Quite a long time ago I read Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. There was one chapter that has stuck with me all these years, chapter 18, not even the whole chapter, but the last part of it. (In my copy it is pages 217-221.) I keep a copy of these pages in my Bible and re-read them often. If you have been around me long enough I have probably given you a copy of these pages. I am so thankful for the ideas shared in such a vivid way by Donald Miller.
He talks about going to a lecture about the power of metaphors, how words we choose impact how we see and feel about something. He mentions how the professor starts off asking for metaphors related to cancer and most shouted out were battle oriented pictures and how this ends up adding extra fear to an already stressful time. Then the professor goes on to ask about relationships and what metaphors do we connect with them and most words tossed out ended up in line with economic metaphors.
Donald Miller spends the rest of the chapter expounding on how thinking about relationships/love in a economic metaphors causes us not to lavish the love of God on people and stifles our relationships. God used this lecture to convict Donald Miller about a relationship in his life where he had been withholding love in an effort to change a person. He realizes how bound it made him and how much it kept him from a true relationship with another and missing out on enjoying this person. God was asking him to love everybody, always, and delight in people not just when it was to his benefit or his outcome.
This word shift for Donald Miller was huge. I read this chapter over again when I sense that I am withholding love, or using love, instead of sharing the lavish love that God has poured on me. His mercies are new every morning, so out of that everlasting well of love I should be pouring it out on others.
One week in Sunday School I had a similar experience of realizing a metaphor was hampering my view and impacting a relationship, specifically with God. It also was impacting the way I would encourage others, and talk about His desire for a relationship with them. It was a simple word picture from the word use. God can use you. God wants to use you. God is using this… instead the person suggested what if we think about it in terms of God inviting us to join Him. The light bulb went on for me. That was a powerful difference.
God is the same but how I view Him, His mission, and His attitude toward me changes in this metaphor… invite versus use. The difference is huge. Use… in some ways we think of it in a positive way, but in a relationship it is very rarely a positive picture. The friend went on to say if her husband when he was trying to win her heart in marriage had said, “boy, I could really use you, will you marry me”, how off putting that would be. In a deep relationship we think of a joining and working together toward a goal but in a using situation it is more about my skill sets or assets, not about my heart.
God wants our heart. He talks about us abiding with Him. Abiding is dwelling, it is a close, connected walk with someone. Abiding is an invitation to life and purpose and vision. That slight re-calibration shifts my view of God. He is not just looking for the person to use for a specific job, he is inviting us into the grand story to see what He is up to and be part of it.
It changes the weight of what we are involved in. If God is using me, I better not fail. I do not want to mess up. But if God is inviting me to be part of His story, then He bears the weight. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” ( Romans 8:28) This verse is about God’s heart for us and how He is for us and with us. He wants to invite us into what He is doing, not so he can “use” us, but so we can be with Him.
It is crazy how much God is for us, and how much He loves us, not in a utilitarian way, but as one of my favorite Children’s Bibles, The Jesus Storybook by Sally Lloyd-Jones echoes throughout, God’s “Never Stopping, Never Giving up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.” I am realizing the underlying attitude of God using us impacts our relationship, it keeps us distant from God, and keeps us in performance mode when God is inviting us into a daily living, walking, going about our business kind of life. We are invited to look and listen for what He is up to, and get the privilege to join Him, and know that His heart is for us and desires to share this life with us.