I love those moments when God just speaks. Don’t you? Those moments where all of a sudden you have clarity and an answer to something that has baffled you for so long. A question unanswered that remains that way for weeks and months and years and then all of a sudden He sweeps in with giant insight and it colors everything different somehow. Have you been there? Or maybe you see something that you have seen everyday of your life and then all of a sudden it looks different to you. A story jumps off a page that you have read a hundred times and strikes you in a way that it never has before, and it changes the whole story and you along with it. When a passage in the Bible that you have heard for years and years all of a sudden hits you hard right where you are in the moment and gives you insight that you need but maybe didn’t want and either way God just comes and He speaks.
Just a little while ago, I had my Bible open to a passage that I have read so many times before. A story that I remember from my childhood. One that I have never taken that seriously before but now I see it differently and God has just spoken this hugely over my life and the very fact that I am pounding these words out right now on my keyboard makes me know that I’m not the only one that needs to hear them.
The tower of Babel.
The gist of it? The people wanted to build a giant tower that was larger than any other tower in the world. One that reached to the heavens. One that would certainly give them a name for themselves. In fact it says it right there in Genesis 11:4–“Let us make a name for ourselves.”
And that hit me hard. This group of people who weren’t satisfied with being made in the image of God that they wanted to be gods themselves. They wanted to make their name great. They wanted to be praised and worshipped and in control.
There story is no different than mine. Then all the places in my life where I have taken control and tried to do things my own way and in my own strength. Where I have erected towers so large that they block my view of God at work in my life. Things in my life that I have given far too much importance and put on pedestals and altars in the place of the Almighty.
I’ve built my own towers. I’ve tried to make my own name great. Maybe you have, too?
And it makes me wonder–if we truly started to understand what it means to be made in the image of God, would we stop trying to be gods of our own lives? Would we stop striving to make our own names great and be satisfied and so very fulfilled by making His name great instead?
Let me tell you a story–so many years ago now, God gave me a giant call. A call to tell my story. And it set me on a path that was so beyond anything I could have ever anticipated and into so many impossible situations where God showed up big, just as He always does when He leads us down the wild paths of His will. Before a story could ever be told, there was a massive journey to be lived first. One that has changed me completely as a person, one of those moments where I will always look back and there will be a “before” and there will be an “after.” And even as I was living out the journey, I knew that someday it would all be written down. That ultimately, that was what God was calling me to. This huge healing journey where He showed up in my most broken places and in His great love for me created beauty in places of so much tragedy, and He did it for me but He also did it because He wanted to use it to bless others too. Three years of my life I walked this incredibly challenging road filled with some of the best moments of my life bumped right up against the hardest and it was a massive gift for me from a Father that loves me, but a gift that I was never meant to keep for myself. And I’m still not meant to keep it for myself.
Years later, in such an unexpected moment of my life, after time had passed from this wild journey of God’s healing in my life all of a sudden the words just came. I wrote it all down–the thing that I never had words for before. And believe me, I tried. My whole life, it has been through words and writing that God has most spoken to me and also how He has most used me to tell of His great name. I knew He wanted this written down, and I tried so many times in my own strength to make it happen. I tore down pictures in my apartment and created giant book outlines on the walls for the thing I still had no words for. I sat down and stared at a blinking cursor on a computer screen for hours. Writing small paragraphs only to delete them. So many moments of trying to make something happen in my own strength instead of leaning into God and trusting that what He declared would one day would come to be–not because of me, but because of Him.
And it took a lot of surrender and a lot of learning and stretching, but eventually I just stopped trying to make it happen. I began to trust that God would make it happen if He really wanted this story written down. And then weeks stretched into months that stretched into years, and one day when I least expected it I sat down in front of a computer and that blank cursor turned into an entire book that just poured out of me in the span of two weeks. The words just came in a season when I definitely wasn’t looking for them–a season that was filled with so many other things. And God swept in and He did something big. Those words that eluded me for so long just appeared on the page in front of me one day because I trusted that God would bring them when He wanted to, and should I really be surprised that God does what He says He will do?
You would think that I would have learned my lesson from that. That after trying so hard in my own strength to try to make something happen and failing over and over again and getting burnt out and feeling so very lost in the midst of the process, and then surrendering it fully to Him and seeing Him work in ways that still astound me when I look back on this moment of my life–that I would stop trying to do things in my own strength. But I didn’t. Those words turned into a book and I thought, of course I must get this published now.
So I worked hard. I put together a proposal and I got it in front of agents and got wonderful responses from these literary agents about my writing and the story itself, but the number one thing they told me was that I was too unknown and they didn’t want to take a chance on me. And while from a business standpoint I understand that, on a personal level it made me feel like my worth was tied up in numbers.
A whole other battle then ensued. One where I exhausted myself trying to publish article after article and get my name out there. And I’m going to be honest, a lot of them did get published, some on very large platforms. I signed up for any and all courses about building platforms and branding and how to grow your Instagram and worked tirelessly trying to build this following because in the back of my mind I was convinced that the only way this book would ever come to be was if I somehow had that magic number that would make someone yes. I watched so many people come out of nowhere, some who I had even coached about these very things, get these mega followings while nothing ever happened in my own little corner of the internet, and struggled with so many feelings of failure.
