I have a 2 and a half year-old son, Micah. He LOVES Thomas the Train. He loves it to the point that I’m starting to cringe everytime I hear that familiar theme song. In fact, I think I’ll probably have terrifying flashbacks of that annoying little ditty when I’m well into my seventies! What can you do? He loves it.
But there IS something of substance that bothers me about the show, besides the annoying song and the creepy little guy who’s always wearing a top hat! ( What is up with that, anyway!)
No matter which engine is the star of a particular episode, they will almost always mention that all they want to be is a “very useful engine.” And the show usually ends with the “top hat guy” affirming that the train was indeed a “very useful engine.”
The thing is, I’m pretty sure I spent most of my life seeking to be useful. That is, what I could DO was more valuable than who I WAS. And that is a message I’m not comfortable with passing on.
Rich Mullins is recorded as saying the following: “When I was in Thailand, I met this missionary. And I was talking to her and I said, ‘You know, I just want the Lord to use me.’ And she said, ‘Well, forget it. God doesn’t need you for anything. God doesn’t want to use you. He wants you to love Him.’”
That is such a powerful statement for someone who thinks what they DO is what pleases God. Now, I’m not saying that the positive things we do have no value to God…but I do believe that the only way He’s pleased by any of it is if it is out of sheer and uncontainable love for Him, that we’re just COMPELLED to act solely because we love Him and love others.
A lot of people say they are looking for their “purpose”. What that means to me is that a lot of people want to find out what they are meant to DO for Him. I used to say that often, too, until I learned that all He really wants is my love…whatever that looks like at a particular moment. And sometimes that is an act of service, but often it isn’t. Sometimes, loving Him means forgiving, and sometimes it means sacrificing something you love. A test I give myself on occasion is the following question: Will it be perfectly fine with me if no one ever knows what I’ve just done “for God”? If my answer is no, or a wishy-washy yes, I’ve got a love problem.
Think about it. Could God really ever NEED you, other than His need for you to love Him? I think the One who created, um, everything probably has got it all under control if you don’t do your part. And when we remember that the only part we have to give is love, the pressure to feel useful is off! We will always be exactly what He wants when love is our focus.
What I want to be careful to include is that many of us are not effecting anyone’s lives, and that is NOT okay! It means you have some work to do. Not “works”, but WORK. You need to discover who Jesus is for yourself, and let the love He has for you begin to “work” in you, until you can’t help but do the things He compels you to do just purely out of LOVE!! Because one thing I know is that love is a verb, not an adjective. For those of you who flunked grammar, love is an ACTION! It needs to be doing something…but that can’t happen until you love the One for whom you’re doing all these things.
Forget about being USEFUL. Instead, focus on being loved, and loving Him in return.
that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height– 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3: 17-19
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.