Tuesday. Blue sky, sunshine, pink and purple flowers dripping from pots and baskets over the newly remodeled city sidewalks and streets. New faces to give and receive greetings and smiles. Cobblestone accents. And the music spilling out from the church on the lake.
It was a good day. New, different, and uncertain. But still good.
The journal side of my blue planner reflected the feelings I had about Tuesday. But the only things I wrote about were some thoughts about the previous Sunday and the song the church was playing that noon. I walked the city sidewalks and streets to the notes of “I Need Thee Every Hour.”
I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.
I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
Oh, bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.
Goodness, I needed to just take a deep breath and realize how much I do need Jesus. There are far too many times when I think, “I’ve got this” when in actuality, that is about as far from the truth as it gets. It’s nothing but an illusion or a figment of my imagination that is no more real than the sidewalk paintings of scenes that look very real. A painted puddle is a puddle until you walk on top of it.
Living apart from Jesus can generate brilliant colors, vibrant sounds, and safe feelings that end right there. All things that give a false sense of having it all together. There is nothing wrong with feeling confident, living in certainty, embracing resilience; but there is something sadly wrong when we can find life and security in any of these away from Jesus.
I need him but he does not need me. A couple of years ago I read a quote that has stayed with me—“The greatest freedom in life is to not be needed anywhere.” There is a green light of truth in this statement—God does not need me and this is freedom. He invites me to be a character in his story but his story will go on whether or not I make an appearance in it or not. The loss is mine, not his. There is no obligation or burden to do a duty, perform, or please him. His purposes and plans will happen whether I am kicking and screaming like Jonah or calming holding my hands out like Mary, saying, “Your will be done in me.”
For most of my life I have needed to be needed. And I suspect I will fight this for the rest of my life. But the freedom that comes from not being needed by anyone or anywhere is liberating and life-giving. When I left in July, I was deeply confident my prayers would be answered and I had no worries or concerns about life in America when I was gone. I had many conversations with God about wanting life to go on as well without me in it as when I am fully present in my life. Jesus, you increase and I decrease. More of you and far less of me.
There was nothing that fell apart because I was gone, work continued on without me, all aspects of church functioned like I’d never left—or more poignantly, never even been a key on that piano. Even my cats thrived with my being gone. And it was exactly how I both wanted and needed it to be.
I came back ready to “own” what I left behind, but none of it owns me. More than ever, I am accepting of my “water” personality and just want to be poured out into any bottle or jar God chooses for me. The color, shape, and size of the vessel is insignificant. As Helen Roseveare so aptly said, “He can use me or hide me—it matters not. The choice is his.” I am here to live a life surrendered to him, with the realization that I am not needed.
Life changed for me in the Dominican Republic. More than ever, I desperately needed Jesus to go with me and I can’t fathom how much more difficult those few days would have been if I had done life without him. But I was also a team member on a trip that did not need me. And there was freedom in the fact that whatever I was doing could be done by someone else.
God doesn’t need me to do anything. He just wants me to be with him.
And that is the beauty of living with Jesus. We get to be poured out as offerings to our King who gave us everything. It is an honor to go with him. But because he doesn’t need me, it makes it that much more of a privilege to get to live a life of service for him. From peering into nearly blind eyes, to playing with kids, to praying, to trying to encourage Michael—all of it could have happened without me. But our gracious God allowed me to step into these moments of time and be that person.
So, more than ever, I was awakened to the fact that life for Jesus should be experienced as the honor it really is. And, someday, when my heart stops beating, all of life will still go on. His heart for the world will continue to keep on beating in a million different ways in just as many people who are committed to living surrendered lives to him.
Loved, chosen, and wanted? Absolutely. A thousand times, yes.