“A life without a lonely place, that is, a life without a quiet center, easily becomes destructive. When we cling to the results of our actions as our only way of self-identification, then we become possessive and defensive and tend to look at our fellow human beings more as enemies to be kept at a distance than as friends with whom we share the gift of life. In solitude we can slowly unmask the illusion of our possessiveness and discover in the center of our own self that we are not what we can conquer, but what is given to us. It is in this solitude that we discover that being is more important than having, and that we are worth more than the results of our efforts. In solitude we discover that our life is not a possession to be defended, but a gift to be shared."
Henry Nouwen, Out of Solitude
So many of the people I know, many of whom I consider to be close friends, have something in common. They are busy. Incredibly busy. I understand why. They are bright, talented, motivated and ambitious. They love their spouses and children (and grandchildren). They love their church. In most cases they love Jesus. But I grow increasingly concerned with the ‘busyness’ life.
Don’t misunderstand. There’s nothing wrong with being busy. In fact, in many ways it’s worse to be idle. My concern comes from of my own personal experience. I know too well what it’s like to be in that place where I go from one thing to the next and to the next, for days on end with only time enough to sleep. Experience has taught me that this type of lifestyle is the most dangerous threat to my relationship with the Father. “But Mark,” you might say, “you’re a pastor. Surely everything you do is for the Kingdom!”
And that’s where you’d be mistaken, my friend. You see, ‘Kingdom living’ has very little to do with what any of us do. It has everything to do with who we are. To quote from the above passage, “…being is more important than having, and… we are worth more than the results of our efforts.” Please trust me when I tell you that when it comes to my relationship with God and true ‘Kingdom living’, I know very little. But I do know one thing, as a disciple of Jesus Christ my identity is not established in what I do or what I have. My identity is established as I understand who God created me to be.
I have also learned, only because of God’s great mercy and grace in my life, that He reveals my true identity as I take the time to discover His. I believe this is what the Apostle Paul was talking about when he said to the believers in Colossus, “You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). If we look at this verse in context we read, “If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory (Colossians 3:1-4).
It is a fatal error to assume that who we are is a product of our achievements. As far as I know, the only way to really learn who we are is to commit and discipline ourselves to time alone with the Father. It’s the only way we’ll find Him, and the only way we’ll discover our true identity.