I’m learning what it means to descend, which is so revolutionary it often leaves me gasping. I have been trying to ascend my entire life. Up, up, next level, a notch higher, the top is better, top of the food chain, all for God’s work and glory, of course. The pursuit of ascension is crippling and has stunted my faith more than any other evil I’ve battled. It has saddled me with so much to defend, and it doesn’t deliver. I need more and more of what doesn’t work. I’m insatiable, and ironically, the more I accumulate, the less I enjoy any of it. Instead of satisfaction, it produces toxic fear in me; I’m always one slip away from losing it all.
Consequently, my love for others is tainted because they unwittingly become articles for consumption. How is this person making me feel better? How is she making me stronger? How is he contributing to my agenda? What can this group do for me? I am an addict, addicted to the ascent and thus positioning myself above people who can propel my upward momentum and below those who are also longing for a higher rank and might pull me up with them. It feels desperate and frantic, and I’m so done being enslaved to the elusive top rung.
When Jesus told us to “take the lowest place” (Luke 14:10), it was more than a strategy for social justice. It was even more than wooing us to the bottom for communion, since that is where He is always found. The path of descent becomes our own liberation. We are freed from the exhausting stance of defense. We are no longer compelled to be right and are thus relieved from the burden of maintaining some reputation. We are released from the idols of greed, control, and status. The pressure to protect the house of cards is alleviated when we take the lowest place.
The ascent is so ingrained in my thought patterns that it has been physically painful to experience reformation at the bottom. The compulsion to defend myself against misrepresentation nearly put me in the grave last year. I was tormented by chaotic inner dialogues, and there were days I was so plagued with protecting my rung that I couldn’t get out of bed. With every step lower, the stripping-away process was more excruciating. I had no idea how tightly I clung to reputation and approval or how selfishly I behaved to maintain it. Getting to the top requires someone else to be on the bottom; being right means someone else needs to be wrong. It is the nature of the beast.
(Jen Hatmaker, Interrupted, pgs. 64-65)