“He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.” But I said, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing at all. Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God.” ” Isaiah 49:3-4
We had chapel at my high school, a day when boys had to wear ties and khaki pants, and girls had to wear our white oxfords instead of normal polos. We’d all migrate into the gym, sit on fold out chairs and listen to our science teacher play guitar.
Once a year, it was summer camp chapel. A director would come from a camp named after a lake or type of tree, tell us how camp was going to change our lives, and then they’d show a promotional video. It would show kids rope-swinging into a lake, cheering at a rodeo, laughing around a campfire, whitewater rafting, shooting a bullseye with bows and arrows, carefully beading necklaces, playing dodgeball on tennis courts, riding horses over a ridge, dutifully studying their Bibles. I never went to those camps, but I always remember the song they’d play in the background: This is Your Life, by Switchfoot.
Granted, it was San Diego, so most things had Switchfoot played over them.
Don’t close your eyes
This is your life and today is all you’ve got now
This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be?
When the world was younger and you had everything to lose.
As I get older, I’ll have Switchfoot moments.
Moments where I look around and think is this my life? I think about the woman that high school me, sitting in chapel in a plaid skirt and a wrinkled oxford, imagined I would turn out to be. Then I look at my life — my job, my commute, my social life, my journaling and prayer life — and it seems lacking.
There are moments when I ask God that this truly can’t be all He has for me. I’ve talked about comparison before, but this isn’t to other people, this is to an idealized version of your own life. Of my perfect faith walk, perfect social life, perfect job. I get stuck in thinking about how I’m supposed to be living that when a switchfoot moment hits, all I can think is that I’m living way under potential. This is my life, but it’s not who I want to be. It’s my life, but it’s not everything I dreamed.
When that happens, the easiest thing to do is go out and try to fix it. Go see a Broadway show, make a dinner date happen, grab ice cream with a friend. Then, I tell myself, then I’ll be living my full potential. And it translates into my spiritual life too: maybe I should be doing more than I am, maybe the witness I have isn’t enough, maybe I’m not working hard enough for Jesus.
I read another blog post that pointed me to Isaiah 49:3; the verse, though sweet, seemed saccharine. Yes, of course God can display splendor in me. He can display His glory in anyone. He is great, and magnificent…yet here I am, living in monotony. I always try to read surrounding verses for context and when I read the next one in Isaiah 49, it got to me. What is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God.
Jesus doesn’t promise Christians an instagram-able life. He doesn’t say that His splendor is displayed in me, and it’s going to look a very specific way. He says that we are to submit to Him, and in Him will be our reward.
Fam. It doesn’t matter how glamorous or glorifying my life seems. Goodness, even Hamlet understood that ‘seems’ is deceiving. When God said He wants to shine through me, that’s not a call I get to make. I don’t get to decide the pedestal or the wattage; I just trust that it’s in His hands.
So, why should I care if my life doesn’t look like something out of a magazine, or a Kari Jobe album? Why does it matter if I don’t feel like what I’m doing is enough? The better questions are: Am I God’s servant? Am I looking to His hand for my rewards? If so, then He promises to display splendor.
A part of that is accepting that there will be exhaustion and effort between now and when I understand God’s plan. It’s not up to me to define the ways that God can work. Every time I look at my life, I need to give up the image of what it could be. Further, it means not even seeing my potential plans. God has taken that imaginary future, and in its place, He has put His will for my life. And I might not see it, and I especially might not get it. And it might not be the prettiest, or the easiest, or the quickest. But it will glorify Him.
If I craft every day into how I think it ought to be, I’m not doing it right. If I compare each moment to how my life could be, or maybe should be, I’m not doing it right. And if I wake up every morning and say ‘I will show God’s glory in my life today’, I am in the wrong.
Instead, my prayer should be that God will be bigger than my pride. That He would place a hand over my mouth and guide my steps. That He would put blinders over my eyes so I’m not distracted by dazzling ‘should be’s, that He would direct me in the way only He can see. That when He is glorified, it is not because of the strength of my character or the steadfastness of my face, but only because He is gracious and longsuffering, and overcomes my attempts at running my own life.
In Isaiah, God is the active One, proclaiming what He will do. In my life, He ought to be the same. Rather than asking is it everything I dreamed, I need to ask have I surrendered my dream to His plan. Because that’s when His splendor is shown.