Abandoning the God Who Uses

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by Linda Rex

Occasionally I will be talking with someone and they will use the expression, “I just want God to use me.” Over the years, this expression has really started to bother me. A while back I remember responding to someone who said they would like the church to feel free to use them by saying, “I don’t want to use you, but I would be happy to include you.” This, I believe, would be God’s response to us.

Lately, that expression, “I want God to use me” has begun to pop up over and over. In fact, at our weekly discussion group this topic came up. We’d been talking about having healthy boundaries with one another and how people with boundary issues either use other people, or allow themselves to constantly be used.

And I had a conversation this week with my daughter about this very thing. She and I had concluded, why would anyone want to have a relationship with a God who uses them? Why in the world would anyone want to give their heart and life to someone who would only use them? Yet we use this type of language about God and his church.

The reason this bothers me so much, I believe, is God is not a God who uses people. He may work with people or through people, but he does not “use” people like someone would use a tool or instrument—as a lifeless object or thing, rather than a living, breathing being with its own personhood and value. God is so protective of our personhood and our being. He has not created robots—he has created beings with their own will and with the freedom to make independent decisions.

Now, granted, God has a way of working through people to accomplish his will. It is arrogant of us as humans to think we live apart from God’s constant intervention in and direction of our cosmos and our personal lives. But he does it in such a way he values us as creatures, not using us merely as lifeless tools.

Yes, the pharoah in Moses’ day was a “vessel for wrath”, but not because God used him so much as God worked with his human proclivity to rebel, control, and destroy. Just as the pharoah was free to make his own choices, so God is free to do with us as he pleases—but what God does with us is always rooted in his love and grace, and in his desire to have all humanity share in his life, his purposes and his plans. (Romans 9:17–18)

God has been working out a plan in our world since before time began. But the accomplishment of that plan required at one point that Jesus be crucified. Isn’t it interesting Jesus included Judas Iscariot in his calling the disciples into relationship with himself? Why would Jesus include someone whom he knew would betray him? He did not use Judas Iscariot, but he certainly included him in his plan, and allowed him to play a critical and necessary, though negative part.

I am reminded of Jesus’ conversation with his disciples where he told them, “I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.” (John 15:15 NLT) There is a difference between a slave whom you order around and use, and a friend whom you confide in and share your desires, hopes and dreams with. God chooses to share his heart and his life with us—we see this in the gift of his Son and his Spirit. And he does this even at risk of us rejecting him, betraying him, and hating him.

God invites us into deeper relationship with him all the time. He draws us up into his life through the gift of his Son Jesus and by the gift of his Spirit. He says to us, “Come see what I am doing—you can be a part of it. This is my kingdom life. Let’s live in it together in love, joy and peace.”

For someone who has spent much of their childhood, or even their adult life, being used and abused by other people, especially those who should have cared for and protected them, this invitation to relationship is refreshing, though scary. Being used they understand—that is a simple concept. But being called into relationship? That is a whole other concept.

Being called into relationship means not only owning our own stuff and being responsible for what is ours, but also refusing to own what belongs to another and allowing them to carry their own load. Being called into relationship means taking risks and allowing someone else the power to do something we would not choose to do. It means getting out of our heads and into our hearts—being willing to be rejected, abandoned and hurt for the sake of truly loving and serving another person. But this is what God did in Christ, and what he does for us all the time.

I’ve been reading Wm. Paul Young’s latest book, Lies We Believe About God and just this morning started to read Chapter 6—“God Wants to Use Me”. He writes this:

“…for people who come from sexual-abuse history, the last thing in the world we want is to be “used” by anyone, even by God!

  God is a relational being: that is who God is. The language of God is about partnering, cocreating, and participating; it’s about an invitation to dance and play and work and grow.”

If we pay attention, we recognize the difference in our interactions with others between being used and being loved. One is healthy—the other is extremely unhealthy.

As Wm. Paul Young goes on to say, healthy, loving parents would never apply this type of language in conversation about their own children. I could never imagine saying to my daughter, “Just let me use you in this.” It’s just not a sound-minded way of interacting with another human being. So why do we think God interacts with us in this way?

