Life can get good. Real good. That wake up jacked for the day good. That in love with life good. That success around every corner good. Life can also get bad. Real bad. That cry yourself to sleep bad. That domino effect of hardships bad. That everything is going wrong bad. Failed businesses, lost jobs, the weight of debt, broken relationships, an overwhelming loss of a loved one – in those moments I always run to God. I sprint and you best believe I pray for Usain Bolt like speed as I do it. But success, wealth, and validating applause from others can not only turn our run into a walk, but it can make us so complacent in our chasing that we decide we can just take a seat in the stadium and watch ourselves play the best game of our lives.
When things get good, and when things get real good, we rely more on ourselves than we do on God's direction and provision. We give ourselves that internal pat on the back – I can do this on my own, my plan is working type of pat on the back. We start telling our story, the things we're doing, the accomplishments we're having, the strength we're showing, the challenges we're overcoming, the blueprint we're following. We take the credit. Our blessings start to blind us. We can become more devoted to our success and less faithful in our devotion to God. We subconsciously start highlighting ourselves as the main character of our story and forget to remember the ways God orchestrated it all – the opportunities, the gifts, the talents, the people. And that's when pride starts to set in.
So how do you know if you're starting to let your blessings blind you? We all have different ways of fading into complacency, but I think one of the most common ways we do this is to forget about the influential people that God blessed us with along our journey. In the his book, The Power of Other, Dr. Henry Cloud says, "you might have noticed that the conversation about how we do better is all about you... But there is something missing from that menu: reality. Ask many people about their greatest accomplishments and challenges overcome, and you will find one thing in common: there was someone on the other end who made it possible.” That doesn't mean we have to shout out giving all the credit to these people, but we do need to acknowledge how much God uses people and relationship in our lives and blessings. I know I need to.
As I look back and reflect, I'm realizing there were usually 3 types of people that I tended to overlook when life was good and I started feeling self-made:
1. The person that brought me closer to God.
Maybe someone invited you to a new church that changed your life. Maybe someone listened to your pain and prayed for you right there on the spot. Maybe someone lent you a book that taught you something new about God's ways and it changed your mind. Maybe someone's faith and example in your life helped bring God closer in yours. For me it was someone I listen to every week, but I've only spoken to a handful of times. And when I say "spoken to" I really mean, I get to tell him "thank you" every so often. It was (and is) the pastor of the church I go to. The first time I heard his message I actually remembered it the next day. In fact, I didn't just remember it the next day, I remembered his message one-liner and applied it to my life every single day until I sat down the next Sunday. The way he delivered a message made me feel like he "got me" and I started leaving church feeling filled up with God's word for the first time ever. Opportunity brings a lot of people into our lives, but when someone brings God closer in your life that's life-changing.
2. The person that stretched me more into love.
Maybe someone showed you unwavering loyalty when you were used to (and expecting) an eventual unfaithfulness. Maybe someone wanted to actually know about your fears, insecurities, and wounds instead of just judging you for them. Maybe someone finally showed you what it felt like to be loved for every little thing you were, not berating you for every little thing you did. For me it was someone that taught me that love is about being a best friend, a teammate, and a number one fan. A best friendship that meant doing everything together and having a blast doing it. A teammate that meant he was there to make me better. That meant calling me out on things, making me a better communicator, and helping me stop caring so much about what other people thought. A number one fan that meant he wanted to see me succeed and he supported and encouraged me by celebrating the wins with me, but also by comforting me through the losses. Friendships, siblings, kids – they can all stretch us into more love. But when someone chooses to do every single part of life with you, and is excited about the adventure of the good and bad that life brings, it can make your life, and it can save your life, the way nothing else can.
3. The person that initiated a growth in knowledge.
Maybe someone taught you to believe in yourself. Maybe someone taught you that your mistakes don't define you. Maybe someone taught you something practical that changed how you viewed a certain idea, ideal, or industry. So many people have taught me so many things, but someone that stands out for me was a boss and friend that taught me what it looked like to live a financially responsible and free life. He not only taught me about debt, what investments to make, and what financial principles to apply to my life, but through his teachings he ignited a passion in me to live financially free. He made me passionate about something that I hardly knew anything about before. People, books, experiences, mistakes, mess-ups, they all teach us something every day. But when someone teaches you a small thing that leads to a new positive lifestyle – that cannot be overlooked. If someone changes the direction of your life, or an area of your life – you're not self-made.
I can get down with supporting the homemade, handmade, and man-made, but keep me away from claiming self-made. I want to always gratefully give all glory to God, which means recognizing, appreciating, and crediting Him for the ways in which He works in my life. Through the people He sends me, the opportunities He presents me, the relationships He uses to stretch me, and the humbling moments He orchestrates for me to learn His way over my way. I used to think being self-made meant you were good at overcoming. Overcoming challenges, trails, heartbreaks, and letdowns. But now I know that being self-made means you're pridefully overlooking. Overlooking the lessons, the love, the people, and the gifts God uses to get us where we are today, and where we'll be tomorrow.
Jeremiah 29:13 – You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
This lyric from NF's song "I'll Keep On" is a great reminder:
"My life will always have a hole if you are not the center piece
Take me out of bondage, take all of my pride."
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