Living beyond yourself… it sounds exciting. It sounds fun and adventurous, and a bit scary. And it is! But the picture most of us carry in our heads of what it actually looks like may not be accurate.
You might visualize someone in extraordinary circumstances, doing what no one has done before. Or inventing something to change daily life. Or discovering a medical breakthrough. While all of these are noteworthy, is that what living beyond yourself really means?
In Jackson Hole, WY, I’m surrounded by extreme athletes, celebrities, and world travelers. I know what it’s like to feel average in a sea of accomplishments. While I’ve had a fair amount of adventure and have achieved things I’m proud of, I’ve never considered myself as having lived an exotic life.
And yet, as I’ve pursued living in the fullness of knowing God, I’ve come to see that living beyond myself isn’t always about the exotic and extreme. It’s not always about digging deep within myself to go further and do more. In fact, it’s often just the opposite.
Living Beyond Yourself
What It’s Not:
- Pushing through. If you’ve ever listened to motivational speakers, one consistent piece of advice is to push through your current circumstance or obstacle to what’s on the other side. While grit and perseverance are important character traits, our own tenacity and strength cannot get us beyond ourselves.
- Mapped out. I jokingly call myself a “prepper.” As most moms understand, you quickly learn to prepare for every conceivable issue before leaving the house with a child. And though I’ve been an empty nester for over a decade, this tendency stuck with me. This idea of being prepared is also valued with the world’s concept of living beyond yourself. But no amount of preparation will guarantee success.
- Going it alone. As I’ve seen the lives of athletes and entrepreneurs and creatives who have pushed limits and done what others haven’t, I’ve noticed most of them live a fairly isolated life. They love what they do and are celebrated by many, but at the cost of family and close relationships.
- Exotic places and people. I think of George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. From the time he was a young boy, he carried around copies of National Geographic magazine, dreaming of all the places he wanted to go. His whole goal was to get out of his hometown, beyond what he knew and others expected. Many of us share his longings, but living beyond yourself is more than exotic adventures.
- Doing it afraid. This has become a popular saying and idea. Again, the idea of pushing through our fear and pursuing what we want, no matter what. But God has a better way.
What It Is:
- Surrender. In a recent post I talked about the importance of realizing you can’t be your own source. You and I can’t work up enough love, strength, creativity, or patience to get to the end of this race. One of my favorite quotes by songwriter/ worship leader Steffany Gretzinger is, “It’s not in your push. It’s in your position.” Living beyond yourself must include coming to this realization, and positioning yourself to receive from the Source who never runs dry. And this is key: When you receive from the Source, you become like Him — divinely other.
- One step at a time. Like I said, I’m a bit of a planner. I like to be prepared. But as God has led me farther and farther beyond myself, He often requires me to trust Him with only the step in front of me. He may put a glimpse of the bigger picture or a vision of the future in my spirit, but He teaches me the value of unfolding a treasure, one detail at a time. In simply valuing and using what I hold in my hand, He gifts me the joy of living fully in the present moment.
- Walking a personal journey within community. Every one of us carries hidden details of our life. Whether in experience or questions, emotions or pain, we’ve each traveled solo miles. Miles seen and understood by God, alone. This is a part of being human even Jesus experienced. And yet, He made us for relationship. He created us to be in community. You and I will never reach our full potential on our own. Living beyond yourself requires the sharpening that others bring. And in this place, we learn the beauty and power of a life laid down.
- Everywhere, everyone. Unlike the world’s picture of fulfilling a personal, exotic dream, truly living beyond yourself isn’t about you. It is just what it says: living beyond self. It’s about seeing value and beauty wherever you are, and in whomever crosses your path. To live beyond yourself, you must have heaven’s perspective and carry our Creator’s heart for the world around you.
- Facing, and overcoming. I love a story of personal victory, when the underdog overcomes life’s obstacles in brave and beautiful ways. But the greatest victories — and almost always part of the underdog’s story — are the ones you win on the inside. In connecting to the Source of life and hope, you are empowered by Him to rise above your failures. To break off the chains of your past. To change your thought patterns. And to run at your fear and overcome it… not just get through it.
One last thought:
Living beyond yourself isn’t meant to be reserved for someday, somewhere out there, when I have time. Every day is another opportunity to let God live through you. To allow Him to strip off more of your old nature so you can walk fully as a new creation. With each passing moment, you can release heaven on earth by living connected to its Maker.
This week I’ve lived far beyond myself in countless ways. The Holy Spirit gave me words to encourage and redirect, beyond all I would have known to do. He also filled me with love and grace to be silent when my old nature would have risen up to defend myself. These “little” things changed the course of mine and others’ lives in amazing ways.
I’d love to hear any other ideas you have for how we can live beyond ourselves…
Please comment below.