“Don’t sacrifice your spiritual health at the altars of self-sufficiency and productivity.”

As a pediatric ICU nurse, I work two 12-hour days per week taking care of critically ill children and their families in crisis mode. The other five days of the week are filled with caring for my two very young children and our household. It is safe to say, I am currently consumed with the role of caregiver. My main roles currently ask me to be steadfast, particularly in moments of crisis or meltdown, and a servant to many needs. I feel a pressure to be unflappable in spiritual maturity, but it is very safe to say, I am tired and definitely “flappable.”

I began to wonder if I’d slipped into a false understanding of what spiritual maturity in my life was supposed to look like. If you’re like me, you picture a fairly independent individual, busy with an impressive spiritual resume, leading and giving sacrificially in many ways to others. If you’re like me, you don’t first and foremost picture a person who lives in a posture of receiving. It is worth asking ourselves why this is. Is it fully Biblical? How does it drive the way we pursue a sense of spiritual maturity?

Our culture prizes self-sufficiency (“I don’t need anything, I’m good”) and productivity (“I am here to give 150%”). I would propose that even in our Christian faith, we fall into the trap of projecting this onto our image of the mature Christian. We think the mature are: 1) Always leading and giving without needing much in return (self-sufficiency); and 2) Always doing a lot, for a lot of people (productivity). It is true and praiseworthy that spiritual maturity will likely result in forms of leadership and generous servanthood. However, we would gain much by distinguishing this from the world’s definitions of self-reliance and strength. It starts with remembering that Scripture is full of indicators that God’s kingdom is an upside-down Kingdom. 

Pay attention to how the following verses demonstrate this Kingdom principle: 

“Freely have you received, freely give.” - Matthew 10:8 (emphasis mine)

“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…” - Romans 12:6 (emphasis mine)

“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” - 1 Corinthians 1:27-31

All of the fruit and overflow of a spiritually mature believer comes from a constant posture of receiving, not an unflappable posture of self-reliance.

In His grace to me, the Lord turned my weary soul one morning to Psalm 103, and I was struck anew by the clear posture of the Psalmist as one who receives, and receives humbly, openly, and abundantly. He continually humbles himself to receive all of God’s benefits – forgiveness, healing, redemption, steadfast love and mercy, goodness, renewal, compassion, and gracious intimacy. 

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me, 
bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul, 
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity, 
who heals all your diseases, 
who redeems your life from the pit, 
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 
who satisfies you with good 
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, 
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 
as far as the east is from the west, 
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. 
As a father shows compassion to his children, 
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. 
For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
- Psalm 103:1-5

I read Psalm 103, and I exhaled a deep, confessional, liberated sigh. Oh the rich overflow of these benefits! They are so readily available to me, to us, if we will come and receive. Don’t sacrifice your spiritual health at the altars of self-sufficiency and productivity. Don’t dishonor this generous Giver of Life by ignoring or rejecting all His benefits. Take on a glad posture of receiving, because how glad He is to give all you need! From there, thrive internally and then externally towards others in this upside-down Kingdom. I am preaching this to my own soul.

What might this look like, practically speaking, for all of us who face the reality of time constraints and relentless life demands? It may look like what Pastor Matt preached on in confessing our sins to each other so that we may receive grace and healing through another’s acceptance and love in Christ. It may look like a more intentional, consistent practice of the Sabbath - be it letting go of extra vocational work, foregoing housework, or buying take-out to save energy from cooking and washing dishes. It may look like replacing false or limited sources of self-care (mindless scrolling on Facebook, watching TV) with more focused, mindful times of stilling ourselves before the Lord and letting His Spirit go deep with us. 

Let’s sit a moment with this concept of letting His Spirit go deep. I am notorious for thinking about all kinds of spiritual topics while I multi-task (because...productivity!); reading all kinds of Christian books related to whatever current life stage I’m in; clicking on all kinds of blogs by respectable Christian authors; but coming up short in actually sitting...still...quietly...for more than two minutes. Heart to heart, finding the words in the holy presence of my Father who sees everything in me, identifying the honest emotions, asking the real and raw questions, receiving the real ministry of His Word. Letting His Spirit go deep means we make space and time to allow Him to bring our desires, hopes, idols, sins, and struggles to light. We allow ourselves to acknowledge, feel (sorrow, anger, doubt, repentance, confusion), confess, surrender, receive the Gospel and all its benefits. Psalm 103. It’s hard work. It’s humbling work. It’s easier on our flesh to substitute this practice with what can feel like “higher-level” practices of reading, thinking, writing and talking about deep things. It doesn’t mean we do this kind of deep soul-searching every day for an hour, because that can be overwhelming. But to truly receive, we must, on some sort of regular basis, dig out the junk that might be clogging our spiritual wells so that fresh water can flow - and be received - once again.

When we learn to embrace, rather than despise, the posture of receiving, we glorify Him as the all-sufficient generous Giver of all good benefits. Our weary souls are refreshed. Our cups are filled to overflowing so that we have something real to give to a thirsty world.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me 
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
-Psalm 23

Alina Sato

Alina is a member of Cornerstone and serves the church as a servant minister.

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