But sometimes those are the moments that we need in order to see things clearly. We need to fail. We need to be brought low. We need to be reminded that trying to build towers in our own names results in nothing but futility and destruction.
God brought me low, but somehow in being brought low He also raises us up.
I stopped following all the social media rules that I had learned. I stopped trying to have this perfect brand and to produce content like a unstoppable machine. Frankly, I just stopped caring. I really did. I was so burnt out and so over it, that I stopped caring if this book ever happened or not. I went months without blogging or posting on Instagram or submitting an article. And as God worked in my heart in some of these ugly areas–as He brought down some of my towers–I started to realize what may be obvious to you but was a journey I had to go through, that all of it from the very beginning was never meant to be about making my own name known, but His.
Right after the Tower of Babel there is another story. One where God calls this guy named Abram (whose name He would later change to Abraham–maybe you know of him?) out of nowhere to step deeply into His will. A call that felt the opposite but glorious for Abram. Out of nowhere God tells him to leave his family and his country and all that he knows and just trust God that He knows what He is doing even though he can’t see the road up ahead–and to go to the places that God will show him. And right in Genesis 12:2 God says something that struck me deeply earlier today about a lesson I’ve been learning over so many years. He says to Abram, “I will bless you and make your name great.” GOD will make Abram’s name great. If Abram trusts Him and allows God to come into his story and goes where God tells him to go, God will bless him and make his name great.
Not Abram. Abram won’t make his own name great. God will do it. God in His infinite and almighty strength will come into the picture and change everything about Abram’s life in ways he could never anticipate, and through making His own name great, God will also make Abram’s great too. And not for Abram alone, but “so that you will be a blessing,” (Genesis 12:2).
When God works in our lives in big ways–when He gives us big platforms or He doesn’t, when He gives us a stage or keeps us behind the scenes, when He steps in and uses us and blesses us, it is never meant to be just about us. We are blessed so that we can bless others. We are given stories and journeys and step into so many unknown places we would never ask to go and He shows up and He changes us and heals us and works in us. To make His name great. And because He loves us and He doesn’t want to leave us in brokenness. He wants to be GOD in our lives and stop watching us trying to be the gods of our own lives. He wants us to step fully into the wonderful and wild journey of what it means to be made in the image of God and have a God that comes through for us in any and every situation even if it is in ways we don’t like, and to praise His name in all the seasons along the way. He blesses us so that we can bless others. And the more that we give Him the glory, the more this remarkable thing happens in our lives–the towers and the idols that we have built, and all those areas that we strive in so much futility–they just crumble. When God comes in in all His majesty and we see Him for all He is, and we go out into the world and use our unique gifts and talents in the ways that He has called us to, and stop trying to adopt the gifts and talents of others and make them our own–we make His name great, and He makes our names known. Not to the world at large (although that may be true for some). But we become more known by Him. Not that He never knew us any less than He does in this moment, but we become more confident and amazed of His perfect knowing of us.
I stopped trying to make my name great and instead just focused on praising Him. Giving Him the glory. Because it was exhausting and draining in every way, and because I was never meant to build a tower in my own name. I gave up all the striving for surrender, and it changed the entire story. And I can’t dive into what is happening now because it is a secret and I just can’t tell you yet–but let’s just say it is amazing the things that God actually does when you stop getting in His way. He is at work and building a tower for HIS name in my life, and sometimes I waver and forget, but He always brings my eyes back to His enormity. He is doing big things, y’all, and I can’t wait to share them with you.
But it isn’t about me. It isn’t about my own name. It is about His. And there is no other name I would want to bring praise.
And it just makes me wonder if you have walked through battles like this too.
If you have built towers in your own life and have been caught up in so many areas of trying to take control of your own story.
If you have tried to make your name great and are feeling so burnt out because you have forgotten for the moment, just like I have at so many times, that you were never meant to build in your own name.
Let’s tear down the towers. Let’s tear down anything that stands in the way of God full at work in our lives. Let’s live lives of surrender instead of striving, and let Him change the story. Let Him sweep in and crumble all those areas in our lives where we have stepped in and made a mess of things, even if it was with the best of intentions.
Let’s not build towers in our own name, to make our own name’s great. Where does that really lead us at the end of the day?
Let’s build towers in Jesus’ name, and walk forward in His always-enduring strength.
Because when we make His name great, He somehow also makes ours great too. Not in this way that should fill us with pride, but one that should humble us completely. He steps in and blesses us and changes us and allows us to walk through really hard things while also promising to heal us. He steps in and changes our stories and makes us His. He gives us the right to become sons and daughters of God and to live lives of abundance in the uniqueness of our own strengths and gifts and talents and live freely and fully in our identities that are ours in His own image.
Whatever it is that is keeping you from Him, ask Him to tear that tower down, in Jesus’ Name.