Was Jesus Successful?



“What are you most afraid of?”

She aimed the question at me right in the midst of our conversation. I thought she was asking a rhetorical question—not really expecting an answer from me—but she kept quiet and her eyes rested on me.

I was visiting Dorothea at her apartment on a Wednesday morning in the middle of December. Dorothea is the person who’d invited me to sit at her table at a women’s event in Taiwan many years ago. Then she invited me to a Women’s Power Breakfast and introduced me to a Jesus that made sense to a hungry 20-something overachieving sojourner who had lost her way.

I was on her couch again, this time in West Vancouver. (She just happens to now also be my aunt.)

“You’re asking me? What am I most afraid of?”

She nodded.

I’ve learned not to overthink these kinds of questions. So, I became quiet inside and listened for the first word that parachuted into my consciousness.


Hearing the word slip from my mouth, I was so surprised.

The thing I’m most afraid of is … success?

Weird, I thought. But I’ve also learned to trust the process.

Success is not a word I’ve leaned into. In fact, it’s a word I’ve avoided. Even disdained. Much like “leadership.” (Remember how I had to redeem that one? )

In recent years, I’ve gotten by with avoiding the word “success.” I’ve asked others this question: What does SUCCESS mean for you? But I’ve stopped leaning into it myself.

Then Dorothea asked me that question and I knew I needed to pay attention to it.

I left Dorothea’s apartment that day, a little shaken up. That revelation of my deepest fear had pierced me. There were tears. Good tears. Tears that showed me I had some work to do. Tears that showed me the Holy Spirit was at work here.

I went home and over the next several days, I wrote in my journal and leaned into this word, Success.

What are You trying to say to me here, Lord?

I asked myself: How do you define success? And I wrote pages and pages.

Success is being well paid for the work I do.
Success has to do with value.

I had to stop right there, because, you know … I don’t get often paid for what I do. Does that mean it doesn’t have value? I refuse to believe that.

So, I wrote this instead:

Success is TIME to think and learn.
Success is money to GIVE to help make things more right in the world.
Success is strong + beautiful + good + kind + enriching RELATIONSHIPS.

Then I also wrote:

Success isn’t a word I like.
Success is a steamroller.
Success is walking on others.
Success is a word that makes me want to throw up.

I asked Holy Spirit to speak to me. I sensed there was some Redemption to be done.

I looked to the dictionary definition:

“The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.”

I realized I hated success defined as the achievement of aims or goals. Plus: A deep fatigue was rising up from these words.

Then I sensed this question: Was Jesus successful?

Immediately my heart nodded, YES … And I wrote:

Yes, Jesus was successful in ushering in a new Kingdom on earth.

I sensed another question:

What is your aim/goal here today?

I want to meet You, I wrote. I want to be present and encounter Your Presence and then share it with others.

I want to lead others into this shared third space. This freedom. Eternal ways.

I added:

Success is staying humble, in spite of a public profile.
Success is maintaining equilibrium in spite of a growing platform.
It’s standing in holy reverence, in spite of increased favor.

Success is a kneeling … a surrendering.
Success is also empowerment.

The Holy Spirit was turning my own objections upside down and we were defining a fresh and personal way of seeing and understanding success. For me.

Still, there was that sense of exhaustion around the word. I remembered the many hours I’d spent studying in school.

I recognized that, to me, Achievement was directly correlated to the amount of hours I’d spent studying and laboring.

Old understanding: TIME SPENT = ACHIEVEMENT

For me, achievement was tied to hours and hours spent studying in order to regurgitate the facts in an exam and then getting a high score. That felt meaningless now.

“It all just feels like too much,” I wrote. “Exhausting. I feel tired just thinking about it.”

“That’s understandable.” I sensed the kindness of the Holy Spirit.

Lord, please heal me, I prayed.

Then I asked: Why does the process of success feel so exhausting?

It dawned on me that I might have the wrong process. What is the Divine process, I wondered?

OLD PROCESS: Time Spent + Labour = Success

DIVINE PROCESS: Connecting with a truth + Reaching Clarity + Sharing with the World = Success

What does that feel like, I wondered?


DIVINE PROCESS? Exhilarating!

Spend Your Heart, Instead

My old process was wrapped around the false belief that my earning capital was TIME SPENT.

I believed I could only achieve success by spending a worthy amount of time. I had to labour for truth, labour for what I wanted. I falsely believed that success couldn’t come without extensive and exhaustive labour.

Instead, what I get to spend is my HEART. That defines success for me now: Spending my heart, experiencing intimacy, gaining clarity and sharing it with my world.

Never before has success been connected to HEART for me. But now I was writing my own new personal definition of success.

Heart + Connection and Intimacy + Clarity + Sharing = SUCCESS.

I used to shudder at the thought of success. I now embrace it.


But what does SUCCESS have to do with “Gather,” Idelette?


So: My One Word for 2015 is “GATHER.” I imagine it in the broadest sense. But also, in John 6, after the miracle of the bread and fish, Jesus tells his disciples, Gather up the fragments (or leftovers), so nothing is wasted.

When I read that, I am so aware that even the leftover bits have value to Jesus.

I believe in the power of transformation and I am so hungry to see more of it. I ache to see the leftover, fragmented, scattered bits of our lives gathered up and brought into the hands of Jesus. His hands that can hold and transform our pain, trauma, grief, confusion, hunger, disappointment and disillusionment … His hands that want to hold even words like “success,” redefining them, reshaping them, making them sacred and new.

This word, “success,” has been one of the fragmented bits of my life that I’m gathering and placing in the hands of Jesus. I am astounded how the Holy Spirit transforms these fragmented bits in me, making it into something new and fresh and personal. Redeemed.

I’ve given you a glimpse into my process … into my prayers … into my tenacity. I’m a bit of a bulldog, chasing after Freedom. It feels vulnerable, but I am so ready for more of God’s women to live freely and empowered.

What fragmented bits do you want to gather up this year?

Or: If you want to join me on Dorothea’s couch today … What are you most afraid of?

Remember: First word that comes to mind. Nothing is silly. Nothing is too small.

It’s time to gather up the fragments.