Is it me or is it my gifts? (Choosing me? Part 2)
Hello. Hello! Welcome back to part 2 of the conversation "Choosing me?" where we are investigating why God is so committed to us. In part 1, titled "Why do you even care?", I shared the story behind how God insisted he wanted a deeper relationship beyond my obedience which prompted me to ask why he even cared about me at all. His response was the breakdown of all that goes into pre-planning parenthood. The concept not only revolutionized the way I thought about relationship with God, but it also exposed several of the traumas blocking me from being able to see God the way he wanted to be seen. To those who aren't quite caught up on the conversation and want to read where it all started, click here. To those who are caught up and ready to dive into part 2, let's get to it.
Most of the articles I've written, and plan to write in the future, are on topics that I've had full revelation on and am no longer in the midst of processing. So when I say I wasn't expecting a new question to pop up while I was working on part 1...I mean it. Only God would jump right in the middle of my plans and rearrange everything like I wasn't already working on something. Nevertheless, I can honestly say I'm glad this question came up now, as opposed to later, because the question itself triggered me in a way I wasn't expecting. As I was nearing the conclusion that God does indeed want me for me, I couldn't help but keep wondering:
Is it me he wants or just the purpose he put in me?
I've never been one to run from a question, but I was low key running from this one because I thought I knew the answer and for once, I didn't want to hear it. I've spent my entire life being used for my gifts or my wisdom. I can honestly say that I would've felt betrayed by God to find out that everything I've gone through, from his pursuit of me to our intimate conversations, was all to serve his benefit alone without actually caring about me as an individual. The more I thought about how committed God has shown he is to my purpose, the more I couldn't imagine God really just wanting me for me. Especially since, the voice of my favorite pastor had gotten stuck in my head.
My favorite pastor is constantly talking about how God is committed to nothing more than he is to his will and his purpose for your life. The way he preaches often comes with a connotation that God really doesn't care how you feel about what he wants out of you. God only cares about his will for your life. If you are unwilling to cooperate, he will find someone else to take your place. It is true that God is dedicated to his will above all else and will keep looking for someone to fulfill his plans if you are unwilling to participate. However, the heartless, empathy lacking, slave driving perception loaded in the way this pastor sometimes preaches God, leaves one to believe that God doesn't really care about how his will makes you feel.
My own personal experience with God has disproved that perception on numerous occasions. He spent the first several years of our relationship teaching me how to be honest about how I feel regarding what he said. He will even go so far as to stop me from executing an instruction until I'm honest about how it makes me feel. So I know, for a fact, that God is very much concerned about how his will makes us feel and will work us through those feelings until we are on the same page. My question went beyond that.
I started questioning the motive behind his sudden increase of attention to my needs. I wanted to know if the therapy sessions, the intimate father-daughter moments and the conversations was all just to further his long term agenda for my life. To bottom line the question into a harsher light, I wanted to know if he was just manipulating me to get what he wanted from me. I think somewhere along the line of this conversation, my inner movie buff was worried that God was really like the silent villain in the movie, who befriends and gets close to the kid with all the power. He starts giving the kid gifts and promises to train him. Suddenly the villain is the answer to all the kid's prayers and becomes something of a father figure to the kid, giving the kid the impression that the silent villain really cares about him...Until the kid gets to the end of the story and realizes the villain was just manipulating him for the villain's own personal gain.
For someone who's been used, abused and manipulated by people she thought really cared about her, you can see how and why I started to freak out at the thought that God really just wanted me for the purpose he put in me and not me as an individual. After all, he does intentionally create us with a specific purpose. The reason he has as much grace and mercy for our mistakes is because he knows those same mistakes will work to the advantage of our purpose in the back end. Why, then, would it be so hard to believe that God doesn't actually care about me as an individual? Why would it be so hard to believe that all this careful time and attention to me was really just him doing what he needed to do to ensure he got me to execute my purpose to the best of my ability?
This train of thinking worried me so much, God had me stop working on part 1 and go for a drive so we could talk about it in depth. Pause. Picture me parked in a planet fitness parking lot, at night, 25 minutes from my house, looking at God like fam this ain't cool. How are you going to explain this one? You already know how I feel about being used. The answer? Insert the movie Gifted, starring Chris Evans, here.
