The Gift of Neediness

gift of neediness

“I don’t want to be a burden.”

These seven little words are quite possibly the biggest thing standing between us and the relationship we crave. Not to mention, a serious buzzkill for those God has called to show us his love in tangible ways.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s good to be aware of one’s tendency to suck others dry. And none of us likes being on the other side of that equation. (See Henry Cloud and John Townsend’s bestselling book Boundaries if you need some help sorting this out.) But there is often a vivid discrepancy between our ideas of being “too needy” and what others perceive as an opportunity to bless us by listening, serving, and giving.

I’m reminded of this often in one of my relationships. For whatever reason, I really like to do things for this particular friend. Not because I’m a ridiculously selfless person who lives to give. I’m not, and I don’t. But this friend is just so darned likeable that it’s fun to make her load lighter sometimes.

She’s frequently limiting my giving, though, with statements like “Oh, that’s too much,” or “You don’t need to do this when you’ve already done that.” When she says things like this I push back a little, because I’ve already decided I can afford what I’m offering. And because I understand how hard it can be to receive someone’s generosity. Especially if we feel we haven’t had the chance to adequately reciprocate yet.

There’s something innate about trying to balance what we receive with what we give, and vice-versa, as though the integrity of our relationships might be compromised if things don’t even out. Since the loss of relationship inflicts profound wounds, it seems safer to keep our needs to ourselves until we think we’ve earned the right to have them met.

Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to receive Jesus’s gift of unconditional love. We simply can’t reconcile it in our “all-things-must-be-equal” economy. If only we could pray more, or volunteer more at church, or sin less, or… SOMEthing. Anything to make us feel like we deserve the unfathomable gift we’ve been given.

But then it’s not a gift.

“If those who get what God gives them only get it by doing everything they are told to do and filling out all the right forms properly signed, that eliminates personal trust completely and turns the promise into an ironclad contract,” writes the Apostle Paul. “That’s not a holy promise; it’s a business deal.” – Rom. 4:14 (MSG)

I don’t know about you, but business deals feel like, well, business. And while they certainly have their place, the motivating factor is gain, not love.

Equal transactions are fair; gifts transcend this human construct.

If you’re human, then you have needs. And that’s ok. It’s a chance to practice receiving love in small doses so that you can begin to embrace the biggest Love all. Besides, every time you let someone love you, they get the immense pleasure of doing so. Which means you’re really doing them a favor, anyway. So maybe it’s all been more equal than you think.

Keep calm and love on…

 

Attack of the Mean Mommy (beware the false hope-bearers)

hope in someone bigger

This morning I googled “hope,” looking for the perfect image to accompany this post. Instead, I found myriad counterfeit hope-bearers – everything from pictures of stone angels to psychological diagrams to the well-intended “trust yourself” types of inspo statements that are so ubiquitous today, particularly in recovery circles.

Well intended, but not helpful. Not hopeful either.

“If you rest your hope in anything other than Jesus’ return,” my pastor said this Sunday, “you will not have peace.” At the end of the service, he asked those who realized they’ve been hoping in something other than Christ’s return to raise their hands. Mine went up.

Everyone’s should have, I’m thinking. I mean, let’s be real…

That afternoon my 4th grader got a fever. A low-grade, not-sick-enough-to-go-to-the-doctor-but-still-can’t-go-to-school-tomorrow fever, and I felt the walls closing in. Because I had HOPED to have a quiet work day on Monday. Because there was a list of things I had been HOPING to do when the kids finally got back to school after summer break. And now NONE of that was going to happen.

Peeved beyond reason by this unexpected loss of productivity, Mean-Mommy came out in full force. “If you stay home tomorrow, you’re on your own,” I told my daughter coldly. “I’ve got work to do.” She absorbed the assault without flinching. We’ve been here before.

“It’s not your fault,” my husband said to my precious girl, and a pang of regret pierced my heart. But still I felt bitter. Resentful. Frustrated with feeling so out of control of my life and schedule and blessed little checklist.

Frustrated, because I had been HOPING in the wrong thing.

My mind went back to the morning’s message. To my raised hand and my confession of misplaced hope. And the fact that somewhere, in the God-part of Constance Rhodes, is a woman who desires to live for something – Someone – bigger than herself.

