A friend recently wrote me a note of encouragement, which he closed with these words:
Keep the main issue the main issue: “The whole point of what we’re urging is simply love—love uncontaminated by self-interest and counterfeit faith, a life open to God.”
(1 Timothy 1:5 – The Message)
Paul’s words here feel like an impossible command, especially the bit about self-interest…or lack thereof. I’ve always been concerned about my mixed motives, how partly I write (or parent or befriend or feed or what-have-you) out of love, but partly out of how it makes me look, how my actions or words affect how other people perceive me, how I’m using my words and my deeds to control my image.
This makes me ill. It makes me feel like an utter phony. And fakery is anathema to me. I have a strong drive for authenticity. You might even say authenticity is my primary need in life.
But it’s closely followed by a need for recognition and approval.
So I’ve spent most of my life battling between those two needs: the need to be honest and authentic and the need to have others like me and think well of me. I’m beginning to see that these things are not necessarily at war, but old habits die hard, and I’ve spent 38 years hiding myself from people in order to be more likable, more palatable, more…whatever it is I think they want me to be.
These days, with my new book still in its infancy, the battle rages between my desire to have it glorify God and my desire to have it sell well. These are, again, not mutually exclusive. At least not necessarily. But after a lifetime of feeling guilty and ashamed of my baser motives, of hiding them, the mere fact that I want to make some money off this book makes me fear that the whole sola Deo gloria bit that I espouse might be so much whitewash on my less exalted motives, a way I’m trying to blind myself to the truth about myself.
Explore with abandon those things that make you come alive. If your flesh begins to put the art ahead of the Artist, disappointment will bring you back around again. If you begin to pursue lesser, secondary things, you need not fret so much about it. Trust that your clenching of second things will never fully satisfy.
Let disappointment do its deep work–remind you that your true desire is found not in God’s ways or God’s will or God’s blessings, but in God himself.
Such freedom in those words! I do fret over my mixed motives (to God alone be the glory but I’d like to look good, too, thanks), and these words give me the freedom to own them without guilt or fear or neurosis. God knows my heart better than I do, and if my baser motives start to become my primary ones, God knows how to correct that. My job is to remain rooted and grounded in Him. So long as I do that, God will take care of the rest.
For now, “the rest” is abysmal book sales and disappointed hopes. But I’m handling it so much better than I did the first time around, which gives me hope that I just might be growing up, might be more deeply rooted and grounded in Christ than I was the last time around, that I might not be so far from Paul’s injunction to simply love as I think.
And that is cause for celebration.
photo by Phuong Tran, Creative Commons via Flickr