As Americans, Success is often seen as being evidenced by power, money, position, and comforts. If we can live autonomous lives, not answering to anyone, making our own plans and decisions, we can be perceived as a successful winner in life. Scripture says in Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths.” So how do we do it? How do we let go of control, becoming detached from our outcomes, ego & earthly pride?
While we often focus on outcomes as being evidence of success, I am beginning to see that the process is just as important to God. We honor God with the process of loving and living our daily lives following, accepting, and trusting Him. Not focused on what we have achieved in our outward goals that day. God delights in our hearts when we are willing to follow His path for us no matter what the world thinks of our choices or circumstances. As Christians our role model for life is Christ. His Words teach us that He came to serve. ‘A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” Luke 22:24-27 ESV
This is truly counterculture. In Genesis 18: 18 the Lord says, “Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.” God’s trajectory is to bless the earth through his people. And to show them exactly what he has in mind, he comes to earth as one who serves (Luke 22: 27). Jesus is God with us. And he calls us to serve (Matthew 22: 37-39). This is not religious rhetoric that we simply endorse as a good rule of thumb.
Jesus knows about the discipline of detachment. He made the harrowing descent that relinquished heavenly privileges for a life of human limitations
The second person of the holy Trinity, Jesus Christ, exchanged heaven for earth, power for weakness, glory for obedience and suffering, success in human eyes for faithfulness in the eyes of God, and life for death. God was Jesus’ first and only unloseable thing. Everything else could be lost. Jesus let go; he detached. When faced with temptation he refused to use his divine prerogatives and lived like us, not like some superhero. Jesus did his life the same way we do ours. He risked everything by trusting the invisible God and his goodness when it appeared that this would mean dying in disgrace. Part of the liturgy for many churches includes the words “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” This threefold pattern, known as the paschal mystery, describes how true transformation is found on the far side of detachment, relinquishment, and letting go. Through many mini-crucifixions, the life of Christ is born again in us.
Christ’s pattern of letting go is our paradigm for life. As followers of Jesus, we are called to live as Jesus did. Jesus said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how” (Mark 8: 34 The Message). We are to relinquish worldly values and detach from anything that stands in the way of desiring and knowing God. We are to embrace Jesus’ path—the path of descent and humility. A look at the cross makes this clear. Yet we often refuse relinquishment and remain blind to our attachments. We fail to see how our children or our goals for others and ourselves become the most important thing in our lives, receiving the bulk of our time, money, and resources. We ignore our fixed attachment to our identity and how it is represented in our drive for possessions, control, comforts, and achievements. We avoid any mini-death of relinquishment we possibly can.
Relinquishment extends into the core of our identities, securities, and addictions and says, “For the love of Jesus I will let go.” It is only through letting go of the control streak that true trust in Jesus is born. As Jesus’ apprentices, we are to detach from the accolades of the world.
And yet, accepting God’s path for us may include pain, physical, spiritual, and emotional. When loving someone with a mental illness we & they can be misunderstood, judged, or devalued. This does not mean you are failing or not pleasing to God in some way. Look at Jesus!
The Christian discipline of service is the way the world discovers the love of God. We are the way God blesses the earth. Jesus’ attention to the blessing God intended to bring to the nations never wavered. When he finds the temple in Jerusalem clogged with buying and selling, he takes the whole religious establishment to task—running them out of the temple with a whip of cords. God’s people were to be a blessing; his temple was not supposed to be a place of business but “a house of prayer for all nations” (Mark 11: 17). God intends to bless the nations through us and our lives of service. Christians are the very presence of God to others. We become God’s vehicle of blessing on planet earth.
When those in pain do not know how to live with or where to put their pain, Jesus invites them to put their wounds in his own bleeding hands. In Jesus, pain has somewhere to go. On the cross, Jesus absorbed and died for all the wounding and sin of the world. In him all pain can be transformed into something redemptive. The light of the presence of Jesus is a transforming ray that can radiate cancerous wounds of the soul. Prayer for inner healing rests on this reality. There is hope that even now we can begin to taste the wholeness that awaits us in heaven.
And so. I am beginning to reframe my perspective on a successful life. I ask myself these kinds of questions to examine my day for a successful walk with God: Did I honor God with my speech, actions, and thoughts? Did I choose that which evidenced love even when things didn’t go my way? Was the way I walked through my day honoring to God?
Often my wrong choices are evidenced in my closest relationships… when my husband doesn’t do things as I would like or my children don’t do what I think is best etc. I need to detach from owning other’s behaviors and forcing my outcomes. With the Holy Spirit‘s empowerment and detachment from the way the world judges, I believe we can actually live in the Peace that Christ has promised us! No matter what the day may bring.
I want to honor each of you for your willingness to release control and trust God with your relationship with your loved one with mental illness. We may not be able to provide a cure or even improvement somedays. Yet we have a calling to love our mentally ill ones and trust God as we do. There is beauty in doing such, even if it doesn’t win us power or worldly success. It does glorify God and brings His presence into some of the darkest circumstances. And therein is the Kingdom of Heaven, brought to Earth by us simply walking in loving others and trusting God wherever our journey leads us.
Some of these thoughts and phrases are taken from Adele Calhoun’s book “Handbook of Spiritual Direction.”