And I realized that if I could place my hope in Jesus’ return even a fraction of the time I spend focusing on my daily tasks, I’d be so full of hope and love and peace that people would probably stop me on the street to ask if they could have some of what I’ve got.

Which is exactly the point.

If we want others to be attracted to this God we call LOVE, we can’t afford to put our hope in counterfeits. Otherwise we will become mean-mommies and distant neighbors and the I’m-too-busy-to-be-present-with-you kind of people who perpetuate the very “hope in yourself” pressure-cooker we’re trying to escape in the first place.

Last night I made things right with Sophia, and today is a new day. The ever-present checklist is beside me as I write, but I get to choose whether to serve it, or to let it serve me on whatever path God opens before me.

Today I choose the latter.

I’m hoping in Something greater…

“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.”

– 1 Pet. 1:13 (NIV)

Nothing. And everything. (Where to even begin…)

typewriter

I dropped my kids off for their first day of school today. The silence is glorious, as is the opportunity to reclaim my beloved Thursday writing day after three very long months off.

During the summer I put writing on hold because the stress of trying to have a coherent thought for longer than six minutes while all hell breaks loose (courtesy of three young humans and one small dog) was simply too high a price for everyone involved. Instead, I submitted to the forced break of creative productivity. At least externally.

On the inside, however, the ideas kept flowing…

In between refereeing fights at the pool, responding to first-world conundrums like what should I snack on? and what is there to do?, and driving thousands of miles across the country on oxy-moronic family vacations, I quietly pondered writing themes inside my head, certain that as soon as the much-awaited first day of school – TODAY – arrived, I would simply tip my head to the side and release the gathering collection bit by bit here on the blog, or in the next iteration of my More Than a Number manuscript.

So now today has arrived and I’ve given myself permission to dedicate the first-fruits of this new season to listening to what God might want to say through me and all I hear is… nothing.

That’s not exactly true. I hear God saying he is with me and I am not alone and he is enough so I don’t have to be. But the super-compelling-twitter-and-facebook-worthy title and body content for one simple blog-post? Not there yet.

In the face of such lack, it is my belief in the creative process, my chosen obedience to the call to be open and available, that holds me here, idea-less but hope-full. I click open the admin area of my website, blow off the dust, choose “add new post,” and start to write.

I don’t think God is hoping I’ll do something magical right now.

Don’t get me wrong – I know he loves to surprise me with unexpectedly perfect words that can only be attributed to him because I am quite aware of my own lack of perfection, but ultimately I know God is pleased that I’m just showing up here at all, choosing to be open to not having the impressive answer, or even the most compelling question. My being here is what matters to God. I am present and I am willing and that’s enough.

And so, there it is. Nothing and yet everything – the summation of our lives, if you think about it. Our problems are nothing to God and yet everything to us. We stare in our closets and feel we have nothing to wear, yet one outfit is everything to a Syrian refugee. We want to be everything the world wants us to be but God requires nothing of us to be his. And I can feel like nothing most days, but the fact that I am merely showing up and being present in my seeming nothingness means everything to God.

And so the beginning of this next season is just this – finding the beauty in nothing and in everything. Not in just huge leaps forward, but in the smallest steps of faith toward the great unknown.

It’s about being present and using my voice, not to sell a book or to impress a reader or to earn a like or two. Just to be.

It’s beginning enough for me.

 

A Facebook window into my ># book saga…

It’s been a month since I received the fateful news that the publisher did not like what I turned in and canceled my More Than a Number book contract. Over the past month God has been showing me a LOT, and I think it’s time for me to start blogging again. So this post is just to bring you up to speed via what I had posted on my Facebook page in the early aftermath, and to set the stage for what I hope will be a continued memoir-in-real-time of the journey God has me on to learn that I am enough, because HE is enough.

