by Stephen W. Smith
While working with leaders in the marketplace and ministry, I often hear the same complaint: “The life I have built is not working well. My marriage is in trouble. I’m not happy and no one knows it and I can’t tell anyone how miserable I really am.”
So, with this kind of confession and invitation for help, we begin to lay out a new platform for building a whole new life. We can’t just start being happy or start living a different kind of life. We need to build a new platform—a new foundation for living the life we want to live.
Even Jesus—perhaps especially Jesus, didn’t just tell people to live differently. He taught them through sermons, stories and parables where they could envision a whole new way of living.
Building a new platform for living requires laying out new planks in the overall platform. With each plank laid, we find we have a place to stand—a place to start living. I describe this process as a long journey. It is not a quick fix and it is not a pill you swallow. The Abundant life is first of all a life you begin to live; then continue to foster and develop and gradually things come together. But it is not without trials. A cost that must be paid and cannot be done in isolation or alone.
As we build a new platform to live the abundant life and lay a foundation, there are several planks that need to be laid down that we can stand upon. Together, these planks make a sure and strong foundation for us to build our lives upon and to live the lives that God is calling us to live. Here are the planks we offer at Potter’s Inn to help people live a whole life—a better life—a life of peace and contentment despite the outward trials. I’ll explore these in upcoming newsletters.
1. The Plank of Our True Identity as the Beloved.
2. The Plank of Living in Rhythm, not balance.
3. The Plank of Sabbath as the most important part of living in rhythm.
4. The Plank of Practicing Spiritual Exercises to foster and cultivate the life we want to live.
5. The Plank of Offering a healthy understanding of life to others—for the sake of others.
The first plank in a new platform to live an abundant life is this: Who am I? It is here, right at this first plank that I have messed up the most and find that many others have as well. Until we understand who we are in the eyes of God, we will have no understanding of who we are in our own eyes and in the eyes of others. I found my identity, like so many others, through my work. When I worked hard, I found what I thought was satisfaction, but in the end have realized my work was an elixir to my soul. I became intoxicated with work and eventually became an addict to the drug of work. Work gave me meaning. Work gave me significance. Work gave me validation. This was my drunken stupor that I lived in for decades.
The Harvard Business Review reports that "workaholism" is defined as “being overly concerned about work, driven by an uncontrollable work motivation, and investing so much time and effort to work that it impairs other important life areas.”
How many ministry and marketplace leaders can say: "That's me. I'm one!" Workaholism is fueled by a neglect of an inner life, confusing external markers of success with inner ones. It was not until my early 40’s that I began to make sense of my lostness despite the fact I was a card-carrying, church-going leader. I was also paralyzed inside and causing havoc in my marriage and to those around me because nothing was ever enough. I was hungry for something that I could not find to satisfy me. I was angry that I could not figure it out. I was lonely. I was exhausted. I was in the bullseye of the perfect storm for deconstruction of my life and hopefully, a rebuilding of a life that could work. I was always on the hunt for the next thing, next position, next person who promised to give me significance. I was truly looking for love in all the wrong places.
Of course, not everyone is a workaholic but we all need to learn who we really are and who really loves us in an unconditional way. This is the greatest need of every soul. We just want to be loved; to matter; to be cared for. Our wounds, nicks and bruises in our sense of being loved and our self-worth are mostly derived from our families of origin. It is here, that all of our stories begin and it is only here that the process of deconstruction must begin. We have to start at the very beginning. We can’t get around this or over this until we know and understand our own story and glean the consolation along with the desolation of our spiritual journeys which includes our family journey.
When we learn and experience God’s love as the Beloved of God, just as Jesus did in his water’s of baptism, we can grow in our understanding of who we are. For most of us, this is a gradual awakening to our own belovedness. We feel the inner urges to do something significant, then I will be loved; to do something remarkable, then I will be loved; to finally reach the bar; to finally get the prize; to finally be seen—then we can relax. But here’s the truth, until we lay this plank of the platform in it’s vital and most important place in our new construction of a life we want to live, our life will be marked by more striving, more achieving, more proving that we matter and are loved.
I’ve come to believe that the power of the story of Jesus’ baptism is certainly not in the water that was symbolic of his own spiritual awakening but more, it was the precise power and content of the words that God spoke to Jesus while he was standing in that water. God said, “You are my beloved son. You are my delight.” Until we each hear these same words for ourselves, our baptism will not matter. Water can only be a symbol but the power of hearing who we are from the One who loves us as a son or a daughter stops us in our tracks. It is this very love that begins and allows us to rise up and live in a whole new way.
For your consideration, please read my blog at: www.steveandgwensmith.com on this very important subject. It can help fuel the fire of the inner work of transformation on this crucial plank in building a new life—a life marked by peace, shalom and contentment.
In future articles, I want to expand upon this platform metaphor and share four more needed and necessary planks in building a life that is defined as “the abundant life.”