I really didn’t like the word Overflow at first. It reminded me of something that should only happen in a bathroom. I had visions of trying to share this idea and people being so distracted by visions of toilets that they would be unable to hear anything. I spent hours looking up synonyms or other similar words to use instead. After months of finding no other word to describe what God had been teaching me over 4+ decades, I finally accepted "overflow" as a description for a life of intentionally following Jesus.
To understand what I mean by Overflow Life it may help to understand my Christian journey. So where to start??? Birth?
I was born to people of faith. They believed in love, serving others, kindness, and community. They were real deal, California, Bay Area Hippies. They lived for a time on a commune, meditated, were vegetarian and owned a red and white VW van. Like most of their generation, they fueled their beliefs with hard-work, science and the power of the human spirit. I was raised to appreciate beauty in nature and human diversity. I also learned that in order to bring unity to this broken world I had to be strong, focused and the best version of me at all times.
As a result, in my childhood years, god was a secular, idealist understanding of human beings creating beauty and love while striving for unity. So, as such, the child in me thought that to please this false god and save all of humanity, I must act like the Wizard from the Wizard of Oz and put on a good show.
My teen years saw my parent’s idealistic worldview destroyed. On my 12th birthday, we went out as a family to eat and watch the movie "The Three Amigos." When we got home, my dad left my mom, my sisters, my brother and I and moved in with his girlfriend and her 4 children. I was intensely angry with him and refused to be around him. He responded to my anger by telling my friends, family, and neighbors all my short-comings. During this time, my mom was overwhelmed by raising 4 kids on her own, working full time and going to school so I spent weeks at a time at my Christian friend’s homes where I encountered Jesus for the first time.
My teen years were typical on the outside. I was active in my local church, did well in school, worked, and hung out with friends. On the inside, however, things were strained. My dad continued to express his disappointment with who I was becoming. My mom remarried a wonderful man who also had 4 children. Yes, our 3 bedroom, 1,200 sq ft home was very crowded! I was growing in my faith but God, to me, was a distant father that I used to help me prove my dad was wrong. That I was “good” and “worthy”.
My early adult years started at Azusa Pacific University in Southern California. It was the first time I encountered so many people who deeply loved the Lord. My roommates and friends modeled for me what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. I dove into my new relationship with the Lord. As I began to understand the depth of God’s love for me, I was finally able to forgive my father and move into adulthood.
After college, Ken and I got married and had two amazing girls. In our early married life Ken and I were able to be a part of two church plants that deeply impacted who we are as individual followers of Christ and as a couple. The first plant was a huge gift to us. The pastor of this community mentored us for many years. He not only instilled in us a passion for discipleship, but guided us through our early married and parenting years. The second plant was more challenging. We were all very young and possessed all the traits of youth -- from a passion for the Lord and seeing community transformation to impulsive and reactive decision making. It was a church of the early 2000’s that focused on mass mailings and being the fun, relevant community. You know "it's all about Sunday stupid." The church grew quickly and Ken and I moved into administrative leadership roles. Our time at this church was exciting and painful. The immaturity of our leadership (us included) would, at times, cause pain for people in our community. I often found myself slipping into old patterns of being “savior” and trying to shield the pastor from the consequences of poor choices by making excuses. These years were marked by a growing love for the Lord and community, a deepening relationship with Him and the deep-seeded belief that He needed my help to keep the world in balance.
Are you sensing a pattern here?
The last decade of my life has been marked by incredible highs and crippling lows. We moved away from all we knew and made a new life in the Texas Hill Country. We were hoping to church shop for a while and heal (hide) a bit, but we quickly stumbled into the Loft Coffee House and then Riverside Community Church. At Riverside, we found rest, healing and a community like we had never known. After a few years, Ken and I stepped into church leadership again. It is this community that has walked by our side thru all of the challenges of this season; medical issues, financial failures, teen parenting and suffering alongside our daughter as she struggles through mental health issues that continue to threaten her life. Honestly, this has been the hardest and sweetest season of my life. I have grown in intimacy with the Lord and now understand that He is the source of all. I am leaning to not only believe, but to live out the truth that the Great Commandment comes before the Great Commission. I am beginning to walk out an Overflow Life.
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
At this point on my journey, I have come to really understand John 15:5.“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
As I wrestled with this verse, I began to lay down my savior, perfectionist, God-needs-me mentality. I recognized that transformation doesn't come through going on mission (doing), but through the love that pours out as a result of being deeply connected to God.
Learning to live the Overflow Life, I find I am less burdened and overwhelmed. That I am intentionally crossing barriers from Church to non-church in my words and actions and seeing the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth every day.
It is my belief that the Kingdom of Heaven is not something we as believers in Christ encounter after death. It is real, tangible, and right here and now. As N.T. Wright puts it:
“The resurrection completes the inauguration of God's kingdom. . . . It is the decisive event demonstrating that God's kingdom really has been launched on earth as it is in heaven." "The message of Easter is that God's new world has been unveiled in Jesus Christ and that you're now invited to belong to it.”
So why overflow life? Really, I cannot imagine living a life with Christ any other way. I get to be a part of what the King is doing in the Kingdom. Not by might, not by power, but by His Spirit alone. I simply get to live a life of such deep worship that His love pours out of me and transforms the world around me. Seriously, even in the darkest, most difficult seasons, the overflow life is filled with peace and joy.
Recently, I have been taking time to chew on this passage from the gospel of Mark with the perspective of Overflow Living.
The Parable of the Growing Seed
26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself, the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
What new things is God teaching you about yourself and the kingdom?