I remember it well.
I sat at the table of our temporary living space while my outreach team was out for the afternoon partnering with a local ministry. My whole body felt it. I was exhausted. I had never felt short of breath due to the sheer fact that I was drained emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically. I began to process with God, asking what was happening, why I felt the way I did. I felt like I was doing everything right. What went wrong? Yet, in the midst of that time at the table, the Lord revealed that I had been operating out of broken places and strongholds in my heart I didn't even know existed. I remember so clearly when the lightbulb went off and clarity rushed in. He spoke gently to my heart: I was falsely believing that I was used; that God was using me.
Maybe you can identity with the feeling--the feeling of being used for what you can do, and not seen for who you are. This is what I had been carrying around in my heart, unknowingly, perhaps engrained into my belief system at some point in the 24 years I had been living at that time, and it was manifesting in my relationship with God. You see, God had already been working in my heart, revealing a performance mentality I didn't know existed, and undoing the belief that I am what I do. Here I was, believing that God uses me-- that He uses me for ministry, leads me past my energy levels and capacity to do Kingdom work. I had gained a martyr mentality. Forgo my personal wellbeing and just keep pressing on. I mean, that's what it's about isn't it?
Yes, God calls us to love and serve others, but it is not at the expense of ourselves. He doesn't ask us to martyr our own hearts and personal well-being for the sake of ministry. This is what in some shape and form I was believing. God wasn't saying this--it was somewhere in my own brokenness I had learned to believe it. Taking a look back at my journal, this is what God was saying: Your purpose is not to be used--it's to love me. And that love is not based in striving. It flows out of the power that God loved us first. It flows naturally and richly when we realize how loved we are.
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. (Deuteronomy 6:8)
Yes, I did hit a close-to-burnout season. It was scary. I was grieved. But God in His mercy and kindness restored me with new foundations and right views.
The season immediately following, God lead me into an intense time of rest, which involved stepping back a bit from ministry and allowing Him to minister to my heart--to simply allow myself to be loved. You bet I wrestled against the feeling that I must do. But this season was one of the most profound seasons I've ever had as I found myself allowing God to woo my heart and call forth my identity. And it was in this season I was able to truly believe and call myself the most profound, core identity I was created to know: daughter.
I am a child of God.
First and foremost, you and I are daughters and sons of God. Maybe we've grasped it, maybe we're at the place we're still learning to believe it. I think we'll spend a lifetime discovering what it means. Maybe circumstances in life have caused us to believe otherwise, but the Father is wanting to affirm us as His children, for us to know that is who we are. God doesn't use us. That's not His heart. He isn't asking us to quench our heart, forgo our Godly desires, live under a martyr mentality. Denying ourselves means something else--it means denying our flesh. God is longing to empower us, protect us, cause you and I to flourish and bloom into the woman or man he has called us to be with all the things He's placed inside of us, enjoying what He's created us to enjoy... all of it.
What I learned out of my own personal journey is that we are better able to love others when we take care of ourselves and believe and know we are loved and accepted by the Father. We must learn to honor our hearts. God does. If everything we do flows from it (Proverbs 4:23), then we'd do best to tend to it, guard it, and invest in our wholeness. If the hidden motive of ministry is a belief that we have to or God will be disappointed, we're believing wrong things. True, effective ministry flows out of the place of being filled by God's love and being fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit. It flourishes when we know who we are. Because of God's grace, I find myself now serving and giving my "yes" out of desire and love, not out of pressure or to please God--because I am a daughter, and it's a joy to partner with my Father. The best guide we have is the Holy Spirit. He will always lead us rightly.
The revelation of our daughtership/sonship will change how we carry ourselves--how we make choices, how we interact, how we spend our time. If you've got the chance today, take some time to ask the Father who you are to Him. It'll change your life. Meditate on the words He gives you. Let them wash over your heart. Recall them. Walk in them. Believe them.
I am grateful that God so deeply cares for our hearts. What a gracious Father we have.