Where did we get the notion that to follow Jesus means we are to become less and less?
Think about the people Jesus encountered…the people He invited to freedom, restoration, abundance, and yes, “losing yourself to find yourself.” Everyone who had “ears to hear and eyes to see,” became more and more, not less and less. Consider the woman at the well, the woman with the hemorrhage, the woman about to be stoned, Mary Magdalene, Mary and Martha, the widows, the sick, the broken-hearted, and the wounded. They all became more and more when they were touched, taught, and transformed by Jesus.
Even the more difficult teachings of Jesus were invitations to become more and more of your very real self, more and more fruitful. When He said that you must “disown yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow Me,” He also taught that if we lose ourself we will find our very self. Jesus told His followers, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” More and more!
Consider 2 Corinthians 3:18, which says we are being transformed with “ever-increasing glory,” or from “glory to glory.” Our ultimate destiny is to become more and more glorious!
More glorious! What does this mean for you and me? In Hebrew, “glory” means “heaviness, weight, or substance.” In Greek, it is “to recognize a person or thing for what it is.” Stop and ponder this for a moment. If we insert these definitions into this scripture, it means we are being transformed into more and more substance and into more and more recognition of who we really are! Wow!
Yet, how do we live into this divine destiny? What keeps us from experiencing and expressing more and more substance and more and more of our truest selves? These are questions worth asking.
A few years ago, I was struggling with these questions and my identity. My 30-year calling as a stay-at-home mom ended when our youngest of four children left for college. I didn’t know who I really was. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I wondered, “What will motivate me to get out of bed in teh morning?”
I took time away to seek some answers. I pleaded with God to show me what I was missing or what I needed to do. Three pictures popped into my mind - each one included both Jesus and me. In the first image, Jesus was very clear in the front, and I was very blurry in the background. The second image was the opposite - I was clear and dominant, and Jesus was fuzzy in the back. In the third image, both Jesus and I were standing shoulder to shoulder. We were both very clear, and our images took up the whole frame.
As I reflected on these three pictures, I realized the first image was the traditional way I believed my life was supposed to be…all of Jesus and none of me. I thought I should just fade into the background and be nothing, so that Jesus would be exalted. This notion was confusing as I sought to understand my purpose and identity. How could I have a distinct calling and be nothing at the same time?
The second photo illustrated times I’ve been self-absorbed, self-reliant, and self-protective. I would keep Jesus at a distance without much influence in my life, while I focused on creating an acceptable persona of myself. I understood that in this state of being I couldn’t know my calling and true identity, either.
As I pondered the third picture, I heard a loving whisper, “We can both be clear. Your full presence won’t diminish Me, and My full presence won’t diminish you!” From this “holy aha moment,” I later received a very direct calling from God that propelled me into my current work. I became more and more clear and Jesus also became more and more clear to me.
Which picture describes you? Do you believe you should become less and less as you seek God’s will for your life, but you’re not sensing any direction? Are you depending on yourself to figure out your purpose? Are you trying too hard to be out front and noticed, but feel unsettled, uncertain, and on your own?
Instead, will you stand shoulder to shoulder with Jesus, and trust Him to propel you into your personal purpose? If you embrace the truth that He has destined YOU to become more and more glorious, He will reveal more and more of Himself and more and more of your true identity and calling! And, when He does, stand with Him as you live into it!
Marilyn Vancil is the author of Self to Lose – Self to Find: A Biblical Approach to the 9 Enneagram Types. She is also a spiritual director and facilitates workshops on the Enneagram for individuals, couples, and ministry teams. She enjoys life in Seattle with her husband, Jeff, and her favorite role in life is being Mimi to eleven adorable grandchildren.