POST 1: The day I got the news of the cancellation…

Facebook - June 6POST 2: Quick lessons God already started teaching me through this trial…

Facebook - June 8

POST 3: A little God-wink a couple days later. Even if the publisher didn’t like what I’d written, the topic of “enoughness” is clearly relevant…

Facebook - June 10

And so… as I continue wrestling and learning, I am planning to return to blog-writing, to document the truths God is teaching me along the way. Stay tuned…

Why Mental Health Matters

Saddleback 15 thumbnailI never imagined I would work in the Mental Health field. As a teen and into my twenties I thought I was destined to be a rock star. No kidding. I was going to be the next Amy Grant (I’m dating myself here…). So I moved to Nashville and had a big showcase and crashed and burned and then felt like a big, fat, nobody. A zero, as I would often say at Girls of Grace events.

It took a while for me to begin to learn why I felt like such a zero, not just after the devastating showcase, but pretty much always. Always feeling on the edge of being found out, that I don’t really matter, that I’m just a burden, that someone’s going to figure it out and cancel an upcoming speaking date, or book, or… something.

Why the zero?

My mom had an eating disorder when I was growing up. She moved out when I was around nine or ten, leaving a big hole in my heart – and psyche – which I wouldn’t discover until much later. Dad did his best to hold it all together but, by his own admission, thought he was going to lose his mind a few times in the process. After juggling work and single-parenting three young kids, not to mention his ministry involvement at church, there wasn’t much left for him to pour love into me during my formative years.

During this season of turmoil, my inability to manage the loneliness and distress led me to fracture internally a little, and then a little more. Without realizing what I was doing, I slowly fashioned a new, better self who learned how to walk through life giving off the aura of having it together, separated from my true, internal self who was hurting and dying and who no one seemed to see or care about. The better I got at projecting the new self, the less possible it became for my true, internal self to even be known, much less loved.

We all do this a little. It’s a natural – God-designed, some would say – defense mechanism. When we feel rejected, it can be overwhelmingly tempting to hide the part of us that experienced the hurt, until we no longer have a good connection between the different aspects of who God created us to be.

The problem is that when we fracture internally, we lose the benefit of operating from a central core of wholeness, which means that we are making decisions that may help one aspect of our self (most often, the aspect we think will win the approval of others), at the expense of truly loving our core self.

In my own life, I focused so intently on building up the “external” part of who I was that I battered my internal self through food addiction, sex addiction, and approval addiction. It was only through investing in healthy counsel/therapy that I began to see just how fractured I had become, and to understand how high the stakes were, not just for me, but for so many people who have managed pain in similar ways.

And here’s the bottom line: When we live disconnected and dis-integrated as whole persons, it not only impacts our physical, relational and spiritual health, but it hinders our ability to walk out in God’s ultimate purpose for our lives. Mental Health matters because LIFE matters, and God has a purpose for your life that is so much bigger than your own. To walk fully in it, you need a strong mind that can help you operate from a position of wholeness and wellness. A mind that has been loved and healed and given the ability to once again guide you as God originally designed.

Satan knows this, and so he is intent on attacking the integrity of our minds – our mental health – as soon as he possibly can. But he’s not bigger than the One who created us – and our minds – in the first place.

God knows your mind. He knows the wounds you have borne, and the fracturing that has occurred as you’ve tried your hardest to heal them on your own. He knows what you need right now, much more than any person possibly could. Yet he will likely use people – flawed as we all are – as part of his healing work in your life. And, because his ways are higher than our ways, he will probably even use YOU to help bring healing to others. Because he designed us to walk in community. And to BE a healing community toward each other.

The key to it all is love. Which is a lot easier to extend once you have understanding. In October, I am proud to be a part of Saddleback’s 2nd Gathering on Mental Health and the Church, a three-day event designed to increase understanding, compassion and love for those impacted by mental health issues. Attending this event – whether in person or via the web – will equip you to find more healing for yourself, or to be a part of healing community for others. You can learn more about it here:

saddleback 15b

Even though I never imagined I would work in this field (it’s far less sexy than being a rockstar…), I am grateful today for the opportunity to walk out my God-given purpose  and to be a part of a growing body of believers who are passionate about being a part of the healing God wants to bring to so many who need to know that his love extends even – and especially – to them.

In these crazy times in which we live, it is critical that we band together to help facilitate the healing that God wants to bring to our minds, hearts and souls. Lives are on the line.

Including our own.