Freely God’s

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Am I giving myself to others for the sake of God, or am I giving myself to God for the sake of others? I’m only just recognizing the difference in those terms, and it’s the best news I’ve heard in a long time.

I didn’t go home for Christmas this year. Every time I considered it, it felt too tight and pressured, and after a busy term I was so hungry for time alone with God. God gave many special gifts, including a few times with other people, loving and being loved in practical ways, but perhaps the biggest gift came when I realized that for the first time in three months, I felt like myself, and then, a few days later, realized that I could have equally well described what I meant by “I felt like myself” in a different way: “I felt freely God’s.” That is exactly where I want to live all the time—as God’s, fully and freely—and I was getting to taste what it felt like! And in that moment when “being myself” equated to “being freely His,” the question (which has been a huge struggle for me all my life) of whether it is selfish to make the choices that let me be me disappeared. What is less selfish than doing what enables me to be freely God’s?

It was soon after that that I began, slowly, to see the difference between giving myself to others for the sake of God and giving myself to God for the sake of others.

When I give myself to others first, even if I think I’m doing so for God’s sake, I put others on the throne. I surrender my God-given stewardship over my own life to the wishes of others. Or I put myself on the throne. I decide who to give to, and when and how. When I give myself first to others, I’m either clinging to control, or I’m inappropriately surrendering control to others, or both.

But when I give myself to God for the sake of others, the One who knows and loves me best (and knows and loves others best) gets to guide. He who is gracious and generous and infinitely creative in his solutions may ask me to help meet the need of one person while asking me to trust his goodness enough not to have to be the one to help with something else. When I give myself first to God, I’m surrendering to the only One who can rightly handle that control. I’m surrendering to love. This is the way of trust. And of freedom and peace and the burden that is light.

Jesus lived this second way, giving himself to his Father for our sake: “I’m consecrating myself”—setting myself apart for God—”for their sakes . . .” (John 17:19) His eyes were always on his Father, doing only what he saw his Father doing (John 5:19; 8:28), his will neither his own, nor surrendered to us, but surrendered to his Father (Luke 22:42, John 5:30; 6:38).

I’ve tried to live the first because I thought it was the way of love, the way to please God. It turned out that I can’t love that way. I too quickly slip into fatigue, and from there into resentment and crankiness.

I’m just starting to learn how to live the second. It’s a daily challenge, and a bit messy. (One poor person got three emails from me as I was trying to get the courage to step out of a commitment: 1) I need to leave. 2) No, wait, am I hearing right? Maybe I should keep praying about it. 3) Umm. . . yes, God has added several more layers of confirmation to the already high pile. I really do need to leave.) It makes me wonder: Was I really living the first way only because I thought it was the way of love? Or was I living it because I felt insecure without the affirmation of others?

It’s a challenge to switch my gaze from the faces of others to the face of Jesus, but it’s also freedom and joy and true, unshakeable security. However hard the switch may be, and however long it takes, I know I don’t want to go back.

6 thoughts on “Freely God’s

  1. Wow!!!! So good and sooo hard! Thank you for offering this freedom and showing me that it’s there. I too often live out of the first way and then occasionally realize that I’m not really serving people that well if I’m tired and grumpy and can’t make wise choices. Thank you for this reminder that God knows what we need!!! and what others need and cares for us enough to not want us to be burnt out. Thank you!

  2. I love these thoughts. I struggled for many years with feeling guilty because I always felt like I should be doing more… but I couldn’t do it all and God knew that, so then the question became how do I decide what to do and what not to? And my freedom came through a realization similar to yours: God decides. He leads; I simply follow. I do what He shows me to do. It is truly an amazingly freeing and simple way to approach serving. My heart still wants to serve, but I don’t feel guilty when I take necessary time to recharge and refuel.

  3. Sue Demmons says:

    I totally agree. I have been in a discipling huddle with 3DM ministries for a year. I have found new freedom and rest focusing on Him.

  4. Esme says:

    This one really hit me hard!! Made me realize that serving others for God is a lie from Satan who has appeared as an angel of light with his message. Wow have I really been serving others all these years because I needed their affirmation? Sobering thought!

    • It is sobering, isn’t it? I think the beauty of grace, though, relates to what I wrote last week. I’m not sure in this life we ever get beyond mixed motives (including those we have no idea are there), yet we don’t need to fear that because Jesus knows we are unable to love him or others perfectly and so graciously accepts our efforts and makes our gift pure and holy and ends up saying to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I for one have been repeatedly and richly blessed by your gracious and generous serving, and I feel certain that God received your love as a gift to him and not just to me!

      > >

  5. Elaine Erb says:

    Amen. Once again Carolyn, you have hit on something that I need to grasp and discern. Thank you for listening to God and sharing your insights through your blog. Blessings to you.

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