This week is pure fun. Shining is not a chore. It’s not a task on your to-do list. It’s not cranking up a factory to produce something. It’s more like breaking up a log jam to let a river flow.
The first five habits are about breaking up the log jam. When you practice them, it is impossible not to shine. Let’s review:
Habit #1 Make brokenness a door
You admit your need. You don’t pretend all is well. You declare bankruptcy and throw yourself on God’s mercy.
Habit #2 Trust Jesus
You take Jesus’ hand and follow. You still have a lot of questions. You might be suffering. You may feel angry. It’s okay. You feel Christ’s presence. Slowly, you learn to trust.
Habit #3 Hope in God
Where is Jesus taking you? In a word, life. He called it the Kingdom of God. God’s life is bigger than death but you don’t have to wait until you die to enter it. You don’t deny the groaning of this world but you see hope poking through everywhere.
Habit #4 Let God love you
You discover something wonderful: God loves you and is working in all things for your good. God is making you something wonderful—your true self.
Habit #5 Love everyone
Your experience of God’s love changes the way you think of others. Just as God is redeeming you, God is at work in everything he has made. You feel connected with other people—in fact with every created thing. The entire universe is part of the same great story, being made new by the same love.
Habit #6 Shine
You are being made new! This is not up in the clouds. It is your way of life. You dance to heaven’s tune. You delight in the unique expression of God’s glory that you are. You shine.
You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. (Matthew 5:14)
Our world is pretty good at convincing us there is nothing special about us. You may feel about as exciting as oatmeal. Here are seven ways to overcome that lie and to allow God to shine through you.
7 Ways to Polish Your Shine
1. Embrace your purpose.
My favorite thing in the whole wide world is to put on my backpack and head into the wilderness for a week of solitude. The further I wander from the trail, the better I like it. It’s like getting in on a secret. I see alpine lakes that few eyes ever have. I soak up shooting stars and fiery red sunsets. I admire wildflowers. I have a free ticket to the greatest show on earth and have the whole theater to myself.
But what kind of a lunatic would put on such a show, knowing that most of it will go unseen. Would I devoted my life to a work of art and not tell anyone about it? Why the wasted glory?
It is not a waste. We think the world that exists solely for our enjoyment and that the human audience is the only audience that matters. We forget ourselves. Our world was made by the love of God for the joy of God. The fact that human beings can share this joy is a great gift. It does not make our appreciation essential in order for a thing to have value.
What about you? Does anyone take delight in you? Does anyone even see you? If no one notices you, do you exist? Yes. Emphatically, yes.
You exist as an expression of God’s glory, made by the love of God for the joy of God. Even if every other human being ignores you, God doesn’t. When you express yourself as unfiltered you, you feel God’s pleasure in you. Like the high mountain lake, the wildflower, the mountain peak, you know why you exist. You are an expression of God’s glory. When you feel this, you know the meaning of your life, though you may not be able to put it in words.
2. Point to sparkly things.
One effortless and satisfying way to shine requires nothing from you at all. You shine when you point at other shiny things. With nature, this is hard not to do this. If you spot a bear by the side of the road you blurt out, “Look!” If the sunset lights up the sky with purple and orange you point and insist that others see. Why? Why is it so important to share these things with others? Because when we experience the glory of God we know the meaning of life.
When it comes to people this is not so automatic. We think God’s appreciation is like human appreciation: limited. We are jealous for attention so we compete with each other. We hesitate to point out each others’ strengths for fear we will expose our weaknesses. There is only so much room on the human stage. We fear we’ll lose our place in the limelight.
God’s stage doesn’t work that way.
All God’s creatures got a place in the choir,
Some sing low and some sing higher,
Some sing out loud on a telephone wire,
Others clap their hands, or paws, or anything they’ve got
(check out the full song here.)
When you call attention to the glory of another human being you glorify God and make them sparkle even brighter. You make them glad to be who they are. They feel the joy of God. This might just be the nicest thing you can do for another person.
3. Reject toxic cultural messages.
Our culture seems intentionally designed to take the snap out of your step. Here are five toxic messages.
