Am I loved?
Am I pleasing to you?
Those two questions from last night's sermon circled above me my whole life, specks in the sky, vigilant, patient. I answered the needs beneath those questions for 20 years by hiding myself beneath obedience. I'll be the guy you want me to be. I'll study hard in school. I'll get a stable job, marry a girl who's not too pretty, not too fancy. I'll contribute at church and write up new bible studies. I'll show up for all the prayer meetings and head up committees. I'm good, right? I'm acceptable, right?
I prostituted my soul for over two decades but I don't blame the buyer. I blame the victim. No one took me by force. They couldn't deceive me had I not wanted to be deceived. I wanted to be accepted and I chose my path. Because I knew so little of who I was, I could not defend myself against who I was not.
There once was a peasant who grew his carrots and turnips on his farm. This plebeian loved his king with all his heart and from the overflow of his heart brought the king the largest, biggest carrot he ever grew. In response to this pauper's love, the king bequeathed land to the peasant, doubling his territory.
Seeing this, a well-to do lord wondered to himself. If the king was so generous to the peasant for a carrot, what would he give in response to a cow or a horse? So with expectant eyes the lord came before the king and gave the king a fine steed, a mighty steed, tall with lithe muscles and shimmering coat. The king thanked him absent-mindedly and waved the lord away.
Flummoxed, the lord dawdled confused. As the guards came to escort him away, the lord stammered about how excellent the horse was, surpassingly so, peerless. And indeed the horse was, said the king. So excellent this beast was, that you wanted to give it to yourself. You see, the peasant brought his carrot out of the love in his heart, expecting nothing in return. You however, seeing the peasant's reward brought the horse hoping to win something in return. Now, begone.
Others gave their souls to God from a genuine desire to minister. I gave my soul in service and in ministry hoping to find acceptance and approval. I do this, you do that. That's the deal, right? But God loved me far too much to accept those terms and conditions. No, he brought me through several hells. Lonely nights, hard fights, punching my knuckles bloody against boulders, throwing trash cans into lakes and destroying public property, screaming my anguish into the thunder. He gave me everything necessary, even if those necessities drew out tears and screams. My reward has been a mirror. I can see who I am now. Never in my life have I been so confident in my knowledge of self.
I haven't worked out the details yet but there's undoubtedly a connection between knowing yourself and dimming the need for approval, acceptance. Do I still battle it? Surely, but for the first time in my life, I've been finding victories. So, no, I don't blame the church for what it did but with my life I hope to light a way for other misfits, for those who refuse to settle for quiet lives of meek obeisance.