This past week, Pastor Chris Philbeck at MPCC spoke about how we need to be a people who are more thankful. What if we were more thankful? What would it change? There is empirical evidence to suggest that gratitude will help a lot of areas of our lives. Gratitude makes us happier people overall. It can make us healthier; we sleep better and our blood pressure is lower. Being a person that is grateful can even boost our career, because we are people who are seen as leaders and have that magnetic personality that people are attracted to. Being a thankful person can even help our marriages and relationships. But it is difficult to be a thankful person when we do not like ourselves at our core. That’s a problem.
A Look Into Our Spiritual DNA
Having a poor self-worth and having a sense of worthlessness is often the case when we fail to understand how we are spiritually formed. One of the Connections classes I started at MPCC is called Spiritual DNA. We are currently in the middle of this class…if you missed it this time, you can catch it next time. Knowing our Spiritual DNA helps us to discover God’s call on our lives, and that call is a call to relationship and a call to purpose. Knowing your Spiritual DNA ignites in you an understanding of how God has uniquely shaped you to accomplish His purpose in your life–how your spiritual gifts, passions, and personalities form together to complete the “masterpiece” God has created in you. Let me give you a little taste of what we have been talking about in Spiritual DNA, and, if you are needing a dose of being thankful for who you are today, let this scripture feed your soul:
“Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes.” –Ephesians 1:4
I don’t know about you, but I cannot fathom what God was doing or thinking of before He made the world. We know that, according to the whole of the scriptures, that God always was. Psalm 90:2 says, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or every You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” To think that, before He made the world, that you and I were on His mind is astonishing! Not only were we on His mind, He knit us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139) with such intricacy–did you know that your physical DNA has over 3 billion characters! If you were to read each character of your DNA code, one per second, it would take you 96 years to read the description of who you are! You are a big deal to God. You are fearfully and wonderfully made and we should be grateful for that in itself.
“Your Essence Precedes Your Existence.”
When I was doing my doctoral work at Asbury, I bumped into the spiritual formation science/theology/anthropology of Dr. Adrian van Kaam, a dutch priest who had survived the holocaust during that terrible time of 20th century history. As he formulated his thinking during this time, when humanity’s value in the case of the Jews was seen as despicable, He founded the idea that each one of us has a truest form shaped by God. It lies deep within us, and he called it our essence. You might strip everything away from us: our clothing, our health, our wealth, our dignity, our spirit, but deep within us all there is an essence that you can not take away. Some might refer to this as one’s soul. But according to van Kaam, it is even more than that. Your essence is the single most identifying nature or “perfect form” about you–and it precedes your existence into this world. It is exactly what Paul is talking about as he writes his letter to the Ephesians saying, “…before the foundation of the world, God loved us and chose us to be holy and faultless in His eyes.” If being a thankful person begins with having an appreciation for who you are–the fact that God loved you and chose from the very beginning should boost our spirits a bit. He initiated within us with the ability to have a relationship with Himself. That’s how much He cared for you and for me. Feeling thankful yet?
Deep within your essence, you have a life call: a call to relationship and a call to purpose. All of this is in tact before you are even born. Do I have your attention? This life call is very unique in the sense that, like a snowflake in a winter storm, there is none like you. You are an original. Your life call is also, according to van Kaam, communal, meaning that you are created with a purpose that is for the benefit of others, not just yourself. Do you know your life call? Have you stopped to pay attention to it? Ruth Haley Barton says, “God’s call on our life is so tightly woven into the fabric of our being, so core to who we are, that to ignore it or to refuse it would be to jeopardize our well-being.” Well, we don’t want to do that! So what is our life call?
You are more than what you do.
Our life call gets to our true purpose. Can you state your purpose in life? Clue: it is not your job. My purpose is this: I, Fred Meadows, exist to help people discover God’s presence in their lives.” Short–simple–to the point. I believe this is why God made me. This is what He calls me to. My purpose is fueled by my vocation. There is a lot to be said about one’s vocation in life, but think of it this way–it is what makes your purpose happen. For me, my vocation is spending my life serving the church as a pastor/leader/teacher/shepherd. It’s how I do my purpose. My job is what I do to make a living. In my case, all three of these are linked up very nicely, but one’s job does not have to be, necessarily, one’s vocation. My job is that I am the Connections Pastor at Mount Pleasant Christian Church. While I love this place, and while I feel called to be here, if I didn’t have this job, my vocation would not change (unless God changed it) and my purpose in life would never change. It is at my core.
So you can see, there is a lot to be thankful for…you are a masterpiece in the making!
So, when you are in the dumps of despair and depression is knocking on your front door, remember that there is so much about you that you can hardly comprehend. God has created you in such a way as to give you a purpose and the ability to know Him. That should be enough.
God, thank you for making me … me. Help me to see all the wonderful things that you are doing within me, not that I might brag about myself, but only to give me the fuel to ignite a thankful heart in knowing that you created me for a purpose. Amen.