Toxic Message #1: There is nothing special about you. Ever tried to publish a book? I have. There is no market for me. Ever try to learn an instrument or build a website or crochet or play football or anything? Probably you found out you are just “average.” Maybe someone even said, “Don’t quit your day job.” Ouch. One great thing about technology is that traditional gatekeepers are being overthrown. In their place a sea of indie movements is rising. We have a chance to stop competing with each other and recognize that everyone is exceptional at something. Our dimwitted culture just doesn’t have enough categories.
Toxic Message #2: Trinkets are life. What matters most is the house, the car, the clothing, the status. Acquire things. Advertising makes you feel a thousand hungers pains, each of which can be satisfied with a credit card. But your deepest needs can’t be met by a credit card. As Jesus put it, “not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” You are only rich when you discover that you are safe, secure, and loved by God.
Toxic Message #3: You’re too busy. I remember being shown a movie in Junior High School about how time saving devices would soon reduce the work week to two days. The optimistic movie-makers forgot to factor in greed. Once you buy the lie that life consists of possessions, you have to keep adding to the pile. The more stuff, the more life. This keeps you on the never-ending treadmill of acquisition. And, of course, once you buy the stuff you have to store it, maintain it, and pay for it. Possessions possess us. They keep us busy seven days a week and leave no time to shine.
Toxic Message #4: Life is a competition. American Idol is the singing version of Survivor. Each week we tune in to see who will be kicked off the stage. We even get to participate in rejecting the losers by casting our votes. Here’s my idea for a show: Start with a dozen random people. Put them on stage and spend the season discovering each one’s unique glory. Then, at the end, let each of them do their thing. Let them shine. Now that would be a show!
Toxic Message #5: Machines are better than people. As Julie and I drive across the country, we cringe at the mind-numbing sameness of the cities. Chain stores wrapped us in chains. I contrast the magic of La Cita, the Mexican Restaurant my grandparents started along Route 66, with the blandness of Taco Bell. I guess it makes sense. If you are a cog in a machine you eat machine food. But God glories in diversity, not sameness.
4. Shine now.
If you are stuck in a job or role you despise, you might think it is impossible for your life to have purpose, or that your purpose must be postponed until your life changes. You are a tragic figure, crushed by fate, a victim of circumstances. You mope around counting the days until retirement. Eventually you give up, accepting that your life is meaningless. Nonsense!
No matter how dull your job, no matter how stupid your boss, no matter how exasperating your role, you can shine right now, without changing a thing.
As you live by the habits of wholeness, you will experience a love that transforms you from the inside out. The people Jesus spoke to were peasants, stuck in a life far more constricting than the ones we complain about. How could Jesus call these peasants, who were stuck in their role, the light of the world?
Because love can be expressed in any situation, and when you love, you shine. It doesn’t matter if you are a cashier at McDonalds or an astronaut. When you love, you shine, and nothing has the power to stop you from loving. No stupid boss. No mindless job. No screaming kids. No boring commute. No debilitating illness. No anything.
5. Shine like no other.
We have a lot in common.
- We are all made and loved by God
- We all sin
- We are all being redeemed
- We all have a lot to learn
- We all love to laugh
- We all feel pain
- We all need to grow
- We are all insecure
- We all appreciate beauty
- We all want to be happy
But for all we have in common, we are each one of a kind.
- No one sees this world with your eyes
- No one has your personality
- No one has your gifts
- No one has your physical form.
- Your experience of God’s love and story of redemption are unique.
We spend too much time trying to be normal, whatever “normal” means. In The End of Average, Todd Rose destroys the myth that there is such thing as a “normal person.” Every last one of us is abnormal.
You were created to display God’s glory in a way that no one else can. What a waste to spend your life trying to be someone else! When you look at others and covet their gifts, remember that there is one thing they could ever be, no matter how hard they tried, not even if they dedicated the rest of their lives to it. They could never be you.
But who are you? You are probably lousy at answering that question. Our world has taught us that it doesn’t matter who you are. It only matters that you make money. You make money by asking what society needs, not by asking who you are.
I attached a list of questions at the end of this chapter to help you begin to think about this. But prayer is more important than my questions. Your deepest knowing will come from within. Here’s how it happened to me.
