I remember a moment of internal panic sometime in my undergraduate years. Outside of going to my numerous English classes, cranking out literary papers after the other, working out and maybe watching re-runs of old sitcoms, I began to live, eat and breathe through my church community.
Everything I did seemed to revolve around the schedule of the church. And to my surprise, I loved it. It wasn’t until several years after I began to see God as an inseperable part of my life and not just a Sunday fling, that I had a desperate moment of panic.
The Erin of four years ago would have stopped at nothing to achieve accolades at work/school, drove an insane amount of pressure to excel and ruminated over future plans and goals as a means to outline the correct path to glory.
It was almost as though the aggressive “go getter” mentality vanished not long after I confirmed my new identity in Christ. That burning desire to do, to finish and to win dissipated; things that would have normally driven me over the edge and unlocked the hidden ferocity that made me known and feared among my peers seemed to have packed its belongings and left without a trace.
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Is this what it meant to follow God? I had always carried an unconscious demeanor of loathing towards people who had become so “churched” that their way of living circled around passivity (or what I deemed to be passive).
The very idea that people could let their so called religion blind them into thinking they could live their lives with no real drive or ambition, frightened me. What was life without those fueling emotions and what was the point of settling and finding comfort in the average when there was clearly more to the world?
I panicked thinking I lost the very essence of who I was. Being content with my life and not feeling that competitive edge within me was almost like a part of my heart died when I announced Christ as my Savior.
And then it all came flooding out at once. The sincere and beautiful truth that got buried amidst my fear and mourning.
Of course, how could I have not seen it before? I did indeed die. The intensity of my previous life and the emotional stress and manic behavior of my past was all I had of myself. In short, it was all I had to hope in and it encompassed all my worth and value. I clung to it the same way a newborn babe envelops itself to its mother’s life giving breast. With it gone, I wandered around as though blind.
I loved what I had made my worth. That drive and ambition gave me a sweet euphoric taste of purpose and propelled me to do better and achieve bigger.
I came to realize not shortly after how deeply embedded I was in my own depravity. Its apparent absence gave way to longing and emptiness; I no longer knew how to perceive myself without it.
More than anything, I missed my sin and craved to possess that obsessive power and desire that gave way to my existence.
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Yet as Christ followers, we are not only given the ability to die to ourselves, but we are called to do so. My flesh was crucified alongside him and through his death and resurrection, I am able to live a life renewed and severed from what I was.
Before Christ, I derived my life’s meaning from the darkness in my heart. Outwardly, it all seemed to be perfectly fine character traits, none of which would cause another person to note as a definite flaw.
A strong will.
Desperate to achieve my self centered goals.
A seemingly indestructible drive.
Hunger for purpose and a disdain for stillness.
Insatiable desire to find fulfillment.
I led myself to believe that I not only had great character but I was made for success. For years I was on a quest to seek my own glory and to live out my own standards and purpose as God’s.
My fear simply revolved around the idea that I had lost the drive and tenacity I once found in myself; but what I came to realize, is at the foot of the cross, I have found a heart driven by a passion that goes beyond anything I have ever known. To live not for myself, but for the One who gave life to me. To surrender my kingdom in order to advance His and to relinquish my plans to further His purpose. However small it seems, let me do it for you and you alone.
Theologian and pastor John Piper once said,
“This is the essence of the Christian life: finding contentment in Christ and turning every circumstance and all of our work into living worship.”
How little I knew, and still know, of what it truly means to live in the contentment of Christ and not through my own volition. How exhausting and tiring it is to keep up with my own wavering happiness day in and day out when the King has already deemed the deed done. My previous passions did nothing but enslave me in a perpetual cycle of insecurity, doubt and dissatisfaction.
I am new and reborn — the shackles that once bound me seemed so deceptively familiar and comforting. But I now live with a certainty and relief that can only come from knowing what true passion and identity is.
Only by Christ and only by faith.
Me through Him is the only way I want to live.