Useful or Loved

Thomas and his friend

My grandson and I cuddled on the couch watching his favourite video. I listened to the theme of Thomas the Train and watched his train friends’ adventures for what seemed like the fiftieth time. Maybe it took that many views for me to notice how many times the word “useful” was used to describe the little engines’ motivation for his adventures. He wanted to be a really useful little engine.

I remembered another conversation on the couch, with a friend this time. Her daughter, and the entire family, was suffering terribly. The girl had not told them, until her methods of coping landed her in a psychiatric hospital, that for some time she had been molested by a trusted member of their church. Like so many other victims she blamed herself and was drowning in shame.

“I try to tell her it will be okay, “ her mother whispered. “God can still use her. But that just seems to make her shut off even more.”

“Maybe ‘God can still use her’ is not the best choice of words,” I tried to explain gently. “She has already been ‘used’ and it has not turned out well.”

“I never thought of it that way,” she said. “Anyway, she knows God still loves her.”

“Does she? Right now she feels such shame she can’t even look her earthly Dad in the face. Her ability to trust authority figures has been thoroughly shaken. It’s going to take a while for her to sort out who God is and especially who God is not. We need to demonstrate to her the same kind of grace and love God does. She needs to know that she does not have to do anything to receive your love. Love and accept her just as she is, with all her dysfunction. She does not need to be an honour student, or a perfect weight, or a junior missionary with a “testimony of victory.”

As I recalled this conversation I had to ask myself, “Who is God for me now? Do I still carry vestiges of the message that I am more acceptable if I am useful?

I have never made friends easily. Acquaintances, yes. Close friends I felt safe with and in whom I could confide, not so much. There have been a few who have been tremendous blessings, but even though much improved, I still have trust issues myself. My pattern over the years was to keep friends by making myself really useful like the little train. It’s been hard to believe I could be loved otherwise. Usefulness was my insurance against rejection.

I’ve been going through a time when the Lord has asked me to set “workin’ fo’ da kingdom” aside to learn, on a deeper level, that I don’t have to earn his approval. This goes deep. It’s not about the importance of engaging in activities like teaching, or providing music, feeding the poor, or even meeting with friends to pray for various excellent ministries. It’s about motivation. Can I admit this is tough? I question this action all the time. What will people think? What is the measure of my faithfulness now?

When the son who demanded his inheritance early – and blew it all – returned to the Father, it was with a sense of shame. He thought if he made himself useful, like the other servants, he could earn a place in the household. The Father not only accepted him back without asking first for any pledge of behaving better in future, he honoured him as a son, in the stinky pig state he was in, without a two-year disciplinary period to prove he was worthy of acceptance. The son’s shame was met with unexpected honour.

That’s grace. Amazing, shocking grace. Hard to believe, hard to receive, but that is the fine robe God wraps us in when we turn to him, empty-handed.

The elder son didn’t believe it. He took off in a huff. The Father went out to him and assured him that he had access to everything in the house, but jealousy kept him from sharing the Father’s joy. The eldest demanded to know how anyone who was not useful could be a part of this family.

When people first come into the household of faith they come as orphans, grateful for food and shelter. They long for, but don’t really expect – or know how to handle – the Father’s affection. They focus on learning the rules in the orphanage, lest they do something to offend and face rejection.

Some people, longing for friendship with God, move on to become voluntary servants, hoping to secure a place by becoming essential workers and ingratiating themselves with the Father’s favour. One of the signs that they see themselves as servants and not sons is competition and flare-ups of jealousy toward others.

A son, however, knows he is held in the Father’s embrace by nothing more than the Father’s love. He learns, just by remaining there, that bond of love is so strong he can feel the Father’s heartbeat. Not until a sense of shame and unworthiness is washed away by a flood of grace upon grace can he afford to extend that same love to others.

We can try to use God to supply our wants. We can try to earn his approval by being used by God. But we don’t realize that we are sons of God until we come humbly as orphans and bond servants and discover, much to our surprise, that He simply loves us because He loves us, because He loves us, because He loves us…

Then we find joy and fulfillment in being who he made us to be – His workmanship, created for great things, partners in the Father’s plan.

