I turned the wheel and pulled into the driveway. It had been a long, long drive from Illinois to Texas. I had spent almost 16 hours in my little Saturn cruising at 70+ mph, my back was hurting, I was hungry, and I’m pretty sure both my legs were asleep. I opened the door and slowly dragged my legs out of the car and onto the pavement. Inwardly, underneath the outward weariness and fog from traveling, I was swimming with excitement. I was standing in front of my new house!
I lugged all my stuff into the house and up the stairs into my room. I opened the door…
I was instantly impressed. The room felt clean and smelled good (what more could a bachelor ask for, right?) I started happily unloading my clothes into the dresser in our room. I was smiling, excited and thankful to have safely made it to my new home. But in that moment my countenance began to shift. A few thoughts started to swirl around in my head. My initial excitement began to morph into apprehension. The reality of my new life started to sink in. “This will be my room for the next two years – what if I don’t like my roommate, or worse yet – what if he snores?” “I don’t really know any of my housemates – what if they don’t like me?” My thoughts started to go deeper, and become more unsettling. “What if I’m not able to keep up with the busy lifestyle here? “What if I’m not able to lead worship at the same level of excellence as everyone else?” Within my first few minutes of arriving in Austin, I had already been struck with anxiety and insecurity.
The weight of it all started to press in on me. In that moment I was reminded of the words of Jesus in John 15:5
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” (NLT)
Apart from Jesus I can do nothing. One of the biggest sins that I battle as a follower of Christ and as a worship leader is the suffocating sin of self-sufficiency. I believe that I’m responsible to handle my own weaknesses and my own hardships. I feel like I’m responsible to make myself into a successful worship leader, pastor, brother, son, and friend. And when I rely on my own strength, I find myself inevitably suffocating beneath the weight of my self-imposed responsibilities.
Moving to Austin has been such a huge, life-altering change for me. I’m a midwestern kid who’s been plucked up and dropped into the deep south – and it shows! Before I got here, I knew virtually no one in Texas. I’ve stepped into a workplace culture at the Austin Stone that’s fast-paced and brand new to me. I’m constantly surrounded by people who are more gifted, more talented, and more experienced than I am. Almost everything around me feels foreign. I naturally will feel insecure. I naturally will look inward to my own strength, and I naturally will want to rely on my own gifts, abilities, and intelligence to prove to myself and everyone else that I belong here.
The problem is that when I’m really honest with myself, I know that I’m a devastating failure in my own strength. But here’s where the beauty of John 15:5 hits home. Jesus sees the depths of my weakness and insecurity better than I do. Jesus sees my inward ugliness, and still loves me with a beautiful, colossal love. Jesus sees that I need rescue. And so he comes – living a life of perfection in my place, and dying the death that I deserve. And he doesn’t stop there! He tells me that he will never leave me, and never give up on me (Heb. 13:5). He tells me that I belong to him, and that he will be with me until the end (Matt. 28:20). This means that I don’t need to look inward for strength and security anymore – instead I look to the One who loves me. Jesus is living in me, and through me. What an amazing truth! I don’t need to find my value in my abilities as a worship leader or pastor – and why would I want to? My value is in the fact that I belong to Jesus. Jesus knows that we’re weak and needy, and that he is strong – and so he reminds us of a glorious truth – “Apart from me you can do nothing.”
The next two years of my residency at the Austin Stone will be so challenging, and so stretching. I will be tempted to look inward for strength, but Jesus calls me to something better. He calls me to lean into him in all of the insecurities and unknowns that will confront me. I will not suffocate in my own self-sufficiecy, because Jesus is more than sufficient. He is the constant, never-changing breath of fresh air. I will draw my strength, my security, and my identity from him.