The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.
My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. John 10:10 (NLT)
I became a member of the clean plate club at an early age. I was required to clean my plate before I ate dessert, complete homework before watching television, and finish chores before playing.
This mentality followed me into adulthood. It was effective in the early years of ministry. I received accolades for organization, creativity, and discipline. As the volume of responsibility increased in each new ministry opportunity, the tasks multiplied. I marked one off my list but added two. I felt guilty granting myself permission to play when my plate wasn’t clean. The applause of leaders fueled my need for approval and affirmed my worth. I had a reputation of cleaning my plate. I didn’t want to disappoint.
There is a new motto in the organization where I serve equally damaging for me that fuels this mentality. “I don’t stop when I’m tired. I stop when I’m done.” While noble, the problem is we’re never done, until we wake up one day and we’re just done with life and ministry.
Author Brene Brown writes, “You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.”
It’s possible to have an abundance of spiritual food and be spiritually malnourished. To be busy in ministry, but never take in the nutrients of the Word we serve others. My plate was full, but I was starving, my schedule packed, but I was empty. Running on empty, hustling for my worth.
The enemy does a happy dance when the people of God are so busy working for God, they don’t have time for God, when laying our all on the altar morphs into selling our soul to ministry. His victory is certain when body and spirit are treated like stepchildren.
Fresh manna fell from heaven when Lance Witt, author of Replenish, spoke these transformational words into my life during a leader’s conference: “You are ridiculously in charge of your life.” The words were like rich dark chocolate just beyond reach in the regiment of cleaning my plate before dessert. I salivated for the soul-care he described in his teaching.
It inspired me to recklessly abandon the theology of my youth and eat dessert first. To lavishly indulge in loving myself with the same extravagant love I extended to others throughout thirty years of ministry. To love me first to love others better. Not a materialistic kind of love found at nail salons and retail therapy, but holistic care of body, mind, and spirit.
This new way of thinking went against my belief system of servant leadership. But servant leadership is not enslavement. I was imprisoned to ministry by my own free will. By my own mindset.
Jennie Allen writes in Made for This – 40 Days to Living Your Purpose, “Some of us have decorated our prison walls so beautifully that we have forgotten that we’re sitting in a cell, wasting our lives. We don’t know there are chains that, though they no longer bind us, still tangle us up. We sit and listen to talks or read books about God, and we wonder why nothing changes when we so desperately want it to. We forget that we have access to the exit door of that cell.”
I opened the door of my cell, laid the personal belief system of work first play later at the altar of “you’re done bossing me around” and left it there. I stepped away from the ever-increasing speed of the treadmill and became ridiculously in charge of my life. In the words of Bobb Biehl, “I ruthlessly eliminated hurry from my life.” Replaced frazzled living with daily purpose. Glided across the dance floor and waltzed a rhythm of grace. The dance was awkward at first, but I learned to take bold steps to freedom from chronic busyness and strategize a plan to live the abundant life of John 10:10 with purpose daily.
What about you, are you a member of the clean plate club, spiritually malnourished from cleaning your plate? I have been where you are. Allow me to hold your hand as you hop off the performance treadmill. Let’s embrace the abundant life Jesus came to give.