I’ve always said we live and learn
But wow, does learning by living take swallowing a whole lot of pride. So, I hope you’re sitting comfortably because it’s story time.
I’ve been highly blessed this year to be part of the Mission House at Craig Lodge. It’s early days still, but I can say that it’s an amazing programme of formation and service, plus the team I have around me are truly inspiring.¹
Part of the Mission House involves us helping out at various retreats that are hosted at the Lodge. I, for one, am still getting into the swing of it and I struggled a bit last time around.
I was tired, having a pretty off day health-wise, and over all needed to take a break. But I didn’t want to.
Thankfully, with enough talking to, I get the rest I needed
And I was better off for it.
My last post was about letting community carry you through your struggles, and I had to be reminded to practice that during my off day. The rest of the missionaries really rose to the occasion and were graceful and kind with me the whole way through, as well.
I honestly can’t go on about each one of them enough.
Nonetheless, I wasn’t too kind to myself about it for a while after the fact. A lot of times, without really knowing it, I tend to value myself based on how I feel I’m doing rather than a deeper understanding of who I am.
This mentality can lead to a few problems
Notably, entitlement or extreme ambition.² Either of these is vastly undesirable in terms of our spiritual life, but I don’t think one to be worse than the other.
In fact, I tend to think of them as parallel vices of the same kind. Looking first at entitlement, Ryan Holiday sums up the crux of the problem very well:
“Entitlement assumes: This is mine. I’ve earned it. At the same time, entitlement nickels and dimes other people because it can’t conceive of valuing another person’s time as highly as its own.” ³
Extreme ambition, I can tell you from personal experience, is similar to this usually because the emphasis is reversed. If entitlement can’t value other people’s time and effort, ambition can’t value our own time and effort.
Ambition assumes: I need to earn this in order to keep it. Other people are doing better than me and I need to keep working harder.
But it doesn’t have to look like either of these
Not for me or for you. If we remember that God – as Ephesians 2:6 says – has “raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in heavenly places…” life starts looking very different.
The famous trinitarian icon written by Rublev shines a bit of light on this.
In it we see angelic representations of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit sat around a table with an empty space facing outward. As a talk I heard recently explained, that space is for us.
Jesus freely invites us to sit with Him in His heavenly throne room, instead of trying to earn our way there by our own efforts. He guarantied our seat at the table so we could work with Him from His own glory.
When we remember this, all entitlement and ambition fade
Contrary to hustle culture, lack of ambition doesn’t have to be an idle acceptance of a hum-drum life.
Rather, it’s the awareness that when God calls you somewhere you don’t need to perform to keep your place. It is reserved for you unconditionally. Then we can act from the knowledge of where we are to shine forth the glory of God in our daily walk.
This can take discernment.
Sometimes, like for me at the retreat, it looks like listening to those around you and looking after yourself. Other times it can be pushing through some tiredness in order to lovingly serve others.
One day it may be a humble obedience to those in authority over us, or it might be persevering for a worthy cause.
In any case, we should often listen to the voices of wisdom and reason around us where possible. For me, that was the voice of my friends – for you it could be a doctor, teacher, or spiritual advisor.
Whatever it looks like, knowing who we were made to be is key.
Sons and daughters of the living God, who have been placed in Heavenly places during our pilgrimage through this earthly kingdom.
If we remember this and cease our striving for self-made perfection⁴, maybe we’ll be able to start living it well. But in any case, our seat is reserved.
- For more about the Mission House programme you can look here.
- I say “extreme ambition” here, but I suppose you could also say “earthly ambition” for the same purpose. (I.e. striving after material success)
- Quoted from Holiday’s book Ego is the Enemy.
- “Self-made perfection” is not to say we shouldn’t pray that God continues to grow us in holiness, or that we shouldn’t seek greater sanctification. Rather, it’s not trying to be perfect on our own strength instead of the grace of God.