Needed But Not Wanted, Part 1
There is this hurt I’ve been trying to understand for a long time. A deep imprint of sadness in my heart. I’ve been thinking a lot about how best to describe this pain— in a way that is liberating, healing and restoring for myself and others. As much as I have wrestled with my pride about sharing this, I’ve wrestled with my sense of hopelessness associated with a need to be vulnerable without over-exaggerating…
But this is my truth. Let freedom reign:
To whom much is given, much is required…
I have always been called to the front, whether I’ve wanted to lead or not. As the oldest of nine, I grew up with eight faces who looked up to me. When I made decisions about my life, I was always reminded to reflect on how that would look to them. Often the pressure to succeed that I feel at comes from a desire to get to a place where I can feel I am finally released from that pressure.
When I was fifteen or sixteen, I was asked to join the secretary on a youth group in a church I had decided to stop hating after a year or so of attending. Slowly, I found myself becoming a little more vocal, contributing ideas. I took notes during everything, from meetings to Bible study. I found that my Bible study notes contributed to a growing desire to study the word on my own, and so I did. At prayer meetings, I prayed with and for people and took initiative in prophesying and encouraging others. I began preaching and applying the knowledge I learned from my own studies.
I later discovered a community of Christians online and started a Skype bible study with some amazing people who were zealous after God. I took initiative in facilitating and teaching. That was an amazing time in my life, one where I was challenged by various perspectives and developed great relationships that continue on today.
I started doing spoken word when I was nineteen. I quickly found that to be something I enjoyed doing, and a “palatable” way for myself to share the gospel. It combined a number of things I loved: writing, the Bible, and teaching. No one told me I was a minister and no one told me I had a ministry…those words are only used in retrospect as I remember the churches and events I traveled to for a period of three years.
In the midst of that somewhere, I started playing guitar for worship and I’d always been writing my own songs. In the last three years of my life (sorry if this timeline is a little hard to follow, bare with me), music has been a major part of how God is using me.
And I’m not done. There’s more. Through it all, I’ve gotten the sense that I would be good at anything I tried my hand at. There are more skills and gifts I’ve used to serve the Church and much more I’ve yet to discover. It’s a good and yet scary thing, something that creates a constant stream of confusion in my life. But this isn’t about my call, despite how misleading this introduction is.
There were times I tell myself that I would rather have no gifts, no intelligence, no sense of humor…if it meant I had more friends. If it meant that guys would not be intimidated by me. If it meant that my phone lit up with requests for my company in fun activities rather than an endless stream of tasks and opportunities to serve. If it means that I could be called on for being “wanted” and not “needed,” whatever that means.
Compliments used to scare me because they indicated the distance that people felt and that I felt. Just like the eight that come after me, I didn’t want to let anyone down. When I said “yes” to things, it was in a response to the desire to maintain the “need” people had for me, despite desperately longing to be wanted.
My saddest moments happen after I minister or serve in any capacity. Those moments often lead to the heaviest depression, because I often feel most alone when I am forced to stand out in any way — especially when I am standing out by myself. If there is no one to sit with me or talk to me afterward I will usually find a place to cry and pray those feelings away as best as I can.
I know that Jesus calls us to come and die, but if it looks anything like this, it is a dark and scary death. It’s not life-giving or joyful.
I know he invites us to carry his cross…and if it looks anything like this, it is incredibly lonely and painful.
I know Jesus calls us to deny ourselves. If it looks anything like this, it is pleasureless and insufferable.
…who’s to blame?
I cannot blame the Church. I cannot blame the people who have needs. I cannot blame the call. I cannot blame Jesus. I cannot strip myself of what God has given me to make my life any easier.
Perhaps the blame goes to this story that I’ve crafted in my mind about a lonely girl in the company of God and gifting alone. Or maybe it’s my brain chemistry, which is naturally inclined to depression.
Maybe there’s fault on all sides or maybe I have missed something.
But whatever it is, sometimes I cannot fight anymore. But I know I’m not alone.
And I am slowly beginning to feel that less and less. I am slowly beginning to love myself more and that includes my giftedness. I used to hesitate to use that word, but I realize that it would be false humility to deny God-given abilities. When I use my gifts, I try to use them from a place of confidence over doubt. From a place of God’s acceptance and self-denial that is focused on others.
I am surrounded still, by need. Somehow I am beginning to see that some of it is my own — I am just as culpable in my own distance if I am not making efforts to self-advocate: That means reaching out, expressing my needs and desire for more in relationships.
People could get my story confused if they think that what I can do has anything to do with making me who I am. My story could get confused if people think what I do ever makes me feel better than them — I am still recovering from the desire for superficial friendships that look like acceptance and “wantedness.”
Jesus has called me, and sometimes I want to serve him to death, whether it is lonely or not. But sometimes I fight the weakness of my self-pitying tenancies which not only lead to the detriment of not only his Gospel, but his imago Dei in me.
…Jesus was needed but not wanted.
If anyone understands the loneliness of the call, it’s Jesus.
If anyone understands what it means to be needed but not wanted, it’s Jesus.
He felt the denial and separationfrom his friends.
He felt the chasm that separated him from those who did not share the same call as him. (Honestly, just like, pick any passage where Jesus is talking to the Pharisees.)
He retreated to quiet spaces to pray, despite the pressing demand of those who needed him…
If anyone understands the pain of sacrifice, it’s Jesus. His moment on the cross was one of equal elevation and humility. For a moment, he was separated from the Father. But there was no one else who could’ve done it.
…Is it better to be needed or wanted?
So I ask myself:
If you had the choice to go back, insert moments of more fun, more friends and less tears, would you do it? If you could erase all your gifts and be married with kids right now, would you do it?
Not at the expense of God-glorifying moments of sharing the gospel and bringing souls to Christ. If the decision comes down to lives and souls versus my loneliness, I want to be able to choose the path that Jesus did — even as I know it comes with a lot of tears and pain.
But it would be wrong for me to stop here, because Jesus never gave up on the “wanted” piece and he definitely wasn’t always alone. He made those choices the way he did because people were unable to love him in right relationship without his sacrifice.
This is where I am not like Jesus, and this is where I am coming to understand that a life of fruitlessness is giving up on wanting more of Jesus. If I settle for less than my all for the ease and approval of people, I would accept a superficial relationship with Jesus that hinges on a need for his grace, while sacrificing the desire to do life with my best friend.
…Jesus wants me.
This truth boggles my mind all the time. The reality that Jesus did what he did on the cross to bring me into relationship with him. To know that using my gifts in the kingdom of God is an invitation, not a demand. It’s a blessing, not a curse. It’s a celebration.
I struggle with what it means to be “wanted but not needed” because it’s not normal in human relationships. Even now, I find it hard to orient myself around friendships of both; of trust, of giving love and receiving love.
But Jesus wants me. That makes me worthy of a life of fulfillment. That makes for the kind of life that is situated in the liberation of daily sacrificial love —
Love that wrestles with and wins against my “needed but not wanted” story and reminds me of my eternal identity as one who is wanted, period.
This story is far from over.
Originally posted on Medium.com on October 30, 2017.