to dictate my feelings or subsequent actions. Maybe it can help you if you have similar struggles:
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10
God first, not people. We can shine brighter and attract more people to faith because we’re glowing from the inside out. I believe this to my core because I lived in utter misery by seeking fulfillment via human recognition for years. I still battle this. I’m human and have my past. I have stories that pop up when triggered, yet it’s something I choose to fight against. I pray you’ll join me.
Visit me on Instagram: @Surrender_Project
Almost 300 days of SURRENDERING so far!