I came back from the Dominican more drained and spent than ever before. I had no energy to do anything, let alone serve or be intentional with others. The continual overwhelming feeling of exhaustion and isolation felt so foreign that I didn’t recognize myself. I felt alone and confused and lost in a way that I have never felt in my life.
I’ve always wanted to be the more generous person in a friendship. I want to give more, buy more, do more. But being so overwhelmed made that nearly impossible. I did, I tried. I tried to continue, but it was wearing me out. I was already so spent.
I felt like God was trying to teach me that my friends would be faithful. That they would love me even when I had nothing to give. But I’m stubborn and I didn’t want to learn it. I couldn’t imagine letting my friends be there for me when I couldn’t reciprocate the support and intentionality they were offering.
I had fallen into believing this lie that I needed to love my friends more. [Don’t get me wrong, we are called to love people deeply, but it shouldn’t be a comparison] I felt like if I didn’t love them well enough that they would not value my friendship any more. That it wouldn’t be worth it and that they would stop being friends with me. Prior to the Dominican, I continually gave and gave and gave and I was fine with that. The fear of being a burden somewhat fueled my desire to serve. But coming back from the Dominican I was tired and lonely and at a lower point in my life than I had ever been. I had nothing to give. No energy to give much physically or emotionally. And I felt valueless because of that. I felt worthless without the ability to love and serve like I wanted to.
Serving had become something I found my identity and value from. My identity had been found in the quality of my friendships and my ability to love and serve well. When I couldn’t do that, I felt lost. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I didn’t know how to ask for help knowing I couldn’t give it. I didn’t know how to receive knowing I was incapable of reciprocation.
I was talking to my cousin about this and what all I was going through and he reminded me of my aunt’s sister, Holly, who has severe MS. He reminded me how her husband, Brad has selflessly served and loved her throughout their marriage. How it’s such a beautiful picture of unconditional love. My cousin and I talked about how we both aspire to be the Brad, to serve others in their brokenness. And I shared with him how I wanted so badly to be the Brad, but I felt like the Holly right now. So drained I didn’t even have enough energy to take care of myself, and how I felt so valueless in that. But as we talked, I thought about Holly’s situation and how her MS does not define who she is as a person. She is a beautiful person, inside and out, and her value has nothing to do with her physical capabilities. She is still an incredibly joyful and loving person.
God has been teaching me that my identity is not found in what I do, (praise the Lamb), but my identity is found in who I am in relation to Christ. I am His BELOVED child. I got caught up in my service that when I no longer had the energy to serve, I didn’t know who I was. It was like I lost a part of myself, when in reality my identity has never changed. I am, still, and will always remain His child.
I think God has been challenging me to stop idolizing my service. Finding my identity and value in how much I give will never satisfy. I’m learning to be vulnerable and ask for help. It’s hard and humbling. And I continually feel like I’m fighting the feeling of depression and oppression right now. An ever-present feeling of being burdened and weighed down. But it’s in this time that I feel like God is teaching me so much. And it’s a process. I’m still learning, that just like my friends will love me through my neediness, so will God. His love is not conditional and is not based on my ability to seek him out and be intentional. I had no energy to do anything, including read my Bible sometimes. I’ve been so overwhelmed with processing stuff from the Dominican, yet God continually shows me his steadfast faithfulness. He shows me who he is again and again and again in answering my prayers and continually blessing me. With all the instability in my life, I’ve learned that He is my rock. He is my anchor in the storm.
Sometimes we go through rough times in life. Sometimes we feel like we’re drowning and fighting to stay afloat in the storm. Sometimes we need people and can’t give much in return. And that’s okay. All I have to say is keep fighting. Keep your head up. It’s okay to be vulnerable. Others have been there too. It’s okay to ask for help. That’s what I’m learning. Friendships that glorify Christ are give and take. My value is not found in how much I can give, but the fact that as a Christian, I am a part of Christ’s family. That’s what I’m holding onto. The earth was never meant to be my home. So, I feel a little lost and life feels a little foreign, but you know what my consolation is? My citizenship is in Heaven. We were never meant to feel 100% at home here because this isn’t our eternal destination. We have hope in a future with no suffering.