Tonight, I am supposed to go with my husband to a fundraiser for the international organization "Dress For Success". They are a wonderful organization doing good things. Their mission statement is: "We promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and career development tools to help them thrive in work and life."
One small problem...what if I, me, this woman who pecks away at her laptop wearing yoga pants and an old top with stains on it, doesn't feel like a success herself? What if I look in my closet and because of the weight I have gained, I don't have anything to wear that I feel like I look successful in? What if, instead of writing a donation, I feel like I should be the "poster girl" for the organization and maybe they could do a makeover on me tonight as proof that they can transform the untransformable?
Ok, maybe I'm a little melodramatic, but today I am feeling far from being a success. What does it mean to be a success anyway? For the vast majority of my life I have been a stay-at-home-mom. When I accepted this blessing and the reality that this would be the hardest job I would ever undertake, I also accepted the fact that I would not be getting stellar job reviews with bonuses or pay increases for my hard work. I would not be getting paid in cash for my tireless work hours. There would be no "Number #1 Mommy of the Year" award plaques. I was paid in much different dividends.
Still, I remember saying to others, "If my children grow up to have a close and intimate relationship and walk with their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, then I will consider myself a success." Sounds like a great way to define success...right? No, it wasn't cash in the bank, but it would be proof that I had done something right. In seeking after that goal, I raised my children in the church. I taught them scripture and tried to instill good values in them. Jokingly, they used to call me "Bible Lady" because I had a scripture to go with just about any situation.
But here I am 28 years later and one of my children loves and walks with the Lord...the other does not. They are both children raised in an age of entitlement. Am I not a success because I missed the mark that I shot for?
Before I had children, I had a high paying, high profile job. I wore business suits and pumps and even carried a briefcase. One might say I was successful. When my children were older I taught in a private Christian school and then in a Christian preschool. I was helping to teach and raise up the next generation with a love of the Lord. I thought I was successful. Now, several surgeries later, I am an unemployed teacher/writer who owns multiple pairs of yoga pants.
My dreams of being a successful wife came crashing down around me when my first husband left. My spirit was crushed and I felt like a miserable failure. Definitely not success. After a period in the desert, God blessed me with a wonderful husband and I have tried to return the blessing with a servant's heart. This morning we had an argument that dragged up some of the baggage I still carry. Maybe as a wife, I am still not a success??
Needless to say, I am under attack by the enemy today. I've allowed him to get a foothold and he is scaling my fortress. He knows the very buttons to push and the rhetoric to whisper into my head that will leave me feeling defeated and paralyzed - right where he wants me.
These are my red flags that I need to not just walk, but run unto the Lord.
What does His Word say?
King David, who was about to die, says to his son Solomon, "Do what the Lord your God commands and follow his teachings. Obey everything written in the Law of Moses. Then you will be a success, no matter what you do or where you go." (1 Kings 2:3)
That was the definition of "success" in the Old Testament...still good principles to live by, but we are now under the New Covenant.
In the New Testament Jesus declared the greatest commandment:
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:30-31)
Might this be the Biblical definition of "success"???
I let the words wash over me...nowhere does it say that my children have to walk with the Lord in order for me to be successful. That was my self-imposed measureable goal.
Nowhere does it say I have to be the perfect wife, mother, daughter, friend.
Nowhere does it say I have to write a best selling book.
We set such high and complicated expectations of ourselves in order to feel successful, when really what God asks is rather simple...
Love others as you love yourself...
And, the best part is that He doesn't expect us to do this perfectly. In fact He knows we can't. He's given us the key that starts the whole progression.
Receive the gift of salvation----->Transformation begins----->It's a process perfected by the work of the Holy Spirit----->We focus on and love the Giver of the gifts and pass those gifts on to others----->Success.
Though I am somewhat skeptical of online answers to Biblical questions...I liked what "Got Questions Ministries" had to say on the topic of "Success":
"Picture two hands. In the right hand there are the offer of true contentment, the ability to handle life's problems without being overcome by them, amazing peace that sees us through all circumstances, wisdom to know what to do, knowledge and constant direction for life, love for others, acceptance of ourselves, joy no matter what, and at the end of life, an eternity with the God who freely gives all these gifts. The other hand holds all the money and power and success the world has to offer, without any of what the right hand holds. Which would you choose? The Bible says, 'Where your treasure is, there also is your heart' (Matthew 6:21). That which is in the right hand is the biblical definition of success."
Dear Lord, thank you for your promise that if I am in You, I am a new creation. Help me not to define my success by the world's definition of success or even by my own definition. Enable me to recognize the enemy's schemes and, in your power, bid him to get away from me. Lord, I love you! You are the giver of all good gifts. Let me pass your love on to others and let that be my definition of success. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
ps. Update on Redeemer Christian School: Funds are still desperately needed to keep the doors of the school open. The government and the few Christian schools that there are all charge tuition. We offer a free education, sound Biblical teaching, and most of all HOPE to the poorest of the poor, the orphans and destitute children right smack dab in the epicenter of evil. Please consider sending a contribution today that tells these children that they matter...
Send to: Bev Rihtarchik/RCS
103 Silver Lining Lane
Cary, NC 27513