by Rob Gibson June 3, 2016
Post #7 in: Gleanings from a Sabbatical journey…
As my journey began, our church family and friends purposely left us alone and undisturbed. It was a welcome restful kindness, at first. Then the silence gave way to some eerie imaginations. Like the strange noises from the basement that scare a child on a dark lonely night, my soul was hearing disturbing noise. Silence was unearthing self doubt and dark questions.
The silence became empty, lonely, and fearful. The fear was; “Am I needed? Do I matter? Does anybody care?” My imaginations stirred lies and negative answers. If the phone isn’t ringing, the calendar isn’t booked, problems aren’t seeking my solution, and I’m not fixing stuff, I don’t matter. The deeper question is: “Am I valuable?”
The young mother senses she’s needed by the sweet cry of her baby and she is loved in return. The nurse is valued in bringing relief to the wounded. The cashier serves a line of customers and is met with smiles and thank you’s. These relational experiences, someone who needs us, send an implied message of value. But in silence, no one asks. My silence, though planned for rest and rejuvenation, took me to the doubt and darkness of my soul in order to welcome greater light. Silence and solitude is a hard but necessary part of maturing our souls.
This is not the first time I’ve faced this silence, but the heart is fickle. The question of value comes to us as kids finding our place, as singles in search of companionship, searching for a job, or letting go in retirement. Attacks on human value respect no age or boundaries.
I experienced this in my first midlife change, when leaving business leadership to pursue ministry at age 40. Moving from leading 300 employees to the isolation of seminary, with a young doctoral candidate teaching me Greek, raised questions of value. I was humbled intellectually and professionally, as I struggled to learn, the phone had stopped ringing, and I wasn’t producing a measurable profit! I wasn’t making an impact, at least according to a worldly paradigm. I’ve known men and women confronted by this struggle with the loss of a job, the loss of a loved one, or as the kids leave the nest. I’ve seen it in young boys searching for dad’s approval and validation on the ball field and in young school girls who saw their value in curves and cup size.
The attacks on our value and worth come at every age, and it came to me in silence and solitude. The option was to get busy, do something, even turn the music up, or step into what seemed dark, embrace solitude, listen for God, and grow.
In the solitude I discovered my desire to be needed. If I’m needed, I’m valuable, right? I faced my narcissistic want to be desired and admired by others. If a paycheck isn’t coming, if the phone isn’t ringing, if they, whoever the “they” are, don’t need me or want me, am I valuable?
Silence and solitude is beautiful, lonely by design and necessary for our souls to be still with the hard questions and God. I took the narcissist, the over achiever, the striving performer and the lies they scream into the silence with God.
I faced the truth: I’m not needed. I’m not needed and that’s ok. It does not diminish my value. There will come a day when each of us goes onto new adventures or glory, and our friends, family and the world will carry on, sustained by Christ, not you and me. They do not need me and that does not make me worth less. It maes me humble, expendable, and yet still valuable and loved. Worth is not determined by others opinion, need of us, or our production, looks or skill set. Worth comes from God who speaks us into glorious existence and says:
“Let Us make man in Our image …So God created them; male and female he created them…and saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Gen. 1:26-27, 31)
The Psalmist marvels at His work:
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:13-14)
And Paul reminds us of the value of His work saying:
“…because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus…” (Eph. 2:4-7) and “…together with Christ, we are heirs of God’s glory.” (Rom. 8:17)
God the Father initiates our created value, Jesus Christ constructs it in love, and the Holy Spirit confirms and seals it for eternity. Our value is inherent as beloved image bearers.
I found an answer. The answer does not stroke the narcissist, applaud accomplishment or stoke busyness, but anchors real value in our Lord and God. The answer is He doesn’t need me, but He made me with inherent value. The answer is I’m not needed and don’t need to be needed, and, you don’t need me. That is actually good news.
Everything we need we have in Christ and in Him we have immeasurable value. We are replaceable, expendable, and indeed will be in due time. But for a relatively brief period, we do have one another. We are unique gifts from God to each other. We are image bearers that bless one another, love, add perspective, reveal glory, refine one another, and, for a bit, make life richer.
You are valuable, more so than whatever someone may want or demand of you, more than what you demand of yourself, and immensely more than the sum of your parts and capacities, or the contrived standards of this world. God’s glory is in you as His beloved child. That is enough. You are enough!
Take a few minutes, be alone and be silent, and let the truth that you are His beloved touch your soul.