Putting in the Work | UMC YoungPeople
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October 2012

Putting in the Work

By: Dalton Rushing

I’ve had plenty of struggles in my own life, just like everybody else. But perhaps my biggest struggle is getting over myself. While I’m usually a pretty big fan of myself, if I am honest, I seem to alternate between periods of self-loathing (thinking I am not good enough) and periods of self-importance (thinking nobody else is). There is no medium. I’m either awful or I’m perfect, depending on the time of day.

Does this happen to you? Do you somehow feel completely inadequate and also completely perfect? I think you call this particular condition “being human,” and it is the strangest feeling. When I feel these two urges at the same time, I know that I am focusing too much on myself, for I am obsessing over my own faults and my own strengths. The cure for this kind of lunacy is to get outside of myself, to go help somebody, to spend time in prayer listening to God rather than my usual mode, which involves telling God what it is that I need God to do for me.

It is difficult isn’t it? This business of getting outside yourself is one of the hardest things in life. I was reading recently in Mike Slaughter’s book, Momentum for Life, in which he says that in our “instant satisfaction culture, we want the CliffsNotes version of God: happiness, success, and fulfilling relationships. We want ‘easy’ and ‘now,’ and we try to make God work that way, too.”

The problem with this kind of CliffsNotes version of God is that a) it does not do justice to the wideness of God’s mercy, and b) it is less about God than it is about me. Like Veruca Salt in the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, I “don’t care how: I want it now.” I want to be happy, I want to successful, I want my life and my ministry to make me a fulfilled person.

There is only one thing missing from these desires: me! I want all these things, and I want God to provide them for me, but I don’t want to put in the work to make them happen. I get upset if I pray for something, and it doesn’t happen! But God is not a genie. There is no rule that if you rub the lamp (pray) you will receive your wishes. You must work in order to be fulfilled.

This is one of the central truths of following Jesus: you must put in the work, but you must not assume you are working for yourself. God will work in partnership with you. This is a pretty hefty responsibility, since it means that not only do you have something to say about your own fulfillment, but you also have something to do about the problems of the world. Mike Slaughter also says in his book that you are the only bank account that God has, after all.

There is much to be done! Let’s get busy!

Question: How are you being called to work in partnership with God?

See more devotions from Dalton, and our other Young Adult writers, or find our how you can become a writer yourself at our By Young Adults for Young Adults devotion page.