Does God use people, or does He love them?
Does God love objects or does He use them?
Early this summer, my spiritual director lent me a copy of Rich Mullins: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven. It is part devotional and part biography of the Christian singer and song writer and his journey in faith—the asking, seeking, and coming to accept the answers to our questions about life, God, and faith. Rich is probably most famous for the song “Awesome God”.
On page 73 (in the chapter titled, “The Love of God: Encountering the Reckless, Raging Fury”), this paragraph pulled the rug out from under my feet:
Rich knew that most of the people who came to listen to him play in concert were people like him: they wanted to serve God, and be used of God, and yet had never settled into the blessed assurance of being loved. He liked to tell a story about his own realization of this truth: “When I was in Thailand, I met a missionary. And I was talking to her and I said, ‘You know, I just want the Lord to use me.’ And she said, ‘Well, forget it. God doesn’t need you for anything. God doesn’t want to use you. He wants you to love him.’”
To be honest, this kind of depressed me for a few days. In not so many words, I had been praying for God to use me. I had wanted God to use me to reach other people, to be of service for Him and for others, to be a useful part of the Body of Christ. And now, I’m was being told that God will not use me, never has and never will.
What about the few times where I thought I saw the Holy Spirit working? The few rare times where I thought maybe God was using me?
Flashback to Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42. Doing versus being—my constant struggle for balance. Doing is easy, sometimes. The ego is satisfied when a task is completed. Or guilt and/or failure sets in if the task is not. In doing, at least you know you are doing something. In being, how do you just be?
Do you see the irony in that question? How do you be? It’s back to do-ing in attempting to be-ing. What a vicious circle! (I just have to smile at myself when I get into these kinds of mind-knots.)
Maybe it goes back to what I wrote above. It was I who wanted, not what God wants. Me, my desires, not God’s. Oh, the ego is soooo sneaky.
After a few days, I decided not to make myself upset over this anymore. I resolved to relax, pray some more, be open, listen, and wait for light to this dilemma. It will come eventually. (I have learned to let go of such things the hard way, after much fruitless mental effort on many things spiritual. Another lesson in patience.)
Light came in the simple words my spiritual director said a week later. “God loves people; He uses objects.” The same thing we are called to do.
God loves people and uses things. People are not things, so God does not use them. To use a person denies him or her free will. Take away free will and there is no love. We are given the freedom to choose to cooperate or not with God.
I can forget about praying for God to use me. God won’t. At best, God will grace me so that I can see the choices that need to be made to cooperate with Him. My cooperation will fall short, but God will fill in the rest.
How unbelievably liberating and scary this is! There are no excuses for me. The responsibility is mine. I am not an object to be used. I am not a slave for God to manipulate within the world. I am free to coorperate, or not to cooperate.
I always knew the choice was mine. I just didn’t conscienciously recognize the extent of that choice. Again, how liberating and scary and awesome that is!
I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. (John 15:15)
Friends do not use each other. They love each other, serve each other, be with each other.