My husband and I get into unproductive cycles in our relationship sometimes. One that I’ve been recently noticing is when he starts feeling needy. When I hear him express that, I groan inside. I simply cannot make myself feel turned on by his neediness; instead, it pushes me away. Maybe this is because it turns something that should be about desire on both sides into obligation for me. I think that because I’m married to him, I should meet his needs, but it turns out that his needs are really for me to desire him, and I cannot desire him based on obligation or neediness. Instead, I want him to meet me where my heart is at so I can feel connected. For me, desire springs from that. When he’s feeling needy, I think it’s because he is not believing that he is attractive enough that when he is himself, I will be drawn to him. So he begins to feel sorry for himself, believing that he cannot attract me, and he then tries to turn me on by expressing neediness, but when that does not work, it reinforces his belief that he is not attractive to me.
I was thinking about how this dynamic has often existed in my relationship with God. A lot of the worship songs I used to sing both in church and by myself were downright needy. For example, take these lyrics from “Breathe” by Michael W. Smith, one of the most popular worship songs of all time: “I’m desperate for you; I’m lost without you.” My heart connects to that song because I used to sing it over and over with such passion. I could feel the tears welling up inside as I sang, “You’re the air I breathe.” I just listened to the song again, and I could feel myself connecting once again to the idea that being with God is the most important thing in my life, and I don’t want anything to get in the way of that.
But while this and similar songs have helped me to become aware of my heart’s desire for God, worship songs have also led me down a path of emptying myself of me. Lots of songs present the idea that I should decrease so God can increase. I googled “more of you and less of me,” and I found a beautiful song by Brian Johnson that I used to listen to. As I listened again, I found myself reconnecting with the ideas in the song. The words “more of you, less of me” are repeated only a couple times, and the rest of the song is about how wonderful it is to be in the presence of God. The lyrics, “I’m satisfied by you alone” carry the sense that I am already with God, and being with God fulfills something in me. But while I relish the idea of feeling God’s presence more, I wonder why Johnson wrote, “less of me.” Why do I have to decrease, becoming less of myself, to get closer to God? Perhaps Johnson meant that as God increases in my life, bad character traits I’ve exhibited will start to fade. Or maybe he adopted a Christianese cliché without thinking too much about it. More likely, the phrase comes from a bible verse (John 3:30) where John the Baptist says, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” I think in context, though, John was probably talking about increasing and decreasing in popularity, not in personhood. I have attended the church where Johnson leads worship, and I know that this church encourages its members to find the gold in people, Christians and non-Christians alike. When we tell people the truth about who they really are, this church teaches, that reality will start to show up in their lives. I think that’s a great concept because it doesn’t reject the person as useless without Christ. But a lot of Christianity does. “Amazing Grace,” for example, calls the pre-Christian a wretch. And there are quite a few songs about becoming more like Jesus.
Several years ago I took myself on a personal retreat. I had been trying for years to get closer to God and advance in my spiritual journey, but things were not going well. Every time I tried to join a church, I enjoyed it for a short time, but then I would begin to be miserable. My heart would say, you don’t belong here, but I took that as demons and tried to force myself to stay. (I wrote about that experience here.) I was about to move again, to another church, and I went to the beach to try to hear God. I couldn’t hear much, but the one thing I did hear became a turning point in my life, “I would rather have you be yourself than worship me.” This gave me the permission I needed to be free to be myself, but it was months or years later before I actually did stop going to church and singing all those songs.
I have an almost-two-year old toddler who is still nursing. (I blogged about that recently on my other blog here.) Though she wants to nurse a lot, I don’t find her desire unattractive. Rather, I like the fact that she wants me, and nursing makes me feel close to her. I was thinking about what is the difference between how she approaches me and how my husband often does, and I think it is in confidence. My daughter trusts me to meet her needs, and she has no doubt that I want to meet them. She doesn’t doubt her identity or wonder whether I love her. I’m pretty sure that such a thought has never crossed her mind. Because she is so confident in our relationship, I’m always totally attracted to her. Even when I don’t feel like nursing, I look at her reaching for me, my heart melts, and I scoop her up and latch her on.
When I used to listen to teachings from the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, I loved a phrase they often used: “confident in love before God.” I think that phrase expresses the idea that I am saturated with the knowledge that God loves me, I love me, and I love God. When I know that I am loved for who I am, that God believes in me, there’s no limit to what I can do or be. (Darin Hufford talks about this idea a lot.) “Confident in love before God” also carries the sense that what really attracts God is our confidence in being who we are. My reality is that God desires to have a relationship with me for who I am. God’s not looking for another Jesus. Jesus is Jesus, and I’m not him. And I don’t want to be him. I choose to be me. I do believe that my personal unique self is far more attractive to God than an empty shell or shadow of a person who is trying to be like Jesus in order to please God and divorcing myself of my own heart in the process. What I have to offer in a relationship, whether with God or anyone else, is my own being, and the more I am confident in that, the more attractive I will be as a person. Who wants to be with someone who is constantly down on herself, berating herself, or saying, “what a worm I am” as some old hymn states? I am not a worm. At my core, I am an amazing being, made from love, filled with light. I am completely unique, and there’s no one like me in all the world. And I shine with a beautiful radiance that flows from my inner being. Okay, so I have bad days where I cop an attitude or say negative things. But that’s not me. When I say, I want to be more of me, I realize that the more I manifest who I truly am, the less negativity will show up in my life. As I am who I am, I attract God. And when I believe that God loves me for who I am (which I discover when I am with God) I am more likely to live from that reality. So maybe I should rewrite the song, “more of you, more of me.”