How do we measure success?
A number in our bank account?
A title on our office door?
A picture-perfect Christmas card?
From a young age, we are taught to measure. To count. To assign value. We are taught to achieve. To excel. To succeed. But what are we taught to succeed in? Power? Wealth? Status?
We can’t ignore what’s been ingrained in us from a young age. Nor should we. Working hard, excelling, creating, building, providing, achieving – these are all great things, necessary things – even Biblical things.
Jeremiah 29:5 tells us,“build houses… plant gardens and eat what they produce.” Psalm 138:7-8 advises, “do not abandon the work or your hands.” And Haggai 2:4, “‘Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work…'”
So when it comes down to the heart of the matter – when it comes down to our hearts – how should we measure success?
In his book Reaching Out, Henri Nouwen says,
“But it is of great importance that we leave the world of measurements behind when we speak about the life of the Spirit.”
We live in a society that values validation. We live in a culture that constantly measures productivity. But what if our desires for output and achievement were replaced by a desire for a true and deep relationship with Christ and a soul-consuming presence of the Holy Spirit?
My time in the “wilderness” of no social media may not have been measured by the tangible – “likes,” “followers,” and “retweets” – but it was marked by the intangible – and an incomparable – shift in perspective… one which I hope to maintain as I re-enter the world – the world of social media that is.
For I was so graciously reminded that I am not defined by the measures of this world – by the number of dollars in my bank account, by the number of acting jobs I book, or the number of Instagram followers I have (though apparently that helps with booking acting jobs these days).
Rather, I am defined by measures of my heart – the way I care for and love the people God has brought into my life, the way I seek out ways to serve His kingdom, the way I seek to know Him and spend time with Him.
While I would love to book more roles in tv and film, I know they won’t satisfy me in the long run, that they are neither my purpose nor my measure of success here in LA.
I found this cedar medallion from my time as a camper at Pine Cove. What a better measure of achievement than a report card assessing grades or a gold medal assessing skill – rather an evaluation of who I am, not what I do. And yes, my name is misspelled :)
As 1 Samuel 16:7 reminds us,
“People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
It’s a daily battle to maintain this perspective, to be reminded of this truth. As a Type A doer and achiever, I really like to accomplish the tangible – to write a certain number of pages in my screenplay, to check things off my to-do list, to “measure” the productivity of my day…
But what if I found a greater satisfaction in measures which are far more difficult to count, but far more important in this life? The measures of the heart…
“I’m coming back to the heart of worship and it’s all about you; it’s all about you, Jesus. I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it when it’s all about you…” – Matt Redman, Heart of Worship
Never have those words rung more convicting and true.