In a world of smart phones, social media, and the internet we have so many things pulling for our time and attention on a daily basis. Although technology has it's benefits, the pressure that comes with "being available all of the time" as well as the pressure of living up to certain standards and comparisons that are constantly in front of our eyes can pull us in so many different directions, and away from the things that truly matter. I am convinced that the life God intended us to live can only be found when we put away the distractions, clear out the noise, and start to think about the ways we have started to live a life out of response to pressure.
I want to start by challenging you to ask yourself this one question:
What would my life look like if I stopped living life out of response to pressure, and found freedom in balanced living, peace in setting priorities and it became easier to say no to things that weren't a priority!?
Learning to respond to purpose over pressure became a revelation for me a few years ago when I was growing my first vegetable garden. I will never forget how excited I was about my little boxed vegetable garden; As I had always wanted to grow my own vegetables! That spring, I planted zucchini, summer squash, bell peppers, tomatoes, and a few different herbs. Looking back, I now realize that I was quite ambitious being that it was my first time gardening, but if nothing else, being overly zealous taught me a powerful lesson.
Just about every day, I was so excited as I ran outside to check on my growing garden, only to realize that there wasn’t a whole lot of growth happening. I came to realize I had to be patient as it would take quite a few weeks to see any signs of growth, much less any fruit! As persistent as I was to check on the progress of the garden, I somehow missed a very important step in garden- ing. Within a few weeks, some of the plants were quickly withering and dying.
At first, I was perplexed by what had caused the plants to decline so quickly, until I started looking more closely. As I was pulling back some of the leaves, I quickly found the problem. A host of weeds were popping up around my vegetable plants, choking the life right out of them. I realized that in the midst of checking on the growth of the vegetable plants, I had forgotten to look for anything that didn’t belong in the garden, such as weeds, mold, and insects.
As I began the task of removing the life sucking weeds from my beautiful garden, I realized that it was more difficult to do than I had originally thought! I was surprised to discover that the roots of these weeds went down deep, often traveling across the bed of soil, entangling themselves around the roots of my vegetables. After seeing this, it became clear to me why the vegetable plants were dying. The roots of the weeds were sucking the life right out of the healthy areas of the garden.
I put on my gloves and pulled out every weed down to the deepest part of the root. It was a process, but sure enough, the hard work paid off. Within a few days, my plants were springing back to life! From that point forward, I was diligent to check for any new intruders and maintain my vegetables, and they eventually flourished, bearing fruit just as they should. That summer I got an abundance of vegetables and herbs, so plentiful that I was able to give some away!
God used my gardening experience to teach me a powerful lesson. He showed me how our lives can so quickly become infiltrated by meaningless things that steal our time, attention, and energy. These "invaders" eventually start to press on every button that we have; Sucking us dry and creating pressure on our hearts and minds that God never intended us to have.
I believe our lives are much like this garden. The first step to living from a place of purpose will require us to surrender to God and allow His Word and Spirit to show us things we need to uproot in our lives. As we surrender our lives to Christ and become fully reliant on Him, He becomes our master Gardener. He will show us what needs to be uprooted, and expose everything that doesn’t produce life in our hearts and lives.
The second step is to get honest with ourselves and think about how we are spending our time, what we are giving our attention to, and start to think through what the basis is for how we are making decisions. We can do so by asking ourselves the very real questions, " Am I making purpose driven decisions? Or am I living my life out of a response to pressure? Are the things I am giving my time, attention, and energy to sucking the life from what really matters in my life?
We can begin making purpose driven decisions by asking ourselves:
- What is my motive in doing this?
- Is this a priority in my life?
- Can this be delegated to someone?
- Is this a part of fulfilling my purpose and/or calling?
- How does this action, thought, or to-do hold up in the light of eternity?
- Is this how God is calling me to invest my time, talents, or gifts?
- Does this bring peace or cause unneeded pressure?
As we ask ourselves these questions, it may be difficult to sort through some of the tougher decisions; And when that is the case, one of my favorite scriptures that is a great rule of thumb to judge our decisions by is Psalm 34:14, which simply tells us to: "Turn from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it". I believe as we consider this truth it will shine a light on the areas of our lives we need to uproot. As we do, we can be sure that will begin see His good, acceptable, and perfect will accomplished in our lives, and we will begin to flourish just as He designed.
Some other questions that can help us to dig deeper are; What if instead of trying to measure up and compare to others we made it our goal to sit at the feet of Jesus instead of staring at a screen? What if the first thing we did each day was sought Him before listening what the world had to say? What if before we said yes to anything, we took some time to seek His direction, and made Him our ultimate example and constant guide? I wonder then what our lives would look like, and how they would be different.
If we were honest, I am sure we could all say that our lives have been shaped in one way or another by the constant pressures and distractions of this world; But one thing I am thankful for is that it is never too late to start to seek peace and pursue it. Each day is a new day, and God’s plan for our lives still awaits! Today and every day we have the choice to seek the heart of the Father and let Him reveal His good acceptable and perfect will for our lives; Which is ultimatley where our purpose begins!
Contrary to popular trends, the latest and greatest things, or the shining lights that the culture presents; I believe the best version of you and I doesn’t begin when we follow the patterns or respond to the pressures of this world. True peace begins rather the moment that we let go of who we think we are supposed to be and begin to ask, "God how can I be a reflection of you?"