Most people in my daily life wouldn't call me a competitive person. Not even close. But I have known that is not totally true. Here's a great example of me as a competitor. I take you back to 1987 little Steph...I've been dancing at that point since I could walk, literally...and in this year as a 9 year old little 4th grader, I was introduced to dance competitions. That's right...as I was proudly performing a crazy-awesome-show-stopping performance to none other than Michael Jackson's "Bad," I realized there were other girls my age that had better dance skills than I did. Thus began an internal voice in me that said something like, "If that's possible, I want it." After that moment I was kind of a crazy person. I would devour the competition VHS tapes of 18 year old soloist winners and learn every move they made. I even studied the way they held their mouths, their fingers, and the moments when they would take a deep breath. Fast forward a couple years and I became one of the winners...the competitors...and then by 16 I was also choreographing competitively. I could make the story longer with more boring details, but the literal week that I was set free to begin following Jesus in 1998, I had just won the collegiate national title (that was a big deal people...big). Interesting timing, I should say, considering the scripture in Phillipians that says:
"But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him..."
Funny how the very thing I obtained I was able to surrender just a few short days later and literally count it as a LOSS for the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus. Oh what I would have exchanged for all of those days of rehearsals to be spent loving and serving Jesus instead. The mercy of Christ always wins though and He really does work all things together for good.
So, fast-forward to Passion 1999...It was the first time I heard John Piper preach and it turned my world upside down. It was the simple and deeply profound truth that I was created to glorify God. And how do I go about doing that? Beholding Him: seeing Jesus, Savoring our King, Enjoying the Presence of the Holy Spirit...then everything else would be added. It was a jolt that was similar to that 1987 dance competition. I suddenly saw that the new high mark, the new thing to live for was to know Christ and love Him deeply. So instead of VHS tapes, I read the scriptures, listened to worship music and every sermon that I could get my hands on, I devoured bible dictionaries, commentaries, took an old testament and new testament class at a community college, served the poor, evangelized, led youth group weekends, retreats, summer camps, mission trips, attended every prayer meeting I knew of, went to all sorts of different churches and meetings...and the list could keep going.
The thing I love about this list is that it is absolutely still going. It's a craving...I feel a little like a crazy person just wanting more. Similar to the way I used to look at those soloist, I find myself craving to see and be around victorious christian people. People that walk and talk and teach and sing and prophesy and heal and have dreams and visions and that walk in extreme faith and that suffer well ...they each have a unique nearness to Christ. It's kind of a competitive thing. It's that phrase that is still alive in me that is saying "if that's possible, I want it." If there is more of Jesus to know, I want to know Him! If there is more life in God than I am living, I want to live it!
It goes into all of those areas that I am living in... if I see a wife serving her husband in a way that I don't, I think something like "ooh, I want that." and it drives me onto being a better wife (praise the Lord and sometimes I don't act on those things quickly...just for the record.) You get the idea. If I see mom's doing fun creative things with their kids, I'm on it...I want to do it too. If I read about men and women that lived crazy lives of faith my response is "ooh, I want in on that too!" When I meet old folks that have this inner joy and radiate the love of Jesus I pray "please Lord, I want to be way more in love with you when I'm 90 than ever before." And the Lord will never say to me...nope. He is always agreeing with a resounding "YES!"
But I've recognized that my filter for what I compete in has becoming tighter and tighter over the years. Like I am straining out the things that are not really for me to crave and I am standing in a place of encourager to the ones that are totally winning in those areas. For example...I have no desire to know Greek. I highly value it, love learning from those that know it, but I have less than zero desire to learn that language. Or over the years the seasons of the spiritual check-lists of how often I do whatever it is that seems to make God the happiest...like a certain way to study my bible or the 'right' pastors to listen to or the 'right' way to pray.The places that I used to feel like I should be good at or give myself to, you know the things that would make me feel guilt or shame or fear...praise the Lord those things are falling off as I more clearly see and understand my own identity in Christ.
I think I'm rambling now...anyway...
So...why as a 35 year old mother of 3 am I spending time thinking and writing about being competitive?
It's a simple word...VISION. The things that we have vision for, we are CREATED, FORMED, MADE, PURPOSED to see them through. Let me say it in a different way: When we see, from God's perspective, what our lives are about there is nothing on the earth or any spiritual force that can keep us from seeing Him come to fruition in our lives and on the earth.
The more I have seen Jesus over the years, the more I've beheld Him, the more I've leaned into the strong arms of the One Who made me, the more I've been forgiven, the more I've rested in His presence, the more I've laughed at the days ahead.
..it is then that I understand that I am at the very very very beginning of tasting and seeing Him. There is so so so much more to this Wonderful King, this Matchless Lover, this Intimate Counselor, this Fierce Judge, this Relentless Pursuer...than I ever dared to imagine.
Here I am, 2013, and I am thankfully in a place where I want to be fierce in the way I go after God's heart. My craving is stronger than ever and I just want to be a girl that keeps saying YES to Jesus. He has proven Himself over and over and over again. His ways are forever BEST...what He says is always right...and I will really really really behold Him on His throne with zillions of other saints and strange looking creatures and my eyes will really really see the jewels and colors surrounding Him and I will really see the proof of the nails and I will be among the voices saying "WORTHY ARE YOU, JESUS!" But in the meantime...I get to surrender to Jesus and not give into my flesh, I get to humble myself over and over again in my marriage because I am selfish, I get to be patient with my children because I always want things to be easy and go my way, I get to believe the best about people that are not easy to love, I get to dream with God and see those dreams come to life on the earth because I'm alive...and He wants to be glorified in the little details and in the big dreams.
So, fear is not a driving force at all...it's freedom. Free to run my race and run it to win it. I pray that you do the same...run hard and compete. Let the ones that have gone before us spur us on to more and more and more of knowing Jesus.