Being, Not Doing



The other day, I listened to a Tim Keller sermon in which he told a story about a young woman in the 1930s. Like many Christian teenagers, she felt moved to “take her hands off her life” and “give it to God.” Concluding that this must mean a grand gesture, she decided God’s will for her was foreign missions. Throughout Bible college and further training, she never budged in her resolve. But after all that sacrifice, for various reasons outside her control, she wasn’t allowed to go into the field. She felt bewildered and betrayed. Wasn’t this what God wanted for her life? Then she realized that while this pursuit looked holy, it had been her perception of God’s intentions. She’d insisted that she was open to whatever He had in mind for her, but really, that was never the case. She’d just made assumptions and run with them.

One of my enduring fears is that my life isn’t big enough. I ascribe the world’s standards and values to God in many ways, including the belief that He always expects more from me – that a small life is a wasted life in His estimation. I lack any clear markers of success or achievement. I am neither a mother, nor a highly driven career woman, nor cut out for something drastic like long-term missions. I don’t have a graduate degree. I plod along in a non-altruistic field where people advance maybe every decade or two, and even then the work is basically the same. While I experience small joys and satisfaction, my day-to-day doesn’t feel big-picture meaningful. Underneath everything, a little voice is always saying, You’re wasting your life. You ought to be doing more.

But I’m finding a way to make that voice shut up. A philosophy that’s emerging from years of life lessons:

Being, Not Doing.

Even within Christian culture, we’re often taught – implicitly – that what we do is more important than what we are. As long as the outside of the cup is shiny, who cares about the inside? As long as we’re producing, who cares about our hearts? This is the opposite of what Jesus taught. I’ve seen firsthand what happens when a decaying heart is hidden behind a favorable exterior. I know secondhand that you can be successful by anyone’s standards and still feel miserable and adrift. I’ve learned personally that when all my energy goes toward checking off all kinds of to-do lists, my heart ends up in unpleasant places.

I believe God works through our selves, not just our actions. In my stronger moments, I feel sure that the fruit of my trials isn’t in impressive results (which are few), but in what I’ve become. By being who God made us to be, in our corners of the world, with our specific personalities and knowledge, we can change things. We can have a positive impact. Even more so if our eyes are open to the possibilities.

I’ve always assumed that God’s will is for everyone to be a mover and shaker in some way. But maybe this average life is exactly what He wants for me. Who knows what could happen if I really took my hands off my expectation of an impressive life… if I gave myself permission to stop stressing about my short résumé (literally and figuratively), and focus on having a right heart before God, coming from a place of wholeness, loving people well. It’s almost too much freedom. It’s an ongoing fight, for me, but I think it’s worth it.

About Brenda W.

Christian. Memphian. Reader. Writer. True blue Tiger fan. Lover of shoes, the ocean, adventure, and McAlister's iced tea. View all posts by Brenda W. →
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3 Responses to Being, Not Doing

  1. Beautiful! I need to think that way too.

  2. Amy McGinnis says:

    Focusing on being instead of doing is a challenge. And honestly I hadn’t given much thought to this topic before this week. We have boiled down our spirituality into steps and processes. This is a reflection of the time and western culture we live in. Instead of pursuing internal change we are hoping the external efforts will somehow change our hearts. It doesn’t work this way. Eventually our heart’s weakness will become uncovered and our external castles we’ve built will crumble. Obviously there is much action required of Christians (see the book of James), but it should be an outpouring of who we have become. Thank you for sharing this!

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