We measure things, all of us. So aware of all that is bigger, grander, beyond our control, or outside of our ability to explain, we use measurements as a means to grasp what we can, however we can— with the intent to put our lives onto a tidy shelf in our minds and label its contents: this is what I understand, this is what I am worth, this is how other people think of me.
We measure height, weight, growth, and shrinking. We measure bank accounts and retirement funds. We measure influence in likes and comments, and we measure accomplishment in applause. We quantify our lives in every way that we can, because against the backdrop of a life that is unpredictable and impossible to control, there is comfort in knowing and naming, in calculating who we are with whatever satiates the appetite to be known for that moment.
I first noticed this tendency in myself when I started writing on the internet seven years ago. I would toil over an essay, proud of the way I crafted sentences to be both rhetorically beautiful and theologically sound (that was the goal, anyway). I prided myself on honesty and connecting to the most common experiences of my peers that I could, then I would hit publish and share it with the world (or, with my Facebook friends, who certainly felt like the whole world in my self-centric mind).
One hour later, I’d wonder if anyone “liked” it and casually open the browser. I did not know at the time what was happening, but I see it so clearly now: the measurements—not based at all on my effort to honor Jesus but rather on my word’s and their reception with others—they would take over my day. I was valuable if people liked my words and I wanted to quit writing forever if people didn’t. My worth was found wanting or not based on the fickle, simple click of a tiny thumbs up button on a screen.
My words, my value, my day. And over time and too many emotional roller coasters, I learned that the problem with measurements is that there is simply too much of me in every equation I use.
It’s easy to make a life out of measurements; too easy, in fact. And when we set our sights on the one we want—whether it be salary, followers, publications, purchases or promotions—we chase it hard, with all of the God-given talent and passion and creativity we have. And while God-given pursuits are noble, needed even, it is also tempting in that chase to forget how Jesus went after his God-given pursuit: we go fast, famous, and big, always considering ourselves and our influence. Jesus went slow, overlooked, and small, only considering the will of his Father and the heart change his words of truth offered.
We chase what we can measure. Jesus walked through life in awe of the immeasurable one, of His Father.
At the heart of our misplaced pursuits is a simple solution, not easy, but simple: chase Jesus first, then we will chase after purpose like He did. We don’t need to abandon our creativity, our good endeavors, our goals or our passions; but we might need to do them in a different way, we might need to stop measuring them and simply let God use them. Open handed, humble, willing to let our very best effort and accumulated hours go completely unseen, we must remember that God has always used a very different system of metrics than the world, and all the applause on earth cannot earn the favor of a Perfect God. The cross, and only the cross, already did.
But a heart that pursues him and his glory with all that it has? That, friends, is where the abundant life is found. That is where we find joy immeasurable.
God does not need us, not one of our fancy offerings or impressive measurements is even worth holding up to the One who told the oceans where to stop. But he uses us! He lets us be a part of kingdom work and gives us real influence right where we are. How often do we sit in awe of that truth? And in the end, I think we will find that the most important measurement of all is the distance between a perfect God and our feeble and fickle hearts, and the marvelous fact that only scandalous grace could bridge that distance perfectly.
Everything changes when we stop measuring ourselves for Jesus, and simply start following him.
*This essay originally appeared on the Open Door Sisterhood blog.