For from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. (John 1:16 ESV)


12 thoughts on “Useful or Loved

  1. laughingdog9

    “Trust issues….” Some themes here really strike at the heart. We hear a lot of stuff about our “identity in Christ,” and true though that is, I find a deeper theme, the “root” of identity. You said something here that Holy Spirit highlighted for me regarding that theme, that root. You said, ” It’s going to take a while for her to sort out who God is and especially who God is not.” That’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it? When the “authority” in your life does or doesn’t express Father with “fidelity.” Jesus did express Father, perfectly, and He gave that back to us, taking every “distortion” of Father that we have come up with onto Himself to be left in the grave.

    We get our identity from knowing TRULY who Father is, because that is knowing our source, what (read that as “WHO”) we spring from. You know that phrase, “rotten to the core,” that one that we use to describe that “pig pen” self? We got that by listening to the lies BEHIND the lie in the Garden, and it’s that which “poisoned” our identity and killed our That’s the poison that Jesus removed, while at the same time revealing the father with PRISTINE “FIDELITY” so that by looking at Him, we can “sort out who God is and especially who God is not.”

    I guess this caught my eye because Father’s very tenderly working through my own “trust issues” with me. A brother in the prayer line at Bethel Church last month caught that my heart was broken over something, and he prayed for healing. I felt the shift right then, and since then, Father has been walking me toward that thing in the dark, sweetly bringing it to light in such a way that the pain and the fear are “held off,” at least for now. You, by being loved here, have also been LOVINGLY used by Him to shine some light on it for me, and instead of pain, I see the Way to Healing because of it.

    You see, your words here have helped me find the “root” of this nasty tree called “mistrust,” and how ALL mistrust stems from mistrusting Father. “Seek first the Kingdom…” echoes in me here; I know that finding that trust of Him and killing the root of this twisted tree are the same thing – The Cross That Makes Whole. Killing the root kills the tree, and its fruit, and leaves only One Good Tree in its place, with fruit that sustains, leaves that heal, and light to see by….

    Thank you. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, yes, yes! And now you have said something Holy Spirit is highlighting for me. Fidelity.

      Remember the “hi-fi”? (Maybe you don’t. It’s been a while — long before “wifi.”) It was short for “high fidelity” meaning a device that faithfully represented sound in a recording. I keep running into posts that remind me of sound, and sympathetic vibrations reproducing pitch and tone accurately. “Their sound has gone out into all lands.” You have given me another clue! Gotta ponder this for a while.

      Thank you, laughingdog9. We are not alone on this journey. Blessings.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. laughingdog9

        The memory of the “hi-fi” is exactly what I was drawing from. Only Jesus is the “perfect-fi.” Incomparably so!


  2. Wondering Celt

    Thank you once again Charis! Truth in an heart reaching simple way.

    One thing it sparked for me was that although I had massive trust issues as a young believer (and am still working them through) my decision to go to the nations was based on the knowledge I was extravagantly loved and I enjoyed adventure and wanted to extravagantly love Him and others back in the only way I knew how. But I did know I was loved. I wasn’t trying earn it. Given my upbringing it was miraculous!
    What unearthed mistrust in me was the hurtful words and actions of others(we’ve discussed some of those before) which confused me. Why was my wonderful loving Father allowing such betrayal and vindictiveness, the shock of experiencing such behaviour in the Church, the disillusionment, etc. I felt buried!!
    Maybe that word is key. Even though I had been given a supernatural understanding of how much we/I were/was loved I still had to die to my twisted, false, idealistic illusions and learn to trust at base level so that when storms come my ‘roots’ remained undisturbed. Even good revelation (which set many others free ironically) need to be embedded in good soil within the individual for the Father to be fully happy in Order to dwell within the object of His passionate love and thus His goal for each one of us.
    Such has been the enormous damage in my life that at 53 I am still working on this. But Thanks God, I am entering into a deep place of joy and contentment right now, even as He is STILL excavating my soul ever deeper of the muck that is mistrust.
    Your words this morning have touched another chord😆
    Truly, if we don’t give up we will reap a harvest of his goodness, loving kindness and TRUSTWORTHINESS towards us!😀


    1. “But Thanks God, I am entering into a deep place of joy and contentment right now, even as He is STILL excavating my soul ever deeper of the muck that is mistrust.”
      There you go. He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.
      He takes such pleasure in you!


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