If you’ve ever played a sport or watched a sport or centered your Thanksgiving day snacking around a sport, you know the power of the score – those little numbers that appear next to ‘Home‘ and ‘Visitor’ in the outfield or on your TV screen.
I’ll never forget the summer growing up when I hit my first home run in softball. I was elated as I ran the bases, as my team greeted me with a group hug at home plate, and as I watched the scorekeeper pencil in another run next to our team’s name.
Visitor: Who cares?! I just hit a home run!
In moments like these, I learned what a rush it is to be praised for performance. Of course, scoring runs and accomplishing things are not innately bad. These are good and important things. But leave it to our sin-inclined hearts to turn good things into not-so-good things.
Since those days, I have become an expert in the art of keeping score. I’m always running a tab, waiting for the digits to switch on the screen and the scoreboard, waiting for that elusive magic number that will mean I’m finally secure with others and with the Lord.
One more homerun. One more stellar performance. One more gold star. And then I’ll have arrived.
One more ‘yes’ to her invitation. One more perfect project at work. One more plan on the calendar.
I crave the praise and the applause and the accolade, my appetite only increasing with each hit.
This is my kind of drug.
Recently, I was convicted by some score-keeping beliefs that I’ve been holding on to.
In my life so far, I have pictured my the vault of my heart like a bank vault, full of gold. If I’m honest, the gold stored up in there represents the treasure I think I put in the vault myself through good deeds and performance.
The full vault has a system, you see. In the system, God is simply the giver of gold. The giver of good gifts. The scorekeeper. When I achieve, gold is added. My score increases. When I fail, gold is taken out, or at least knocked around and dulled in its shine.
Bad day: 1.
I also play a key role in the vault system. I am the maintenance girl. I have to keep the gold in there, add to it through my actions, keep it tidy by not making a fuss, and shine it up to look nice from the outside.
I was on a run the other day, my sneakers rhythmically hitting the trail, and I started to think about that image I have held of the gold-filled vault. And it filled me with dread. I started thinking about the bank vaults I have seen in movies – the ones that are full of cash or treasure or the ones that Ocean’s Eleven tries to hack into. I realized that none of those pictures express what I want, nor do they align with my values.
The score-keeping system of the treasure vault is harsh and divisive and unfeeling.
I crave and value rest and simplicity and deep connection and grace.
Then. Like a whisper, a thought entered my mind: what if my heart is like a vault.
But what if the vault is empty.
What if the vault is clear, lined with cement, and totally hollow? But not in a sad or lonely way. What if the empty vault in my heart is full of peace – because it reminds me that I am morally & spiritually bankrupt without my Jesus. I have nothing to be gained or lost without Him. What if the empty vault is both humbling and freeing?
Because the empty vault doesn’t keep score.
The full vault represented my own prideful way of keeping things together for God. It was stuffed with my gold stars and my home runs and my praise-worthy moments. I deposited, and I withdrew, and the whole thing made me view God as a banker, rewarding me for good behavior, and withholding good when I didn’t measure up.
I’m over that.
I’ve decided I want to live an empty-vault life.
The empty vault is a grace-filled system, my way of laying down all pride and coming to the Lord with ever-empty hands, ready to receive from Him. There are no riches or earned rewards or collected gold to stand on. I begin each day bankrupt and I conclude each day bankrupt as well. And here’s the very best thing – there are zero transactions. No matter what happens during the day – success and accomplishment or fear and failure – I am going to trust that I end each day the exact same way that I began. In need of a Savior. There is no gain or loss or math, which feels like true rest to my calculating, perfectionist heart.
In the empty vault, there’s nothing to prove. My God is full of love and compassion, holding my great portion, my great security and the whole of my identity in His strong arms – not associated with the vault at all.
This doesn’t feel like scarcity, either. The empty vault is not found wanting. God overflows with blessings unto us, not in the form of treasure, but in the form of His hand wiring, etched on the walls of the vault’s cornerstone, letting everyone know that Jesus emptied the stone-cold chamber and broke the seal right off. No more transactions were required to earn God’s abundant favor. In Jesus, the vault was emptied for good.
The empty vault is good news.We can take each step trusting that our worth is held secure in a Savior, not a score.
The only exchange that occurs in this life with the Lord is the ever-flowing, inward-bound love of God from His heart to ours. The vault remains vacant, not cold or lacking, not prison-like, but rather a beautifully echoing reminder of just how free we are.
The scoreboards. They will probably always exist in this heart of mine. I’ll probably always crave the accolade and the award.
But by God’s grace, I pray that the empty vault becomes the place where I find my rest. I pray that the vault continues to empty throughout my life, the gold stripping away as God’s peace and security crowds out the gold stars.
I pray that the empty vault is the place where I come at the end of each day – the place away from the score keeping and striving, but ever-closer to my heart’s true home.