Is Life Happening to You?–Part 1

Pastors deal with people a lot. This should be self-evident, but it came as a bit of a shock to my introverted soul to learn I would be spending so much time interacting with people.

Fortunately, I’ve also learned that people are pretty interesting, so it’s all good.

Life happens to insets. They hatch. They lay eggs.
They die. End of story. 
Out of all these interactions, I’ve found there are generally two different kinds of people. (No, that is not a punchline for anything. Totally serious here.)

–Those who let life happen to them, and
–Those who choose what happens.

It’s not scientific or anything, but personal experience tells me there are a lot more of type One. I know it’s my default. I think most of us find it a lot easier to be a victim of our own lives, or at least a bystander.

It’s hard work to paddle the boat instead of just letting it drift. Sometimes, the current taking us one direction is strong, and fighting it is a long, exhausting struggle. Plus, let’s be honest. We don’t have to feel bad if we can say, “I couldn’t help it. Things just happen.”

It’s easier to let life happen to us. But it’s not better.

Have you ever found yourself saying things like, “I don’t ever have time for . . .” “I don’t know how that happened.” “I’d love things to change, but I can’t do anything about it.” “If only . . . had not happened/would happen. Then things would be better.”

That’s letting life happen to you talk. It’s chosen victimhood, assuming that something outside of yourself has to happen before you will have the life you want to have.

Obviously, there are things that happen. We don’t control cancer. Or people who hurt us. People in other parts of the world are helpless when faced with persecution and kidnapping. Girls in Nigeria truly don’t choose their life. But for most of us, we’re really not victims. We’ve just never learned how to be type 2—those who chose what happens.

These guys, on the other hand. They make their choices.
(Except maybe being put in cages. But this is a rescue,
not a circus.)
I’ve been doing some thinking, and some rearranging, to make sure I don’t fall into that default mode myself. Here are some of the things I’ve come up with to be the kind of person who chooses, not allows, life.

Figure out what my priorities are.

What are the important themes and needs in your life? The best piece of writing advice I ever received was to put the main idea of whatever I was writing, whether a 300-paeg book or a 300-word devotional, into three words. Yes, just three words. It focuses you. With just three words as a guide, it’s suddenly clear what parts of a story or article fit the theme and what is extraneous and needs to be cut out. The writing is far, far better for the focus.

So is life. What are your three words for life? If you had to narrow your purpose down to three words, what would they be?

Ask god if they are his priorities.

OK, maybe you have three great words. You think they describe your life. But if you are a Christian, there’s a filter to run those words through. Would God agree that is the mission He has for you?

Because someone’s words might be, “Raise happy children.” Or “have job success.” Or even “great bikini body.” Whatever. But passed through the lens of “What did God put me on this earth to do?” they fall short. They may be good things to do. But they cannot be the end all three-word purpose for someone who wants to follow Jesus with all her heart, soul, strength, and mind.

In saying we should chose our life, I’m not preaching that God promises anyone the life they want. I’m not claiming that God particularly even wants you to be happy. (Sorry, recent pop-theological proclamations to the contrary. That just isn’t biblical.)

So, telling folks to choose their own life instead of letting it happen to them comes with the caveat that we’re choosing wisely. With godly intent. Otherwise, we may be living intentionally, but we’re also living pointlessly.

Donald Miller makes the claim that a believer’s purpose is to “save many lives.” That’s a bit higher than happiness and success. It’s the height God wills us to aim for.

So #2 in the quest to be a person who choose their life—make your three-word life theme something God would agree should be a priority.

Take some time. Now. This evening. Tomorrow. SOON. Examine the priorities of your life. If you had to put them into three words, what would you choose? What would God think of those words? Revise. Edit. Finalize the rough draft. You know—all those things you had to do in College Composition. Then please, would you share your words with me? I’d love to see what God is doing in your life.

I’ll go first so it’s not so scary. I think my three words are: Bring Jesus’ grace.

That’s enough for this week. Next Monday, the other two steps. 

2 thoughts on “Is Life Happening to You?–Part 1

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