I was sitting in my big leather recliner, crying out to God, “What do you want me to do?” God said, “What do you want to do?” The question surprised me. I assumed what I wanted was irrelevant. I told God what I really wanted to do. He said, “Do that.”
My experience is not unique. What you most deeply want to do is very likely what you are supposed to do. Along with the ability to do things, God gives us the desire to do them.
God is not shy about telling you who you are. It’s more likely that aren’t listening—or you’re afraid. You say you’re confused, but actually you’re scared. Being yourself takes courage.
I have found Steve Job’s commencement address to be full a great antidote to fear. I read it regularly to remind me to be courageous and pursue what really matters.
Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle . As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.
For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
Here’s the full speech.
6. Make the necessary adjustments.
When you discover who you are, you may see that changes are in order. For me, it meant a crazy leap. I left a great church and seminary. I traded security and prestige for uncertainty and obscurity. Why? Because my life no longer fit. My family and friends wondered if I had lost my mind. Leaving a successful career in your mid 50’s to start over from scratch doesn’t make sense.
Hopefully, your transition won’t be so drastic. Maybe you are one of the lucky ones whose way of making a living and whose purpose overlap. When doing what fits you also pays the bills there is no tension. This is the bulls-eye. Most are not so lucky.
A recent Gallup poll revealed that only 13 percent of people like their jobs. That means 87 percent don’t. If you’re part of that majority, what are supposed to do? What if your family depends on your income? Let love be your guide. But don’t fall for the lie that expressing yourself in this world is and all-or-nothing proposition. Love may dictate that you remain at a dull job. Don’t forget two things: 1) You can shine anywhere. (See #4 above.) 2) Even if you can’t go all-in, you can start taking little steps in the right direction.
Take piano lessons. Get up an hour early each morning to write. Go on a backpack trip. Study birds. Take up astronomy. Sign up for dance lessons. Start a blog. Do your thing! If you can’t make your life your thing, work your thing into your life. As you do, you may find that your thing takes on a life of its own. It may even get to a point that it can become your full-time job. Bulls-eye!
The most important thing is not to bury your passion, to fail to be yourself. Don’t get up each morning to do a job you can barely endure and let that become your entire life. Don’t come home and get lost in television, go to bed, and wake up tomorrow to do the same. Break the cycle, even if, like in The Shawshank Redemption, it takes years. Prison is more endurable if you spend a little time every day sawing away at the bars.
Probably, you will face a choice like mine, though I hope not so extreme. You can have dull and safe or exciting and dangerous. The choice is yours. But the chances of dying are 100% either way. Why not go out with a bang?
7. Play to an audience of One.
“Shine” comes toward the end of the habits of wholeness for a reason. When you shine, it is the result of being in a loving relationship with God.
You don’t shine to earn God’s approval. You shine because you have it. You don’t shine to make God love you. You shine because God loves you. You don’t shine to get anything. You shine because all things are yours. Light and love beam down from heaven on you and through you. It feels great. And it’s on the house.
If you play to this fallen world you are in for frustration. The stage is crowded. There are only a few winners so people are stingy with their approval. It’s survival of the fittest. In all likelihood you’ll be voted off the island.
You will never be free until you stop playing to the crowd play to the audience of One. When you do this, you will express yourself for the sheer joy of it, not for any reaction from the crowd. Jesus is our example. He went to the cross alone. There wasn’t even a spattering of applause. His enemies gloated. His friends deserted. His mother grieved. No one understood. Jesus died to the sounds of boos and hisses.
Jesus was used to ignoring the crowd. One minute they wanted to make him king. The next they wanted him dead. Jesus found approval and acceptance from a different source. This explains how he was able to go to the cross for the joy of it, despising its shame (Hebrews 12:2).
The joy of living comes when you express who you are without the slightest regard for what others think. Human applause turns life into competition and leads you astray. When you begin to shine, expect resistance. In fact, it no one has laughed at you, if no one has told you that you look ridiculous, you’re probably holding back.
You won’t care. You aren’t putting on a show. You are swimming in the glory of God.
Here is the link to some questions to help you blast away stagnant thinking and discover who you are.