There is not one relationship I have with another person in which being used would be considered desirable. Nobody wants to be used. To use something is to extract its goodness out of it for my purposes then discard the parts that are not useful.
When I first began to follow Jesus, I was surrounded by others who were crazy about Him and devoted to Him. Our heart’s cry was that He would use us to bring His love to others. God was love and God was missional—willing that no one would need to live their lives outside of His love.
I didn’t think twice about our desire for God to use us. It didn’t occur to me that there is not another person on this planet who I would desire to use me. In fact, if I felt used by another, there was something terribly wrong in the relational dynamics. I wasn’t a utility and I didn’t exist for another’s use. If I was using another, it was for my selfish gain and did not promote intimacy.
There was something about my view of God that had not yet formed into a fullness that allowed for the kind of intimacy we are created to enjoy with God as His image-bearers. I had not been introduced to the reality that the biblical God created humans to be with them and to invite them to live a with-God kind of life.
I’d walked with Jesus fourteen years when Larry Crabb introduced me to the Trinity in its wondrous beauty. He painted a picture of the perfect community of love at the center of the universe—Father, Son and Spirit—in intimate self-giving fellowship with one another. Then he shared that this Trinitarian God created us to join their community and share in the life they share with each other.
Hello to the theology which blew my God-categories and launched me into an intimacy with the Trinity as I had not known before.
David Benner captures this idea beautifully:
Creation is an outpouring of love–an overflow of love from the heavens to earth. Creation not only declares the inventiveness and resourcefulness of God but reveals the abundance of his love. Creation declares that humans are born of love and for love, created in the image of a God who is love. Love is our source and love is to be our fulfillment. —Surrender to Love
As I soaked in the reality of this biblical God I worshiped, love moved into the center of my universe. And love began to flow out of my center in a different kind of way as I realized that I was created to be a co-lover with God of God, others, and the world. His love was the source of my love. As my vision of God shifted, I awakened to the kind of relationship that being “used” by God entails, and I was not interested in the distance this required between God and me.
Every time I would hear another share about God being a user, I felt resistance within me. Benner’s thoughts helped me understand my resistance:
Made in God’s image, humans are invested with a non-negotiable dignity. We are compatriots of God, not just creatures of God. Even more astounding, God chooses us to be his friends.
I was halted when I would hear people say they want God to use them. It even popped up in an occasional worship song…
Take me, and mold me
Use me, fill me
Coming upon that request as I worshiped God was jolting. I could no longer sing that word to God. In fact, I don’t think He ever desired me to sing that word to Him.
I wondered when it was that a relationship with a loving God was reduced to usefulness. As I searched for biblical pictures of what working in God’s kingdom is like, I discovered the idea that Christ-followers co-labor with God.
We are gardeners and field workers laboring with God. You are the vineyard, the garden, the house where God dwells. —1 Corinthians 3:9, The Voice
The Christian God is a with-God who desires to co-labor with us. He is the God who pours His life of love into His followers giving them the capacity to pour it back into Him and others. Rather than seeing Him as a God who uses people and His followers as tools to carry out His work, let us see Him as the God that He is who extends invitations like this one:
Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” —Matthew 11:29-30
I know more deeply than ever that God is love and that God is missional. The reality that all of this is carried out in the context of the shimmering relationality of the Father, Son, and Spirit has re-created me.
Let us accept Jesus’s invitations to go with Him into the cracks and crevices of people’s lives so they can taste Him, see Him, know Him, be warmed by His light, and understand their infinite value as His image-bearers.
Written by Lisa Brockman. To read more of Lisa’s writing, visit lisabrockman.me. Her book, Out of Zion: Meeting Jesus in the Shadow of the Mormon Temple is available at https://www.amazon.com/Out-ion-eeting-hadow-ormon-book/dp/B07SVCWTCB/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1634829281&sr=8-. Instagram: lisabrockman_me. Facebook: lisahalversenbrockman and lisa brockman author page.