On Being a Tool

Credit: geishaboy500 on Flickr via Creative Commons

Credit: geishaboy500 on Flickr via Creative Commons

 

The youth group culture I grew up in strongly emphasized the idea that every person on earth was created for a purpose. We would talk about Esther having been saved “for such a time as this,” or young Daniel serving in a pagan king’s court. We wrote, typed, painted, and wore Jeremiah 29:11 all over ourselves. In some ways this is really good. I believe too many “adults” give up on dreams and passions and live lives of mediocrity without really even knowing why. Young people should absolutely be encouraged to pursue their passions, to allow the deep-seated need to contribute, invent, and live with purpose to drive their decisions regarding the future.

As a young Christian (young in both age and spirituality), however, these messages left me with the distinct impression that my primary role in life was to be a tool in the divine belt of the Carpenter God. Woven together with my codependent nature, general desperation for belonging, and relative purposelessness this became a tapestry before which I created a life of severe self-destruction. I was drawn to people as “projects,” people who seemed to need me, people with whom I was “called” to share the unconditional love of Christ. What this really meant was that I engaged in unhealthy relationships with manipulative and destructive people and forged with them symbiotic relationships of mutual harm. I was positively convinced that laying down my life meant sticking with these people regardless of the damage it might do to me. I was being used by God and that was all that mattered. I should take my lumps like Jesus did, suffering for love and for the Gospel.

I also often struggled with the idea that a Christian should love herself in order to love others well. I understand it in a psychological, even reasonable, way. But it seems really damned unspiritual, and there are plenty of teachers out there who will happily condemn the idea of self-esteem. It didn’t seem like it should matter that I avoided mirrors and hid my eyes when someone asked how I was doing. It shouldn’t affect my ability to love someone else when I flung hateful slurs at myself in my mind rapid-fire. Christian aren’t to think of themselves as important at all, right? I just need to be available to be used by God and if that meant taking someone back after the thirty-second time of abandonment or abuse to show them the unconditional love of Christ, then that’s what I was to do.

It took a decade of bad relationships, a season of clinical anxiety attacks due to a particularly insidious partnership, and months of therapy before I began to see how wrongly I had understood the command to love one another. I realized that trying to love someone else when I was so deeply broken and needy was like trying to give someone dying of thirst disease-ridden lake water. It only made everyone involved feel even worse in the end. Then I stumbled upon this idea by late, great Rich Mullins: “I would much rather have God want me than have God use me.”

I realized that my idea of God using me was the same as what I’d allowed others to do; it made me disposable. My therapist challenged the idea that God would call me to remain in a relationship that did violence to my soul. If I wasn’t ready to accept the need to love myself, could I at least accept the idea that God loved me too much to send me into destructive situations? Logically, that made sense. I started spending more time alone, turning off my cell phone despite the panic it caused in my mind, and slowing down. I started painting my nails strictly because it forced me to sit still for a few hours at a time. I discovered an aching chasm of need stuffed down in my soul, a place of desperation and clawing for any scraps of love or acceptance I could find. And deep in that pit was the girl who had tried so hard to love those people. She was so small, so full of ache and longing for them to reciprocate her affections. She was starving for love. She needed to be nourished, nursed back to health, before she’d ever actually be capable of the kind of unconditional love she thought she’d been offering.

I found her in the silence. She’s tended to in silence. When my world is full of noise, full of people, she is abandoned again and begins her fevered attempts to find strength on her own in the most destructive of ways. But when she is cared for, when she is healthy, she is capable of tremendous outpourings of true, pure, clear love. And when that love is spilling out over her edges into the world, without any striving or damage at all, she finds she is being used by God in the most beautiful of ways.

Am I a harp that the hand of the mighty may touch me, or a flute that his breath may pass through me?

A seeker of silences am I, and what treasure have I found in silences that I may dispense with confidence?

~ Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

 

Advertisements

Talk to me!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Reverend Fem

Reflections on queerness, womanness, and faith all in the name of doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly.

Catherine's Hope

Finding hope in unexpected places

Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind.

I write, not to be read, but for the pleasure of writing.

Christina Hite

Making a difference in my corner of the world

Thought Catalog

Thought Catalog is a digital youth culture magazine dedicated to your stories and ideas.

John Blase

The Beautiful Due

pragmaticMystery

Discovering God through everyday heresy.

Beth @ Racing Robsons

♥ Love the run you're with.

Ty Paluska

Love, Hospitality, Grace, Family, & Coffee

lanelle graffis's Blog

going old school in a modern world

provoke love

michaeldanner.net

Myabishai's Blog

Scriptural insights and contemporary perspectives

jessamynluong.com/

Just another WordPress.com site

%d bloggers like this: