I climbed the stairs to the raspberry-colored, oceanfront home, ready to begin a 2-day sabbatical. It was an odd feeling to be alone in such a beautiful place with only my thoughts and the vastness of the ocean to keep me company. But this is something I desperately needed.
In 37 years, I’ve never been truly alone. I guess that’s why it terrifies me so much. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an extrovert. But the problem with extroversion is that if you don’t take time to recharge, you become a jerk.
I feel like I’ve been a little jerkish lately.
I sat my things down, took a deep breath and stared at the ocean. I thought of Jesus, a man who was constantly surrounded by the masses, but a man who also intentionally sought time alone with His Father.
That’s why I’m here. I want to be alone with the Father.
I wonder if He’ll speak?
Maybe the greater question is, I wonder if I will listen?
This home is where we spend summer vacation with my wife’s family. Then, it’s a constant stream of noise as kids come in and out from the beach. In the offseason, it’s empty and quiet. That’s exactly what I need, but not at all what I’m used to.
I walk out onto the porch, pull my computer from my bag and begin typing. Within moments, birds begin congregating on the porch railing. Like a winged army of bystanders, they’re waiting to see if I have something of value to offer. After a minute or two of sharply twitching their heads back and forth, they fly away.
“Nothing to see here,” they squawk.
“Ahh, who cares about birds anyway,” I want to reply.
I’ve given the birds too much authority in my life for far too long. I’m speaking metaphorically of course. Not that I’m comparing people and birds, that’s just the picture I get. It helps me feel my way through the emotions.
When you have a deep affection for people it’s easy to give them the power to validate who you are, how you live and even what you choose to create. But if you really think about it, that seems about as crazy as listening to birds.
The point is this…
Loving people and trying to please them is a subtle line that Jesus never crossed. Thank God He didn’t. He left that up to Judas. We know how that turned out.
Lord, help me be more like Jesus and less like Judas.
I’ll never be able to truly love people if I’m constantly seeking their approval. If Judas had really loved the Sanhedrin, he would have told them that Jesus was the Christ. Instead, he tried to gain their favor and a bag of money by turning on an innocent friend. In the end, his affection for Jesus was as fake as the kiss he betrayed Him with.
As I continue to write, the gentle roar of the ocean is interrupted by the sound of power tools. The house next door is being renovated. It desperately needs it — such a beautiful view with such an outdated interior.
That’s kind of like us, isn’t it?
There’s beauty all around, but our hearts need to be renovated. Like stale wallpaper and shag carpet that smells of old sunscreen and sour milk, our hearts need to be torn out and replaced. That’s the real work of the Christian life, the real work of discipleship—giving God permission to come inside and renovate.
But it’s not just about new wallpaper and new carpet, God is the Master of Interior Design. He’s in to tearing out walls and turning a drab, old residence into a temple worthy of His own habitation.
Maybe that’s why Jesus was a carpenter.
I think back to one year ago…
I was having meetings, writing a business plan and preparing to start my own insurance agency. Shortly after that effort, God posed a simple question through a friend: “Are you starting an insurance agency because I’ve asked you to, or are you starting an agency because you can?”
That’s a real question worth answering.
What we can do and what God asks us to do are drastically different things. One reeks of our own will while the other is humbly surrendered to God. I bet our will smells a lot like old sunscreen and sour milk.
Instead of starting my own insurance agency, I left insurance altogether to focus on YouPrint. It was hard letting go of the income, but it was harder letting go of the ego. Let the chips fall where they may. I’m listening to my heart.
Curiously enough, my word this year was abundance. And I’ve learned that abundance isn’t something external that we measure, it’s something internal that we must cultivate.
I made less money this year than I have in the past eight years, but I’ve seen more growth than those eight years combined. Eventually, what’s going on within will overflow. As Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth will speak.”
True abundance is about what’s going on inside. There has been a lot of interior work this year. I’m certain it will come pouring out soon.
So, what did I learn from a few days in quiet reflection?
We have exactly what we need inside of us — there’s excellence and genius in our DNA. But are we willing to let God in to draw it out? Or are we more concerned about the pain of renovation and the opinions of the birds?
These thoughts are the culmination of spending 2-days alone with God. I share them with the specific encouragement for you to make time to do the same. Another year of busyness and demands await. Will you pause and let Him speak?
Blessings and Merry Christmas to you and yours.