Matthew West has a song titled “The Motions” that has been a theme song of mine–literally sung to myself through tears as I tried to push myself to greater ends. The chorus encourages us to shoot beyond the status quo and never settle:
“I don’t wanna go through the motions
I don’t wanna go one more day
Without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking
What if I had given everything
Instead of going through the motions?”
Songs like this become big hits because not only is there truth to what’s being said, but it also fits well with the American Dream–you can do anything you set your mind to–as well as other popular themes in culture today: “live fully alive,” “dream big,” and “listen to your heart.”
I want to say, for the record, that I appreciate this theme of not living life passively.
“I want Your best–but what if Your best is brokenness.
Would I be broken?
I want Your best–but what if it’s less than what I ask
And what I’m hoping?
What if Your best is here in the waiting
Here in the going through the motions?”
I think many of us cringe a little at this idea. God wouldn’t just want us going through the motions, would He? What about working hard to make a difference for His kingdom? What about throwing myself recklessly into a “trust God” situation? What about mission trips and big “God moments” and spiritual awakenings and revivals? What about using my spiritual gifts for great things, changing the world because I have Christ in me?
Isn’t that what God calls me to? Isn’t that the best thing I could pursue? Isn’t that what the church pushes and what my Christian college encouraged, what your believing community gets excited about?!
This perspective is also the perspective that makes me feel less-than. That makes me feel like I’m failing God. The desire to do “something great” with my faith leaves me feeling uncertain and messed up in everyday life when my best efforts come to almost nothing.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe God has great plans for each of us. He’s got a “best” in mind for you and your life, so to speak. And yet, I am beginning to stand more and more with FFH–what if here in the waiting is exactly where God’s best is at this point in your life?
My dad points out to me repeatedly that Moses spent basically a solid 40 years of his life shepherding in the freaking desert. Talk about feeling like a failure–feeling like your life is solely “going through the motions.” Geez. Forty years of being a shepherd. That’s nearly twice my whole life so far.
You don’t hear of anything exciting happening in those forty years, and yet those forty years were exactly God’s plan for Moses. And he used those 40 long years of going through the motions to set up Moses for a big showy, highly successful (??) event.
At the end of the day, I want to be a voice in the middle of a noisy crowd, that tells you it is okay to be going through the motions. Sometimes life be that way. If you feel you’re failing your mission because your life feels too mundane, I get you.
But let’s point out that Moses’s life was no more valuable during the big showy event than it was when he was going through the motions in the desert. God loved him the same in both situations and he planned for Moses to experience both. He was delighted in Moses beyond words at both points in Moses’s life. I know that because God is love and His love never changes. I think that’s worth noting.
You’re welcome to feel however your emotions want to feel. And I still want to tell you that your emotions might be wrong. You might be beating yourself up for no reason and shaming yourself mercilessly without cause.
1 Thessalonians 14:11-12 states, “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.”
Sometimes it’s not the big and the showy. Sometimes the status quo is exactly where you are meant to be. There’s no shame in that. It might be God’s best for you.