I remember about 9 years ago I was counseling a young married couple through some difficult stuff in their marriage. We had been meeting for about 2 months and were coming to the end of our sessions together. There was a significant moment when in closing both the husband and wife said “Dan you saved our marriage, we couldn’t have done this without you.” I recall that statement and the feeling that rushed over me and I liked it… too much. The power of being needed and being the only source of help was intoxicating. Little did I know but that moment kicked off a year of private ego stroking and a pursuit of more opportunities where I could be the spiritual hero. It wasn’t until the end of that year that God graciously pushed the pause button on me. I hate pause. I like to keep moving, keep going to get to the next part. But God is less concerned with getting us to the next sequence. True to His character he is more concerned with the state of our heart.
I was tempted to blow past the pause God wanted me to take. I thought I was doing fine up to that point. But God wanted me to stop all the action and movement. When I honestly decided to cooperate with God’s spirit, he exposed in me the sticky tar of ”being needed and essential” that had gunked up my heart and motives.
This wasn’t something I was warned about in my pastoral training. I didn’t hear about this sly temptation that would steal away my pure love for serving others and turn it into food for my needy identity. Actually I was taught to have the answers, fix people’s problems and help free people up; all the while perched on my place of spiritual authority. Something so formulaic and seemingly Biblical was actually making me less internally formed by Jesus. My identity and sense of value was rooting itself in compliments and who I was to the people I was leading. Then I stumbled upon a book by Brennan Manning titled “Abba’s Child”. That treasure of a book came from God’s hand at the right time in my life.
The most searing chapter was titled “the imposter”. It tore right through my layers and pulled into the light a hungry ego I was nurturing through outwardly holy means. Funny thing is it was robbing me of true intimacy with Jesus. I think I had convinced myself I was close with God because I was having a regular “quiet time” and God was proud of me because of it. But I started to see my own masks, pretenses and outward displays of saintliness for what they were… smoke screens that covered who I truly was. Nine years ago God’s careful hand broke me. The core of my discovery was about how I identified myself.
God created us to draw life from his Son and how he sees us rather than compliments and good opinions from even the most well intended stranger. I still have to revisit this elementary but recalibrating truth; “I am in the beloved and Abba Father sees me for who I really am and still offers me unconditional love. I am who I am because of God’s love for me not because of what I can do for you or how I am seen by you.” Wanting to be needed, or to be the hero, or be the spiritual authority is a bottom line issue of acceptance that builds a weak identity.
Some tell tale signs that you might be leading or serving out of a false sense of identity are:
1. Being easily offended or defensive when your opinion is not well received
2. Being quick to take the upper hand in a conversation
3. Needing to be acknowledged for your significant role in someone’s life
4. Convincing yourself you can fix someone’s life if you were given control
5. Seeing your counsel as coming directly from God
Is God pushing the pause button on you?