I remember being 18, 20, 24 years old and wanting desperately to get it right. And by “it” I mean my life, all of it:
all the big problems of the world
I struggled with what I could do about war, poverty, discrimination and all the other tough problems.
Was being a veterinarian- my heart’s desire since grade school-frivolous? Was caring for humans rather than animals the real work that a serious person ought to do? Was I avoiding the real work of human medicine? How could I figure all this out? How could I KNOW?
For better or worse, I was not smart enough or strong enough to ask others for help with this. I thought I had to figure all this out by myself and I had to get it right. In my mind there was only one right answer to each question. No pressure, eh?
And then the scariest questions of all.
What if I screwed up?
What if I made a mistake?
What if I wasn’t good enough?
What if I let everyone- family,friends, myself, God – down?
Lots of pressure. And I thought I was the only one who felt that way. So scared. So afraid. And so determined to succeed- at every single thing.
It was years, before I realized that everyone,if they are honest, felt the same way. We were all frantically pretending to be adults. To look like we knew what we were doing. To look self confident. To look competent, actually more than competent, the best, top of the class.
Its a wonder I only ended up with tiny mental health issues rather than big, check into the hospital issues.
I made my life so much harder, so much more lonely than I needed to.
One of my friends reminds me that we are human beings, not human doings. But I spent a lot of years as a human doing. A desperate, frantic human doing.
Life, of course, isn’t a zero sum game. We don’t choose between “be” or “do”. Part of the doing is learning to be and part of the being is doing. Life isn’t control everything or do nothing. Its not either/or. Its a both/and.
It takes conscious effort for me to “let go and let God.” I have to intentionally loosen the grasp I have on people and schedules and outcomes. Honestly there is a part of me that wants, even needs, for me to be needed. Part of me wants desperately to be indispensable and crucial to the success of, well, everything.
Why? There were (and are) many reasons. To be successful. To excel. To not feel inadequate. To know I matter. To have people love me. Underneath all the desperate need to get it right was a sense misplaced sense of self worth. My value was I did. My value was what I accomplished. What I did was who I was.
But of course that is not where my value comes from. My value comes because of love.
Love. I had to hear it for years before I believed. God is love. God loves us.God loves me. God loves us not for what we do but for whose we are. We are created to be loved by God. Whether I succeeded or failed. Whether I was the smartest or not. Whether I worked harder or not.
Torah and Jesus both tell us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. That also took a very long time to understand. I am not truly free to love others if I am insecure and worried about myself. Loving myself, as Jesus shows us, give me the ability to care for others. I thought I had to chose. I thought loving my neighbor meant denying myself. That can be true. But if I deny myself because I think I am of little value, I have little of value to give. If I deny myself because I think I am so strong, or so capable, or so wise that I have extra to give, that’s just condescending not love.
We love because God first loved us. Because of that love, in and through that love, we can love God, ourselves and each other. We can strive to do well for the right reason, the best reason, love. And we do it together, you and I and everyone else along with the God who is the source of all love.