Our personal story - pt. 2

Wake up hungry, go to bed satisfied.

“Wake up hungry, go to bed satisfied.”

My wife heard these words as we were praying together in the kitchen of our new home. We were praying over this new life we were embarking on. It was a venture we had risked a great deal to pursue. It required selling a house, moving to a new state, leaving behind two kids, and all of our family and friends. It involved taking a new job and then quitting that job even before we had moved into the house.

We were praying that night for direction and clarity more than anything. “Let us know we’re doing the right thing. Show us exactly what you want us to be doing. Give us a road map so that we no longer sit here second-guessing everything we just gave up.”

The Lord’s answer, “Wake up hungry, go to bed satisfied.” It was a promise as much as it was a command. And it was a kind promise, because He knew this is what our hearts had been longing for. A relationship with Him which we could honestly describe as satisfied.

I didn’t understand the words at the time, but I knew they were important, so I painted them.

Red represented hunger. Purple was satisfaction. And then the 24 smaller circles showed the progression - from hunger to satisfaction every hour of each day.

I hung the painting at the base of the stairs so that as I woke up I would be reminded of the promise. Yet as much as the promise comforted, it also continually confronted me with the fact that I didn’t know what it meant and I still carried extreme dissatisfaction in my walk with the Lord. This painting was true, but it didn’t describe my own daily relationship with Christ.

As I talked about last week, in part one of our story, this process towards continuous revival began with a strong feeling of dissatisfaction, “There must be more. This isn’t working.”

Dissatisfaction was the word I used. For others, it will be frustration, tragedy or disappointment that brings them to this same place. Regardless of the specific circumstances, the end result is the same - a realization that something has to change.

Yet here is where the similarities branch off - for a choice is presented to us when we stand in that place. And going forward from there, we will either take one of two paths - glorification of self or death to self.

We’ll either come to the conclusion that this has been done to us, or that we have done it to ourselves. Either others are the problem, or we are the problem. Either we need to explore self by elevating our thinking, finding our better version, and owning our truth, or we need to lay it all down. It’s one or the other.

I share this not as an innocent bystander, but as one who has come to terms with my own selfishness, and now sits broken, humbled, and lower than I ever have.

It’s one thing to understand the importance of the principles of brokenness and humility, it’s another to realize that brokenness is not some abstract term but it is a reality that must happen in our own heart. I was the problem and rather than being broken over my sin of self, I had gloried in it.

This is exactly what the Lord revealed to me through the story of the woman at the well in John chapter 4.

Drink once more, He promised to an incredibly thirsty woman, and you’ll never thirst again. There are times when a verse will seem to come alive and jump off the page, and this was just such a time. All of a sudden, I knew I was thirsty and that I’d been that way for quite some time.

I said, “Jesus if this is real, I need to know you in that way. If you were being literal and true in that story, I need to know you like this. What will it take on my part? Show me what I need to change. Show me what I must give up.”

Up until that point, I had always pursued satisfaction from the standpoint of something more I needed to get, when in reality He showed me it was the opposite. The satisfaction came when I laid everything down. It wasn’t about something more, it was about nothing else besides Him.

I wrote it in my journal this way:

I don't want to learn self, I want to lose self
I don't want to empower self, I want to empty self.

What’s at stake in all of this?

When we come to the place of dissatisfaction in life, there lies a branch in the road, we must choose now, quickly - will I glorify self or will I die to self?

Glorify self and you will not be alone. This choice will put you in popular company. You’ll find every manner of science, podcast, book, and guru to validate your choice. You can sit proudly with those who find fascination in the individual - their charm, charisma, personality, ambition, and a spiritualized pursuit of influence at all costs.

Die to self and you will feel alone. It will cost everything: pain, loss, grief, reputation, finances, immediate gratification, any kind of indulgence, the ability to open your mouth and defend yourself. Yet as you give up all, you begin to see Him more clearly - starting with His love.

I thought I knew love, but I didn’t, not really. I knew only of a type of love that always found a way to love myself first. Even the kindest act I did would always have something in it for me.

To be able to know love, I needed to truly see and understand forgiveness. For a period of several months, the Lord broke me. He peeled back the layers and one night in particular I was shown the filth of self that lie inside. It repulsed me, made me cringe, and to this day it is the grossest thing I have ever seen.

I was undone. I wept in a way that I never had before. And at that moment, a song came to me. As tears streamed down my face I sang these lyrics:

Keep me in Your river, lead me up Your mountain, hide me in Your city.

For Your ways are higher, Your ways are higher, higher than mine.

So take me as low as I need to go, to come up there with You, to come up there with You.

I finally saw my need for a Savior. I finally understood forgiveness.

This raw and tender posture remained with me. I read the Scriptures seeing His love and forgiveness everywhere. I would come home and cry as I tried to read a verse to my wife or explain to the kids about this love. These were verses I’d heard a hundred times, but now they were just so real.

I came to learn that without understanding our sin of self, our depravity (inability to save ourselves) and our need for a Savior, we can never understand forgiveness. And without forgiveness, we can never understand love. Love from God, love back to God, and then love towards others.

Without seeing ourselves as the cause of the problem, the root of the disease, the center of the rebellion, the inflicter of the harm - we have no need of a savior, and thus no understanding of forgiveness.

Sadly, up to that point, self was not seen as sin, nor was it called sin. Self was celebrated, encouraged, and I happily indulged. “You’re so special,” I was told as they taught me how to have things like self-esteem and self-confidence and to have them in great measure.

I gladly partook. I wanted more and all I could get.

Yet the Lord took me to the end of myself, showed me how unable I was to save myself, and as a result how thirsty life without Him really is.

By the time this season of life was done, I knew what the painting meant and I had found satisfaction in Christ. Everything had changed, but I still had much to learn.

I hope to continue sharing these learnings with you next week.

In love,