Saturday, October 15, 2011

i am the older brother

Recently at church, our teacher taught on the story of the prodigal son. At the end of the lesson, he said that the following Sunday, we'd discuss the prodigal son’s older brother. I immediately knew I was in trouble I'd get a lot out of it.

While the Bible doesn’t say a whole lot about the older brother, what it says speaks volumes to me – because I can all too easily see myself in him. The older brother was the responsible one. The dependable one. The goody two shoes. He likely did what he was told, and never caused his father any trouble. What parent wouldn’t be proud, right?

But the Bible tells us that while people size us up by our actions, God looks at our hearts. (Gulp.) And that, my friends, is what turns the whole story (of life!) upside down for me.

Because I don’t know about you, but I tend to view life through lenses of doing, rather than being. Every day, my nature vies to prioritize tasks over people. Check lists over community. Running, rather than resting. Tangible accomplishments over the unseen and the eternal. Doing things for God, rather than fostering a relationship with God.

Responsibility, over relationship . . .

Pursuing good, while missing out on best.

So what’s the matter with being a responsible individual and accomplishing things? Absolutely nothing.

However, when I allow those accomplishments to be what drive me in life, what thrills me most, I miss out on something greater. I miss out on experiencing the eternal, the immeasurable. And all the while my identity and security and perceived acceptance can subtly slip into being dangerously defined by the things that I do, rather than who I am. Or more accurately, who Christ is, in me.

Just this past year, God allowed me to go through a long period when I literally couldn’t do. A sudden health crisis left me bed-ridden and unable to take care of myself at all for more than six months. And now, more than a year later, I’m still limited in what I can and can’t do. And let me tell ya, friends – Have I ever wanted to DO! But do you know what God has wanted for me during this time? He’s simply wanted me to BE. To rest and revel in His presence.

It’s hard to rest, isn’t it? Because at the same time that we struggle to prioritize being over doing, our culture shouts lies like these about value:

Resting is a waste of time . . . Productivity is always priority . . . Sacrifice relational sensitivity for the sake of efficiency . . . And your value is determined by your contribution to society.

In our do-more society, we’re practically obsessed by doing.

Take a moment to consider the following:
Think about the myriad of things that you do in your life. Everything you do each day at work, at home, with family, friends. All of it. If you were to put it all in list form, it would be a lot, wouldn’t it?

Now I want you to imagine not doing any of those things. None.

And what are you left with?

That is one difficult question, friends. But thinking through it helps me remember who I am apart from what I do. Because if I am not able to recognize my personal value without any association of doing something, then I am at risk of elevating responsibility to an unhealthy level – and missing out on the extraordinary in life.

Again, doing is good. And so is responsibility. They're important! But what ultimately matters is why we do what we do. And therein lies what we truly believe about ourselves, and God.

So here’s the truth that God is ever so patiently establishing in my head and heart, friends: Because I am made in His image, I have immense value whether or not I ever accomplish or achieve anything. There isn’t anything that I can do to add to it (or take away from it).

So the question is – Will I have the guts to rest while everyone around me sprints? To prioritize relationship over responsibility? Or will I settle for merely being responsible and accomplishing great things?


  1. What a great reminder! It is so hard to "be" rather than "do."

  2. This is a tough lesson. I try to remind myself that it is okay to do less, to have less, and this will actually help me to be more. I was marveling this morning about how sweet my children are when they sleep. Yes, it is a break for me, but they are truly very sweet at rest. Peaceful. I hope that is how God thinks of us when we settle down and just trust being held in His arms. Thanks TIW!

  3. I just wanted to come here and tell you I appreciated your post on my blog the other day. That means a lot to know my trials and what I learned can encourage others. I agree that this is what the Lord wants us to do with our knowledge that He gives us in those trials. Reading through some of your posts as well I am seeing that from your writings. I will be back. :) I am enjoying getting to know other Sisters in Christ through blogs. :)

  4. Oh, the trials are what purify our faith. I know that caring for my mom in her last stages of cancer at our home was the biggest gift I have ever received. It was being still, being there, staying, loving the very base of what makes us human. As she slipped away to a glory that can not compare to any trial on earth, I realized the gift of being at peace in the stillness of suffering was the last and greatest gift God gave to me through my dear mom during our walk together on this earth.

  5. Were we twins separated at birth? Because you just described my life perfectly. :-) I love how Joyce Meyer says, "We are human beings not human doings." I really need to chant that to myself several times a day to get it into my thick skull! It is oh so hard to take time to be still, but when I am, I find it is never wasted time :-)

    As you can tell, I am trying to catch up on old posts...better late than never, right!?! Thank you for sharing your "God lessons."

  6. Hi, Tanya,

    I found your blog today through a comment you posted on the Flowing Faith blog. I just wanted to share how much of an encouragement it's been for me to read through some of your old posts. I've struggled with serious chronic health problems for many years and have had to learn and relearn these lessons. I, too, am a recovering perfectionist and recovering older brother, and it's still difficult sometimes for me to be and not try to do. It's always worth it to be still in God's presence, though! Thanks again for sharing your experiences! I'll definitely keep stopping by now that I've discovered your blog!

    Grace and peace,

    1. oh sara, thank you so much for taking the time to extend your words of encouragement. it's always such a thrill for me to connect with somebody else whose chains are falling from the weighty bonds of perfectionism -- let alone somebody who also knows the often-painful journey of a chronic health issue. they've both been very dying-to-self journeys for me, but they've also led to much freedom in Christ. and deeper intimacy in my relationship with Him for sure.

      i'm so very glad you found me, & i can't wait to continue this pilgrimage with you, my new friend!

      blessings to you this weekend,


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