I’ve had to [learn that] the important thing is not what I accomplish but the person I become. What God gets out of my life is not what I accomplish; it’s what I become…Dallas Willard*
I recently read this quote from a talk Dallas Willard gave about 9 years before he died, and it rocked my boat. In my October 10th, 2022, blog, I wrote about becoming rather than just either being or doing. This quote really brought that thought home for me. I find it interesting that Dallas said this later in life, and he had learned it.
He was a professor of Philosophy at USC, an accomplished author, sought-after speaker, astute thinker, husband, father, and mentor to many of today’s great leaders and thinkers. Yet, after accomplishing all of this, he says God is more interested in what he becomes rather than what he has accomplished!
If you really believed this, how would it change the priorities, plans, and principles by which you live?
So often, this time of year, I review my previous year and plan my goals for the following year. In Dallas’ book Life Without Lack. He has so much to say about our job, our work, our call, and our reason for existence. They are the things that I have had to learn but need to be reminded of every year. Rather than me summarize what he says, let me share with you some quotes from the book which obviously inform why later in life, he made the statement above:
God created us very like himself (in his image), but every one of us is unique. An original, not a copy. We each are made to assume the role of a particular child of God, and our uniqueness ties in with our unique purpose. God has ensured us a special place and purpose, giving us tasks that he specifically wants us to accomplish in our time and in our place.p. 57
Our challenge is to fill our hours, minutes, and actions from day to day with the appropriate amount of love for God’s creation and creating, and then work to produce more of the good he has put in this world. This is every person’s calling.p. 57
Your work is the total amount of lasting good that you will accomplish in your lifetime. That might include your job, but for many of us, our families will be the largest part of the lasting good we produce.p. 57
Today much that is called work is not the use of energy to produce good. In our fallen world we must distinguish between a job and work, because many “jobs” can produce evil. Your job is what you get paid to do, and it might or might not contribute to lasting good. Of course, some of you may be at a point in your life where you do not have a job or do not want one. That’s all right. You still have work to do; you still have the opportunity and responsibility to produce good in the world. P57
I have a lot of students who do not want a job that requires work; what they want is a position. A position is where you have recognition and get paid whether you do anything or not. Additionally, many people base their identity on their work and their job—that is, they think they are what they do. This is problematic because they will identify their jobs with their lives and their personal sense of worth. Then they are apt to draw terribly mistaken conclusions, such as, “Since I do not have a job, I am a nobody.”p. 58
Our work may be of many kinds. It might include having and raising children, developing good personal relations, being artistically creative, leading politically, working in the church of Jesus Christ to spread the truth, building houses, running trains, doing all the necessary work available to human beings as they live together in this world to produce what is good. But regardless of our specific work, the real challenge to every person’s faith is that we do everything to the glory of God, even in the smallest actions of our days. And this will certainly entail making sure we do not sacrifice our families to our ministry or jobs.p. 59
Here is a truth you must never forget: God is more interested in your life than he is in any of the other things listed above. He’s more interested in the person you are becoming than in your work, or your ministry, or your job. And the surest way to realize the full potential of your God-designed self is to live in eternity while you are in time, conscious of the loving gaze of your all-sufficient Shepherd, in whose care nothing of the good you do is lost. It is stored up in your own self and in the lives of others you have touched.p. 60
Thanks, Dallas…well said.
*Dallas Willard, “Streams in the Desert and Wells of Living Water,” For Such a Time as This (Baylor University, Waco, TX, February 23, 2004), MP3, 44:00.
**Life Without Lack: Living in the Fullness of Psalm 23 Hardcover, 2018, Dallas Willard