Do you consider yourself successful?
The question is asked and you start to squirm in your seat. Do you? You glance round at the others, to see if they are as unsure as you. The question goes round the circle, making its way toward you, and you go back and forth between yes and no about six times each. I mean, you’re not a total loser, but then again, you have that university degree that you’re not even using yet. You don’t own a house. Your car is worth half of what the mechanic says it will cost to fix it. And to top it all off, you’re single.
Better go with no. It seems safer. Plus, you have the added bonus of not looking arrogant to the group. Decision made.
You’re actually one of the first ones to give your answer (a lot of mind changing can happen in a few short minutes).
You say no. When asked what would you have to do or achieve to consider yourself a success, you say, “Become a professional writer.”
Not until this moment have you realised that maybe one of the reasons you want a job in this field so badly is so that you can stop feeling like a failure. Maybe even the main reason. That every time someone says, “What do you do?” it translates to you as, “How much are you worth?” and the answer you keep coming up with is, “Not much.” What I do is not impressive. I sell clothes. No one dies if I don’t get up and go to work. They just buy at Target.
Somehow your successes in the field of retail never mean quite enough to you because you don’t need a degree to do it, and so many people refer to it as their job before they get a “real” job.
This particular Tuesday night last year as I sat on the bean bag I felt tears build slowly in my eyes. Listening to the answers of the rest of the group I suddenly broke in. “Can I change my answer?” in a tone that barely concealed the panic I was feeling.
“No.” Why did that word make the tears spill over?
The other people in the group all said yes. When asked why, the most memorable answer was one of the women saying, “I would consider yourself a success if people actually like you, and want to be around you. Do you have any good, solid friendships? You’ve certainly succeeded in something!”
The way my answer contrasted with the rest of them made me feel ten times the failure I had felt before and I was suddenly undone and exposed.
What had happened in my heart that I constantly held myself to this high standard of perfection? That I had set an arbitrary bar for success and anything that was below or in another area was all stamped with the words “try harder”. Why was my standard for myself so much higher than anyone else’s for me, and so different to what my creator had in mind? Just a hint, Lil. God wasn’t looking at Adam and Eve’s careers when he said, “It is very good.”
They were good because God made them, and they belonged to Him.
Now how many people would be successful in the world’s eyes just because they were created in the image of God? No career, no great wondrous achievements. Nothing to do with what they had done and everything to do with who they belonged to.
When God says in his word not to be conformed to the pattern of this world (Romans 12:2), we can often view it as him telling us off, but what if (crazy thought, I know) he put that in the bible for our freedom? Think like me, because I actually see clearly, he says. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so far are my ways above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts (Isaiah 55:9).
What does God view as success?
Faith: without it it’s impossible to please him (Hebrews 11:6).
Love: He wants us to love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, as well as loving our neighbour as ourselves, according to Matthew 22:37-40. In fact, the whole Hebrew law is summed up in that one sentence.
How do we show our love, according to John 14:15? Obedience.
Do you have these three things? If you do, then you’re already a raging success in His eyes.
It’s not always the most seen and heard, the rich and famous, the bosses, the stage performers, the TV stars and the hit singers who God considers close friends.
Who was Mary, when Gabriel met her where she was at in order to have a talk with her about the saviour of all mankind?
Who was Abraham? Who was this young guy Jacob, fighting with his brother, when God called him?
Jesus was born in a stable for a reason, and it wasn’t the celebrities of the day that the angels first appeared to.
What a relief then, to realise that just because we haven’t followed the world’s trail of stepping stones for us, that all is not lost. Actually, nothing is.
Just keep saying ‘yes’ to Jesus, and the day he takes you home to heaven you can hear those wonderful words.
“Well done, good and faithful servant. Come and enter my rest.”
Image 1: http://www.openlettersmonthly.com/novelreadings/fear-of-failing/
Image 2: http://www.capital-moments.com/the-blueprint-of-success/