If you have known me for any length of time I have probably done something for you. I’ve helped you move, I’ve built you a website, I’ve fixed your computer, I’ve done a video for you, I’ve given you a thoughtful gift … Over time those have become my go to “doing things for you” things.
But, beneath the surface, there may have been so much more to it than you ever knew.
I truly enjoy the journey and adventure of learning to do things. I love the early stages of encountering something that fascinates me, learning the depth of how it works and how it is done, awkwardly attempting it in the beginning and slowly developing the ability over time. It’s such a blast for me. Because of that passion, over time I have collected a smorgasbord of abilities as I’ve moved from one thing to the other. Combine that with an upbringing within a culture of “be like Jesus and serve others constantly” and seeing that modeled by adults all around me, and, somewhat naturally, I developed a pattern of attempting to use those abilities to meet the needs of other people to gain their love and acceptance. My actions might have had all appearances of being from a place of humility, generosity, a servant heart (and chances are that is what it was birthed from), but beneath the outward appearance, quite often it had almost nothing to do with any of that and everything to do with me getting something from someone.
It was a pitifully flawed way of approaching life.
In this pattern, I sought to meet needs so that I could be loved and accepted. For example, I can remember it starting as far back in elementary school where I, desperately struggling to make friends, would let the cool kids cheat off my test or copy my homework. This pattern only continued and became more serious as I moved through adolescence and into adulthood.
Constantly watching and listening to those around me, I would jump at the chance to meet almost any need for any person. With no shortage of opportunities, I became really busy meeting all these needs. I became the go-to need meeter. I became this person and that person’s go-to need meeter and they told a few friends and I got a few more. Before I knew it, I had volunteered to do so many things that I couldn’t even do them all and I slowly grew tired from all the needs I’d been trying to meet. As the burden that I placed on myself increased, I became less capable of following through on my commitments because of the continually mounting deficit of time or energy remaining to accomplish them all. Sometimes I’d even volunteer to do something I didn’t actually know how to do, but in an effort to earn that extra level of love, I’d volunteer anyway and try to figure it out. So, as a result, the victims of my unknown pattern would become frustrated with me or ultimately disappointed, leaving me to feel even less loved and accepted than before I volunteered. On the occasion that I did manage to pull it off, the person would in reality end up loving or accepting me not because of who I was as a person, but because of what I did for them. Mostly due to no fault of their own, to be clear, but because that’s the only thing I’d given them a chance to love. All the while, I would find myself with no time left to do things I love doing or spend with the people who do actually love me, and I would continue to dig my hole deeper each day, volunteering to do more.
What a disaster.
Being accepted and loved is a basic human need. Right up there with food, water and shelter. When we take an honest look at how we live and why we do the things we do, it’s easily seen. We spend our lives looking for it. Somewhere along the way, I developed the belief that to be loved or accepted, it was up to me, myself, and I to earn it. I developed the belief that the real me is not acceptable or lovable enough on its own, but that I needed to do something (or a lot of things) to get those results. This especially applied to the love and acceptance of others – family, friends, even people I hardly knew – and not so much God. I know many people develop the same pattern with earning God’s love and acceptance, and it can be even more toxic, but truthfully I’m not sure I ever left a whole lot of room for God to love me in those days. I’m not sure it actually even crossed my mind. I was determined to get it elsewhere and He never really got much of a chance.
So what happened? How and why am I writing from this new perspective in such a self-revealing way? Well, everything changed when the system of love and acceptance I’d crafted together for myself with tape and glue and string came painfully crashing down. After spending years of trying to do, do, and do enough to be loved, the person that meant the most to me rejected me in the deepest way imaginable, and I was left looking for answers. The one “love” I’d put on such a high pedestal had been shattered. Yep, that’ll shake things up a bit.
For the first time I was so beautifully vulnerable to the love of God and He poured it on thick.
The truth was revealed to me that God actually loves me, and that His love for me is significant, unconditional, and real. That love is actually enough for me, unlike what I’d tried to earn for all those years. That was true all along, I was just far too busy trying my own way of getting it to ever experience it.
Now would be a great time to throw in a go to cliché Bible verse like John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave…”
It’s actually really sad that my impression of such a powerful message of God’s love could even feel cliché, but I’m being honest and I’d be willing to bet you feel the same if your story is anything like mine. I’ve heard that line so often, yet it hasn’t felt true looking back at how I have lived and sought love.
Nevertheless, I am now convinced that understanding the reality and sufficiency God’s love and having a revelation of it is the only thing that what will enable us to be our true selves and to genuinely love others for their true selves. In some way we are all trying our best to get that need for love met. We will continue to come up short until we allow ourselves to stop our striving and be vulnerable to the love of God that he eagerly waits for us to enjoy. I still slip into my old patterns, and I am still learning how to set healthy boundaries and resist the urge to do things my old way. But, I’m doing better than I was yesterday, and I’m excited for tomorrow. The best part is I’ve had a taste of something better and no matter how far I drift from it I can’t forget the flavor and shake its craving.
I’m so grateful to be in this new season. A season where God’s love is being revealed to me more each day as significant, real, genuine, and unconditional. A season of knowing and becoming more comfortable with the truth that love cannot actually be earned, even when I try, but must be freely given and freely received. A season of having the opportunity to love others as I really am for who they really are from the overflow of God’s love that really exists. I’m even grateful for the years of trying and trying and trying and the disaster that was to follow, all of which set me up to have this unbelievable encounter with real love, not the counterfeit I’d so tirelessly been pursuing. I am grateful for a season of freedom in love.
We were born for it.
Originally published on EvanDixon.com