I once had a client whose business-gifting outshined the stars of the Harvard Business Review. Yet she scorched everything she touched. Relationships went rancid, projects were poisoned by punitive criticism, and her management style left associates embittered.
We met for lunch a couple times a year for much of the 90’s. Over time, my opinion of her zigzagged from initial awe, to distaste, and finally to pity. These facts emerged:
- She was an identical twin, younger by twenty minutes.
- Although an excellent musician, she played second chair violin; her twin played first.
- She failed to get into medical school so she got an MBA; her sister became a surgeon.
- When her boyfriend came home for Easter, he fell in love with her twin.
A year later that former boyfriend married her identical, twin sister.
What Lights Your Fire?
In the movie Chariots of Fire, someone asks Harold Abrams why he runs so fast. He says, “When that gun goes off, I raise my eyes and look down that corridor, 4 feet wide, with 10 lonely seconds to justify my whole existence.” Eric Liddle says, “When I run I feel God’s pleasure.”
People who appear indistinguishable on the outside (fast, friendly, successful, or moral) are energized by competing powers.
Greatness and saint-ness are not matters of natural degree but matters of supernatural infusion. The “great” dispose themselves to endeavors, whereas great believers gravitate toward God.
It is not a matter of activism versus mysticism; the great go, whereas saints are sent.
Extraordinary heroes draw attention to the person or plan (“Wasn’t Steve Jobs brilliant and isn’t this church-growth plan wise?”) whereas spiritual heroes are ordinary people who are made extraordinary by the life of God inside them.
The worldly genius zigs. God calls us to zag.
We believers are too easily vitalized by the sweat of human effort. When we worship worldly wisdom—the “Three Keys” to this and the “Seven Principles” of that—we make alliances with Egypt; it tells us to rest in our best.
We “go” when God calls us to “come.” Our plots hamstring God’s plans.
Recently (as if the world isn’t noisy enough), those worldly mystics of mysteriously numbered methods have begun to prefix their magic potions with awe-inspiring modifiers: “Life-changing Keys,” “Mind-blowing Lessons,” and “Staggering Secrets.”
I wonder what their older siblings do.
Relationship as Fuel
Relationships empower us for good or ill. Some connections thrust us into rivalry, enmity, or despair, but there is another connection that supernaturally turns water into wine:
The most important aspect of Christianity is not the work we do, but the relationship we maintain and the surrounding influence and qualities produced by that relationship. That is all God asks us to give our attention to. (Oswald Chambers)
We too have an older sibling who out-performs us in every conceivable measure. But he doesn’t compete with us, he completes us. The only fruit of our lives that matters is produced by his life of God in us.
It is not our gifts that distinguish us nearly as much as the fuel that animates them.
P. S. To nurture the life of God in us, we need to hear God’s voice. Can hearing God’s voice be normal? Watch this short video (77 seconds) from Coffee Shop Conversations:
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To grow in intimacy with God, we need communication. If you want to nurture that divine dialogue with God, may I suggest you buy Hearing God in Conversation.
Eugene Peterson said, “I picked it up out of curiosity, and I couldn’t put it down.”
Gary Wilkerson wrote, “This is a remarkable book that teaches both how to hear God’s voice in Scripture, and then to hear his voice in every avenue of life. It’s filled with humor, insight, practical tips, and sound theology. I can’t recommend a better guide than Hearing God in Conversation.”
Excellent words Sam. “We too have an older sibling who out-performs us in every conceivable measure. But he doesn’t compete with us, he completes us. The only fruit of our lives that matters is produced by his life of God in us.” Thanks for these words. – David Ellis
Sam, I love that line too!! “We too…. he completes us.”
How great it is to have a friend running alongside us, and not a stern headmaster!
Great post! Loved it!
David Ellis and Jinwoo Lee,
Whenever I write, I have secret, favorite lines (as well as secret sentences I’m not so fond of). You guys saw through my secrets!
A phrase keeps going through my heart and mind, and it is, “The life of God in us.” Almost everything I read or hear keeps reinforcing this idea that God works his greatest works through he, himself, living in us. That the primary purpose of our lives is to live in intimacy with him, and that relationship itself will produce fruit, sixty, eighty, and a hundred fold.
Hi Sam. I am getting caught up on some old e-mails, and yours are seldom deleted until I have time to read them — even if it is over six months later! This particular blog of yours sparks a connection for me — as so many of your blogs do. There are multiple strands I could comment on about what you wrote, but I will limit myself to the line “We believers are too easily vitalized by the sweat of human effort.” The Holy Spirit and I are in the middle of a long-running project to renew my mind about what makes a “good day,” that started when He showed me that the ONLY criteria I used to decide that was how productive my day was. It’s taking awhile to undo a lifetime of a pre-grace orientation that we please God by the fruit of our efforts (i.e. sweat of our brow) and switching to a post-grace orientation that we have already pleased God by the fruit of the Spirit which comes from union with Father, Son & Holy Spirit! Like you said in the blog, “Relationships empower us for good or ill.” I love living by the relationship I have with the divine ones – the fruit is so much sweeter.
Love your writing — keep up the “good work.” (hehe) And I apologize if I have shared this line of thought with you before.