If you've never seen the movie, the movie buff in me has to recommend it even though I'm about to give major spoilers. The movie itself is about a little girl named Mary, who is a genius level mathematician being raised by her uncle Frank. After Mary's mother committed suicide, due to the emotional and mental strain of focusing all her time and attention solving one of the world's hardest math problems, Frank wants Mary to live the normal life of a little girl. Franks plans are interrupted when the new school Mary starts attending realizes how intelligent Mary is. The school calls in her estranged grandmother, Evelyn, in hopes that she would put Mary on the same path Mary's mother once walked. For context, Evelyn originally wanted nothing to do with Mary until she realized Mary was intelligent like Mary's mother, Diane. The entire movie focuses around the custody battle between Frank and Evelyn and the reasons why they want Mary to live the life they think she should live.
When God and I started talking about whether or not God was just using me, of course God said no. He was adamant about the fact that he was indeed concerned with my mental and emotional health apart from my purpose. I don't know about yal, but I debate hard and heavy with God. So you can cool believe I had a counter. My counter was this: In order for me to execute my purpose to the best of my abilities, he would have to make sure that I was mentally and emotionally healthy. Which means, his desire for me to be mentally and emotionally healthy was still for the benefit of his long term agenda for my life. The debate king of the universe came back with a counter in the form of the life of Mary's mother, Diane.
Diane spent her entire life working to solve this one major math problem. She had no life or friends. She never took breaks or went on vacation. Every moment was spent working and it was breaking her down on the inside. Diane actually wanted a life outside of solving math problems, but her mother, Evelyn, was in the way. Evelyn kept Diane's entire focus on math, no matter what else Diane wanted to do. At one point, Diane fell in love with a guy and tried to run away with him, but Evelyn called the cops and put a restraining order on him. Over the years, Diane started to break down mentally and emotionally under the strain and pressure from her mother to figure out the math problem. The end result? Diane committed suicide, leaving behind her infant daughter, Mary. Evelyn was devastated because she thought Diane hadn't finished the math problem. What you find out at the end is that Diane did finish the problem, she just didn't want her mom to know.
God's point was that if all he really cared about was my executing his grand purpose for my life, he could've very well pushed and pressured me into it. He could've very well been exactly like how Evelyn was with her daughter, giving no freedom or regard for my needs and desires or my mental and emotional health. Still, I would've executed his plan to the T. He then pointed out, that if it wasn't for his interference, I would've tried to execute my purpose until I killed myself with it, like Diane was forced to execute hers. Except in my case, I wouldn't have committed literal suicide, but I would've continued to commit mental and emotional suicide.
I told you before, I was born and bread a machine. I was never without a material desire, but I was deprived of my mental and emotional needs growing up. So much so, that I learned early, it doesn't matter how a situation or person is making you feel. It's about what other people want, what other people need and what others expect from you. What I wanted or needed was irrelevant. If I should make the grave mistake of pointing out how something made me feel, the fact of the situation was often thrown in my face and then twisted into half truths, false accusations and blame I hadn't earned. So by the time I was a teenager, I was locked up and locked down.
I remember having asthma and pushing myself in school runs until I collapsed because, in my mind asthma, was just an excuse to quit. I remember tolerating abusive relationships because I didn't see abuse. I only saw what the other person needed. If I thought about what I needed, I would, and still struggle not to, think that it was my fault I was uncomfortable or unhappy in these abusive relationships. My work ethic was unparalleled. I didn't care how much the task was hurting or draining me. I was going to get it done. Somewhere along the line, I became oblivious to my own pain. It took God sending me a new friend, who's work ethic wasn't like mine, to point out how much I was suffering and struggling. Through her, God had to teach me how to accept help. Yes. I had to be taught how to ask for help and then sit through a thousand therapy sessions with God to learn it was okay that I couldn't do it all myself.
So when God said his attention to the details of my life and my mental and emotional health wasn't just about me executing my purpose, he already had receipts. He'd already interrupted the emotionally and mentally destructive path I was on and exposed the pain other people needed me to remain oblivious to so that I could keep serving them. He was the one who taught me it was okay to take breaks and enjoy the little moments in life, like the latest movie or eating a good meal at a restaurant.
The clip on the right is literally what I look like with God. He'd pull me away from my obsessive work habits and encourage me to go for a walk or sit by the pool and enjoy the Georgia heat.
