I was standing on a stage in front of a few hundred elementary kids. “Let me see your hearts!” I shouted, and they all held up their hands in the shape of a heart. “Now, let’s see your work!” They put their hands out like little wings on their neighbors’ heart-shaped hands. Our Heartwork logo is never more precious than when it’s created by little 6-year-old hands. I reminded them that God changes our HEARTS, so we can, with our own hands, do his WORK. That’s good, right? The only problem is that I later realized it’s completely backwards.
In a “get it done” culture where ambition and success are the ultimate goal, we so easily jump into a way of thinking that sets God at the trailhead like a forest ranger saying, “Ok, we’ve filled up your backpack with everything you need, now off you go!” and we run our race, climb our mountain and swim our sea, all with his blessing. In our minds, he’s been our Yoda, giving us the wisdom and warning our hearts need and then mysteriously disappearing so we can take the journey on our own.
But is this image accurate of our real Father? Jesus returned to Heaven saying it would be better for him to go so that the Advocate could come (John 14:16). We are not on our own in this journey, friends. God is still here. And maybe it’s not even as accurate to say that “he is with us” as “we are with him.” He is certainly transforming our HEARTS, but the WORK is not up to us, it’s up to him. Maybe the part where we are most active is actually at the beginning, not the end.
We have so many images in the Bible that are upside-down to our own thinking. The last are first, the poor are blessed, the infinite God becomes a baby human… If we overlay this onto our American ladder of success, the images are all pointing us downward. The Bible tells us that if we go down, God will lift us up. But, what if we have a job to do, a ministry to run, colleges to get into and a project to complete? What if we really need to succeed for life to go as we have planned? How does this chosen obscurity and anonymity that the Bible describes serve anybody well when they’re trying to accomplish something great? If our motivation to climb up that ladder is stripped away, what drives us?
Let’s consider love. It’s such a common word. We love pizza and our moms. We may love painting and everyone loves puppies. But what could it look like to be truly and purely motivated- in work, in school, in relationships, in everything… by love and only love? This context brings a depth and richness to this common little word that is actually big enough to hold our eternal, creative and good God. God is love. As his followers, love defines us (1 John 4:8).
So maybe that’s where we start. With love. As we plan, create and manage all that is before us, we can choose to take on the mundane task of turning our attention and energy to our motivation. It’s a small but important tweak to see ourselves more clearly, more realistically. Why am I really doing this? What do I believe about the people I’m serving or competing against? How can set my pride aside and love them better? Maybe it’s possible to live our lives even in our work and families as followers of Jesus’ love rather than masters of our universe.
Our job, like the little boy with the fish and the loaves in John 6, is to simply care enough about who Jesus is to pause our agenda, to pack a lunch and follow him across a sea and up a mountain… One foot in front of the other, listening, paying attention and getting close. Our part is actually the HEART stuff. Then in a moment that only he can determine, he takes what’s in our hands… smelly fish and common bread, and he turns the WORK of our lives, as ordinary as it is, into his miracle. Perhaps in our zeal to “do” the great things, we’ve missed the opportunity to first “be” the people he can use. Sometimes we all get it backwards. Today, let’s start with our own hearts and see what incredible things God can do with our lives.