Maybe this is just a matter of semantics. But I really do believe for some of us, it is a reflection of what we in our heart of hearts believe about God, and it needs to be changed. May God open our eyes and hearts to see and know him as the God he really is—the relational God of love— who through Jesus our Lord and by his Spirit invites us into an everlasting relationship of grace and love.

Abba, forgive us for projecting onto you our unhealthy ways of thinking, believing and acting. You are not the Person we so often make you out to be. Transform our hearts by faith. Heal our minds and our thoughts. Bring us into the truth you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus. Fill us, Holy Spirit, with a clear vision and deep understanding of the real relationship of grace and love we are included in through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” John 15:12–16 NASB

Seriously, God?

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by Linda Rex
Seriously, God? audio by Linda Rex

Recently I’ve been reminded of the importance of taking each day as it comes. Last week I had made plans to take some time off to catch up on some things at home. When I’m busy doing ministry, sometimes other important things get left until later when I can get to them.

So having made these plans, I took my mom to her doctor appointment. From there, we ended up in the hospital for several days. It seems that it was a good thing that I took time off, but God had something else he wanted me to do during that time. It was more important that I be with my mother than it was to get those other things done.

I’ve never thought that much before about how arrogant it is for us to assume that we know what we are going to do with each moment of each day before it ever happens. Really, when I think about it, I can’t help but realize that I have no control of what’s going to happen to me or to those whom I have made plans with or for. I can sketch out a pretty good to-do list, but what gets done is another story all together.

I don’t know whether you have had the experience of having your day all planned out and then having it go a different direction entirely. Like the time I made a simple trip to find food during my lunch hour, and ended up in conversation with a police officer about the lady who had backed her car into mine but insisted that I was at fault. That day was a complete disaster in many ways, but in the end, it all worked out.

When we come to see that all of life is holy and caught up in the life and love of God himself, we find that the everyday things are full of encounters with the divine. Life isn’t just something we do on our own, under our own power, but is a relationship we share with Father, Jesus and the Spirit. We walk, moment by moment, in a way that takes into account the reality that we are not alone, but are participating in Christ’s life in this world.

We can act as if we are all on our own, without anyone having any say in our decisions or in our activities or relationships. Or we can act as if all of life involves a sharing with God. In other words, we quit going through life as though we are alone. It’s not just I now. It’s we—our divine Dad, our divine Brother, our living Breath—all share life with us, in us and for us. We’re never alone.

Acting as if we are in a real relationship with God means being in an ongoing conversation with him. It means that no matter what we do, we do it in companionship with God.

We may think that is a little awkward, especially when there are parts of life we would prefer to keep to ourselves. But as the psalmist says, there is no place where we can hide from God—he’s everywhere at all times. (Psalm 139) Perhaps that is why humans often prefer to believe there is no God at all, because if there really is a God, and he is really God, then he knows all our secrets and not only that, he has the right to tell us how to live our lives.

This is why it is offensive to some when we say that Jesus Christ has taken on our humanity, and has made us truly human, the way we were really meant to be. Because that means that Jesus Christ defines humanity. That means God gets to tell us what it means to be human.

To live in opposition to what God designed a human being to be is to live in opposition to ourselves and everyone else. Living in a way we were never meant to live means that we are living a lie. And we reap the consequences of living in that way.

We are all living in God’s presence moment by moment. We can enjoy that encounter with the living Lord, and take pleasure in sharing life with him. Or we can expend a lot of effort attempting to live life under our own power and even in opposition to him. He’s allowed us to do that—but he never meant for us to do that. He doesn’t want us to suffer the consequences of living that way.

So I think from now on, my to-do list needs to have an “If the Lord wills” clause in it. Since I’m on mission with Jesus in the world to share with everyone the love of God in Christ through the Spirit, I think I need to reevaluate my priorities as I make my daily lists. It’s a challenge to remember this, but here’s to taking some small steps in living life in companionship with God this day and from now on.

Thank you, Lord, that all of life is lived in your presence through your grace and love. I thank you that Jesus is all that we were meant to be as human beings, and that you have empowered each of us by your Spirit to live in relationship with you through him. Remind us each day to walk with you in joyful companionship and reverent love. For Christ’s sake, amen.

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’” James 4:13–15 NASB