Alongsider Briefings: Reflections of a Life Lived with God

Life is like an Art Gallery – Picture #1: The superhero.

Deep learning is personal and transformational. Some of my deep learning moments with God have been through pictures that only my eyes could see. I’m writing to give you a peek at some of these private and personal images that fill the gallery of my mind.

Author and pastor Warren Wiersbe compares our lives to art galleries and wisely observes: “No Christian rises higher than the beauty and quality of the pictures than hang in the gallery of his or her mind.” What picture dominated my mind for years? It was a picture of a superhero.

I created an image of a Navigator staff superhero. My superhero could effortlessly manage complexity, raise huge amounts of money, and convert whoever they talked to. I formed this picture by admiring the gifting of three different friends: one was a skilled administrator, another was a superb fundraiser, and the third was a natural evangelist.

My success in ministry meant living like this superhero with these three “powers.” The only problem with superheroes is that they’re fictional. No one person can embody all those strengths. Life soon taught me that I was hanging the wrong picture in my mind’s gallery. God hadn’t designed me to be like this superhero.

Desiring to be like others is never a good motivation. I was an adequate administrator, I plugged away at fundraising, and evangelism was always a challenge. These were often duties not passions and burdens not motivations. My superhero image always fell short when compared to others more gifted in these areas. The Lord was nudging me to hang a new picture in my mind.

Instead of a composite superhero drawn from friends I admired, I needed to own my spiritual gifts, God’s true picture and design of of myself. In Romans 12:3, I was exhorted to think of myself with “sober judgment . . . according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” In context, this “measure of faith” are one’s spiritual gifts (12:4-8). The Lord had assigned me gifts different from my mental superhero and I needed to soberly think about and use them.

In 1 Peter 4:10, the Lord taught me to use the gifts given to me to serve others “as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” These gifts vary from person to person, but all require diligence in service. These gifts are given (grace) and not earned; they’re part of God’s design not my personal achievements. This design is not a path to self-realization but to faithful service; for His glory not my personal significance.

Through the Scriptures, conversations with others, and some practical assessment tools, God put together a new picture, one very different from the composite administrator, fundraiser, and evangelist. Included in this new picture of His design were these qualities:

  • I’m strategic and practical.
  • I’m a thinker and a pioneer.
  • I’m a creative who brings an artistic flair to a setting. 
  • I’m a teacher who orchestrates learning rather than being the resident expert.

My Navigator job still required fundraising, administration, and evangelism but my design was greater than this composite. In fact, my design began to shape how I exercised these responsibilities. But before I could go down this path, I needed to own God’s picture of me. This required asking some tough questions.

While the old superhero picture was false it was still comfortable. Could I leave the comfortable for a new and untried picture? What if people didn’t appreciate my new picture? Was I willing to trust God and re-orient my life and ministry around His new picture?

In a moment of surrender, I prayed something like this: “Lord, thank you for designing me in this way. I’m not a superhero but I can serve with the gifts you’ve given me. Help me to serve from your design not from my imagined picture.” I now owned God’s design of me and it felt good!

My life has not been the same since. This quote is attributed to the early church leader Irenaeus, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” Living from His design – His picture — is an act of worship and when I worship through service, I become fully alive. My design is a gift from God and His gifts are to be given away not placed on a shelf to admire and protect.

Disciplemaking takes down whatever spiritual superhero image people have. We walk alongside others to help them identify God’s unique and beautiful design of themselves and channel this design to faithfully serve. This is not a quest for self-fulfillment but a life of stewardship that brings glory to the Designer. After all, good design always points to a good designer.

We all need to consider the pictures hanging in our mind’s galleries. Do they represent the loving creation of a thoughtful Father or are we living from a superhero composite — created to impress others, enhance our self-esteem, or to establish a name for ourselves? Remember, superheroes are fictional characters. What picture is hanging in the gallery of your mind?

One Comment

  1. Thanks for sharing, Bill. I can definitely relate to comparing myself in regard to the gifts and talents of others.

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