I have a reoccurring nightmare in my life. I imagine I am walking to the end of a long pier. The entire horizon lay in front of me and I can go anywhere, do anything. It paralyzes me.
How could I ever make a decision like that? Anything? Really? Over and over in my life, I feel like I’ve come to this same place. A wide place of possibility and opportunity… and paralyzing indecision.
At 18, I ran back down the pier into an early marriage.
And then I began having babies.
Babies take your eyes off the horizon and pull you into a vortex of need.
The three of them defined decades and days.
And then I began serving in my local church.
Churches take your eyes off the horizon and pull you into a vortex of need.
Ministry and the needs of others defined decades and days.
And then I jumped into my career.
This work took my eyes off the horizon and pulled me into a vortex of need.
The demands of my work have defined my days in the last decade.
But what if I don’t want to give my life to my work? What if I want to give it a part of my life, not the whole thing? What if I want work or church or family to be part of my life. Not. The. Whole. Damn. Thing.
I function best, feel safest when I am needed. At work, at church, at home… I need to be needed. When people need you, they let you stay. As someone who has struggled with insecurity my whole life, being needed is a pretty good gig. Until it isn’t. Until is sucks the very life from your bones.
Being needed isn’t the same as being loved, or valued, or called. You are needed for a service you provide. When you stop providing, you are no longer needed or loved or valued. It’s very much a transactional arrangement. There is an illusion of control involved in being needed. When you care about me because of what I provide, I feel like I have some control. As long as I continue to provide, you continue to care.
Love is different… it’s a risk. Love doesn’t require a performance, love asks for my presence. It is risky and unsafe. Love asks for who I am, not what I can do. This has been such a painful and hard-fought lesson for me.
But maybe it isn’t the need or the love of others, I should be considering. What if, rather than focusing on others love for me, I focused on my love for them. What if instead of need, I relied on love to motivate and engage my world. Not the world’s love for me, or my need to be loved and safe, but my love for others.
If my life were to be defined by love, God’s love for me, and my love for others… would it look different? I think so. Amazingly different. Then maybe ministry and service would flow out from love rather than need. Maybe, I could choose where to pour out my gifts, time, and talents rather than letting my circumstances, need for approval, and insecurity dictate my hours, days, and decades. Maybe then, I could give freely. Offering overflow from my life, rather than the very life from my bones.
But there is a risk in living differently. Not everyone will understand. I will have to learn to listen, to be still, to wait. I will have to learn to recognize my limitations. I will say no to people, to needs, to very good things in order to say yes to the things that are mine to accomplish. I will have to give up the illusion of control, people will be disappointed (let’s face it, they already were), and I will have to let them be.
Finally, I am ready to find a small boat, tied to the end of this pier and set sail into the unknown. To let the Wind and the Spirit move me out beyond the horizon, where I lose touch with the safety of the shore and give myself to the One who holds my future.