The therapy sessions and dates with God were all necessary to give me back my sanity and take me off the suicidal path I was on, all by myself. He was quick to point out through Diane, that he didn't have to do all of that, but he wanted to because he wanted me to enjoy life beyond servanthood. Not only did he have four years of receipts, buddy came out of pocket with bible receipts too! He parked me right in front of the first few chapters of Ecclesiastes.
Now I would encourage all of you to read it yourself, but I warn you it does sound a little depressing at first. Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon who was one of, if not, the wisest King in Jerusalem's history. Solomon spends the first few chapters basically talking about how he wanted to experience all that life had to offer. So he worked hard to earn all that life had to offer. He built houses, owned land, had an extensive amount of property, was royally rich and had everything his heart desired. His problem was he was blessed with the wisdom to know that it was all, what the bible calls, "meaningless".
He spends a great bit of time talking about how all the material and in material things of the world, including wisdom and knowledge, are meaningless. After the 800th "meaningless" mentioned, I found myself wondering why God had me reading this book, until I realized that by meaningless Solomon meant that you can have all that life has to offer but it's all temporary. He was trying to point out that you only live a short amount of time on earth until you die and when you die you can't take any of what you've achieved, built or acquired on earth with you. Everything you gain becomes meaningless when you die. So if you are going to have these things and live this life, you might as well enjoy it while you can.
If you're anything like me, you're probably thinking, Okay? So what? Most of us knew that already. We didn't need the bible to tell us that. And you would be right. But if you've grown up in a church that seems to glorify struggle and poverty as if they are synonymous with humility before God, than it would shock you to find that if you keep reading, Solomon also says that enjoying this life is a gift from God. Ecclesiastes 3: 12-13 says "I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil (the work they do) - this is the gift of God."
When I read this part and a few other parts like this, I...hit...Pause! Wayment...Way..ment! You mean to tell me that I spent my entire life struggling to come to terms with the religious teaching that poverty and pain was the framework of a life with God, when, in actuality, God made a point to say...in...his....bible...that life can only be enjoyed with him??? This ladies and gentlemen is why I always encourage people to read the bible for themselves, not just take the word of someone else, but I digress.
To clarify, yes, there are seasons of long suffering and struggle, but God never intended for the entirety of your life to be lived suffering as you hold onto the promise that all this pain will be rewarded when you die and get to Heaven. The bible actually says in Ecc. 2: 24, "A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see is from the hand of God." You only toil (work) while you're on earth, which proves that God intended for you to enjoy your life while you're still living.
Now, of course, there is always a second clause. The rest of that same section, Ecc. 2:25-26, says, "for without him (God), who can eat or find enjoyment? To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This to is meaningless, a chasing after the wind." You can acquire all the things of life, but if you don't acquire them through God, and his will for life, than you won't ever be able to enjoy them. Acquiring all the things of life without God will be like the bible says in Ecc 1: 7. "All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from there they return again." Without God, you'll never be satisfied no matter how much or what you acquire.
So to sum up all of his receipts, both bible and personal experience, God always intended for us to enjoy life and does indeed care about us as an individual. Yes, we have purpose. Yes, God is dedicated to the fulfillment of that purpose, but God is so God that he can work you towards your purpose and give you the desires of your heart at the same time. It's actually apart of his will for you to heal and enjoy the small amount of time we have on earth. Yes, there will be some rough seasons, but "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end." (Ecc. 3:11). In other words, on the other side of those rough seasons, comes something beautiful and fulfilling.
Before you go, I feel the need to clarify something. In Ecc. 2:26 it mentions the one who pleases God vs the sinner. Understand, pleasing God and perfection are not the same thing. I plan on exploring this topic more later, but pleasing God means giving your best effort to try and live the life God has for you. That effort does include the natural mistakes that come with being human. There is a difference between sinning and being a sinner. You can sin and not be a sinner because to be a sinner means you've chosen the life of continuous, habitual sin, in complete disregard for the life and expectations of God. Sinning just means you made a mistake that is considered a sin. All God requires is effort towards a life with him. That's it. So to those who beat themselves up for making mistakes, put the bat down. You are officially beating yourself up more than God ever will.
And on that note! Let's talk. What are your thoughts on this topic? Comment below!