I was walking down the street today – one of the small joys I now appreciate more than ever, thanks to Covid-19 and countrywide lockdowns. I was thinking about all I needed to do…and all I wanted to do.
There’s a big difference between those two. When I NEED to do something, I can often feel guilty for not ticking it off my to do list. But when I WANT to do something, it happens so effortlessly. And doing it brings joy. Get what I mean?
In that moment I realised that some of my items on my two to do lists (NEEDED TO and WANTED TO) have changed. Or rather, they moved. Thankfully.
For years – ever since I’ve found God as the love of my life – I’ve been involved with his work. His work can be being good to your neighbours, building a character that aligns with His values or it can be leading a major ministry that makes global impact. It’s all part of answering His call.
But here’s a faulty mindset I’ve lived with during many seasons in my life: I HAVE TO.
What I Got Wrong
Years ago I felt exhausted, burnt out and unmotivated. I was also fearful – extremely so. Even though I had an idea of what I thought God’s calling on my life was, for some reason, I couldn’t go into action. I was frozen by fear. Fear of failure, fear of conflict, fear of taking on a responsibility.
All of that should disappear when I realise how present God is in everything I do. Even though He shows me what to do, it’s not that I have to do it on my own. He simply wants to pursue a project with me. But my picture of my life was that I was supposed to deliver this perfect present to Him about what I’ve done for Him on earth.
Oh, how I got it wrong!!
He was there – always has been – with the desire to walk a certain path WITH me. He would have carried me through each trial to get to this goal that we were chasing. I missed it completely, never pursued it, simply because I imagined attempting that journey on my own. He was offering me an opportunity, and I took it up as an order.
I remember that part of my frustration was seeing so many people – some my age, some older, some younger – doing extraordinary things for Him. They saved people from human trafficking, they built safe havens for the abused, they fought for justice. They really made a difference! They didn’t only TALK about His kingdom. They lived it and made it happen.
Why couldn’t I do the same?
Surely God must think less of me because I’m not performing at that level.
He must be so frustrated with me who can’t get her ducks in a row and do something big for Him.
In that season, I remember noticing how so many things signaled that it’s a good time to pursue that dream: people I met that would have benefited this goal He had for me. A property that would have been the perfect place to start it all. It could have happened.
But I just couldn’t do it. It was a burden…No…I MADE it a burden…a ‘I HAVE TO’.
It was not a joy. I never went into action.
And I felt like a failure.
The Advice I Wish I Understood Earlier
So, I remember, more than once, reaching out to Joanne Ramos, whom I respect as a leader, a believer and so much more. Wow! She wrote me back all the way from the US! I wrote to her for a bunch of reasons and she actually took the time to read my long letters where I tried to explain my confused thoughts. There was a lot of turmoil inside me.
And I got great encouragement from her. What stuck with me is the ‘why’ she did what she did…
‘Wanting to know Jesus…. to understand who He is and be close to Him.’
This is quite in contrast to my skewed perception that it’s ONLY about fulfilling a mission.
Unfortunately, it took me YEARS to figure out what that really meant.
I have done so much in my life because I thought it was the ‘right’ thing to do. I pursued projects, because I believed it’s all about ‘purpose’. I have these dreams pounding in my heart about writing books, helping the lost and fighting for justice. And the moment a dream drops in my heart, for some reason, I turn it into a ‘HAVE TO’. I turn it into a performance. I ruin it. I ruin it for myself. And I exchange joy for guilt. Guilt for not making the dream a reality yet. Guilt for not getting it perfect. Guilt for being too afraid.
If ONLY I could turn around, look into His face…discover how He is always by my side wanting to help me make those dreams the blessings He wants on earth…and all the while actually just passionate about revealing more of Himself to me.
Yesterday a friend told me ‘God loves a desperate spirit’.
I asked her why she thinks that is.
She said something along the lines of desperation causing us to press in to Him. In my own words, desperation forcing us to consult Him after we’ve tried all our own ways and seen they don’t work.
This could apply to anything: wanting a baby…wanting to start a ministry because you love doing good…wanting better for a friend or family member…struggling with finances.
In my old perspective, I wanted to bring the perfect result to Him as proof of my faith, my diligence, my commitment to Him, my love for people. I didn’t get much done with that mindset.
So, eventually I did reach moments of desperation. I started asking Him His opinion on the matter. About how I’m supposed to go about things. At last, instead of running away with the idea, hoping to return to Him to show what I’ve done with it, I faced Him WITH it. I faced Him with the shriveled idea that looked quite crooked, with no promise of making much impact. And that was what I was supposed to do from the start.
Bit by bit, he broke down my mindset of ‘I HAVE TO’. Now, it’s more like ‘Let US do this’.
I will also admit: I had to deal with a whole pride aspect. I had to realise it’s not about being the best or making the most impact. It’s about knowing Him.
I’m getting there. Slowly, but surely. (This in itself is a challenge, since I prefer getting things done quickly…but His way is better…and slow & steady apparently doesn’t mean I’m a failure. What a revelation!).
Why do We Feel we ‘HAVE TO’?
I think there are many reasons you may feel to perform in His eyes:
- For some, it’s personality.
- Faulty teachings.
- Wanting to be like the respected church leaders, thinking that’s ‘success as a believer’.
- Working to obtain people’s recognition.
- Thinking His blessing only comes based on our deeds.
All of these can easily replace the motivation that should be behind all we do: our love for Him. And when we don’t do something based on the right foundation, we give the enemy an opportunity to enter with fear, pride, sin and so much more.
Living in Freedom Without ‘I HAVE TO’
Why am I writing this?
I’m kinda figuring out this chunk of a lesson as I’m writing these words.
What I know is this:
To live with a sense of ‘HAVE TO’ prevents me from ever going into action to do His wonderful work on earth. For me, the overwhelming obstacle is usually fear. The ‘HAVE TO’ results in fear of failure, whether it’s in my family responsibilities, my ministry, or my work. For you, the obstacle may be something different. But to forget that He is part of those dreams can spoil the process and even stop it altogether.
It has taken me months to get to this point. Now, my mind does recognise the freedom found in His grace, rather than feeling a weight on my shoulders because I take on a mission and ‘schedule a performance’. Now, many of the items on my to do list falls under ‘I WANT TO’ because I do want to see what happens if I pursue an idea WITH HIM. And since I don’t feel I have to impress Him with the outcome, the results matter less…there’s less fear…and joy once again enters the game.
I don’t want you to miss out on having journeys with Him because the enemy gets you to believe the lie that you HAVE TO do this, or you won’t be good enough. Or that you HAVE TO pursue a project to get the adoration of people.
Please turn and seek His face, sooner than I did.
There is so much freedom in partnering with Him, instead of perform for Him.
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”