Loving Freely is a resource developed by Dan Crain, Pastor, Consultant and Connector for REMERGE.
Loving Freely unpacks the need for us to examine ourselves in order to truly know how to love and serve others as the beloved children of God. The process is spelled out through the Loving Freely Process and able to be lived into with the Loving Freely Seven.
It is a five hour training introducing those who help others to receive help themselves.
Why are you here?
(Coming to grips with serving selfishly)
(A series of blogs addressing the Loving Freely content: Loving Freely)
The dictionary defines narcissism as; “extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.”
If this is the case, I am a narcissist, particularly when it comes to helping other people. The phrase, “craving for admiration”, hits me the hardest. It was probably why a friend and mentor asked me in 2011, after we had just moved to our neighborhood; “Why are you here?”
It instantly made me defensive. This is what happens when you are protecting something.
The friend was someone that has many years of inner-city ministry experience and is very involved in contemplative spirituality, spending hours alone with God and the scriptures to hear his voice. So, I know this question came out of a healthy and very experienced place and that she was picking up on something in me that was very unhealthy.
I gave a nice answer, which had an element of truth involving Christ’s heart for those on the margins, racial reconciliation, a holistic gospel and an genuine leading of the Spirit. This was true because in the years leading up to our move this is what we had sensed from Christ.
But, we both knew something else was going on below the surface of my life. I was also here for something else. I was here to prove something, to seek affirmation and approval of others. I was here to prove that despite what I believed about myself, I wasn’t a failure.
There was a motive that was less than pure driving my actions. Pastor Sebastian Holley from Unity Worship Church says it like this in his book, Motive Matters; “Understanding our motive gives the clarity to channel the why of our actions to produce on another level.” God was beginning to invite me to look at what drove my motives.
Six years later I can now give language to the fact that I was here because something was missing out of my family of origin. In reality, I was selfishly serving. On the surface it looked like we had given our lives to love, serve, and learn from those on the margins, but part of me (my false self), was there to get something from those I was serving.
The hard reality is that I what I was getting from those I served is what I lacked in my family of origin. What I received from the fall of humanity and showed up in my family of origin is the fact that I was a failure and never quite good enough. I was always extremely hard on myself and so any sort of critique would literally cripple me.
Then I started to play sports and found that excelling in basketball fed something really dangerous in me. When I would make a three point shot at a crucial part of the game and hear the crowd go crazy, I found that it made me feel really good about myself. I discovered that if I performed well then I wasn’t a loser after all. The externals were feeding the internals.
Jesus led me into ministry and then I found that by helping others I was able to gain a certain sense of affirmation and validation. That same feeling that came from making a three pointer also came when I would walk into a room of seventy five youth and they would all come say hi to me. This deep sense of narcism and a craving for admiration was being fed.
The reality of Phil Hissom’s words from Dignity Serves were coming true, “Our wounds fuel our sin.”
This is precisely why I burned out in 2015, because I always wanted something when helping others. A wise mentor once said to me, “If you have been burned out, it’s not because you were doing to much, it’s because you were doing it for the wrong reasons.” I burned out because I was always looking to others for only what Christ wants to give me.
By the grace of God, I can now name what my false self wants, confess it and allow the Spirit to bring me back to what Howard Thurman describes as an “Island of Peace within one’s own soul.” An element of this Island of Peace for me personally is knowing and believing that I am the beloved child of God and that I don’t need the affirmation of others. Thurman writes this about finding our true identity in God alone; “The awareness of being a child of God tends to stabilize the ego, and results in new courage, fearlessness and power.”
When I am living and beliving that I am God’s beloved child, I am not craving the admiration of others. I am able to give and receive freely, thus coming to a place of loving freely. In this place I am able to know that God is our perfect father and He created us in original glory to love freely. As our good Father, we have nothing to prove to Him or to others as only He can give us the affirmation our hearts truly long for.
It’s as God’s beloved that I can truly weigh my motives as Pastor Sebastian Holley goes on to state, “A good person can have good intentions, but only a godly person can have a godly motive. Good versus Godly. To fully grasp this, one must first understand the contrast between cultural consciousness and the biblical perspective. A major difference is the point of reference and the point of focus. In the biblical perspective, the reference is the standard as interpreted through the pursuit of intimacy with God through the Christs and the focus is right relationship with God through the Christ.”
It is through Christ’s redemption that He rescues us from the wounds of our past, renews our motives, and begins to redeem and reshape the ways in which our family of origin plagues us. This allows us to believe that we are the beloved of God, have nothing to prove, and frees us up to love freely. We can then confidently have the awareness that, “If God is truly your priority, why are you still trying to prove yourself?”