Last year, I found myself sitting in a counseling office. The counselor was explaining to me that children of dysfunctional families tend to gravitate to different roles for various reasons: The rebel, the clown, the hidden one, the hero, etc.. As he described each one, I suddenly realized, “My God! I think I am the hero!”
Now I do have to issue a disclaimer here. I have a rather ambivalent relationship with counselors and counseling in general. I think they can be of tremendous help. I mean that. The problem I have found is that they tend to take the place of the Holy Spirit. That is the best way I can describe it in ten words or less. I mean, in my case, I had suffered an emotional crash larger than I ever had in my life, and in my oldest daughter’s words, I needed to know “I was not crazy and everything was going to be okay.” And my counselor did an amazing job with that. But when it came to me understanding where God was in my crisis and what He was saying — which I just assumed was the goal in every season, especially a season like this — I was greeted with silence.
Nonetheless, the idea of me being a hero rang through my ears. I was what you might call a conscientious child. I was the child who always wanted to do the right thing. I was very sensitive to make sure that I did. We tend to like conscientious children. They are extremely well-behaved and never cause problems. They make parents and teachers proud. They give everyone hope that perhaps there is good in the world after all.
The problem with the conscientious child is that on the inside, they are a nervous wreck. They do not do what they do because of inherent goodness. They certainly do not do what they do because of love. They do what they do out of fear. They believe the world rests on their shoulders — or at least their self-worth does. Their whole point of existing seems to them to be to make the rest of the world happy. Otherwise, they are nothing. That is a lot of pressure, my dear reader. And working from this place of fear has become a way of life for them.
It does not take a counselor of course to realize this is no different from any other form of brokenness we find in the world. And one, of course, Jesus has an answer for.
A little over a year ago, I was about to cross the street outside the office where I work, when the Lord said to me, “You have spent your whole life trying to prove to me how much you love me. But what if the whole point of life is for Me to prove to you how much I love you?” That was a new thought for me. “Love is this: Not that we love God but that He first loved us.” What if the whole point of life was not to love, but to be loved?
Huh. Such a life would not be a life where I was the hero. But such a life would not be a life where I needed to be, either. For the first time in my life, I caught a glimpse of freedom. And it came with a good dose of fear and trembling.
There is a place for heroes. We need them. But heroes do what they do out of love, not fear. In this sense, there is perhaps only one Hero, and those whose lives He has touched.
I will admit to you: I still want to be a hero. I want to leave the world a better place than when I found it. I want to fulfill my purpose; I want this life to matter. But not out of fear I am nothing, but from that perfect place of assurance that in the eyes of God, before whom I am nothing, in truth I am everything. Because He is the hero.
In the meantime I will take up my Cross and with a good dose of fear and trembling do what seems to be the hardest thing on earth for us to do: Allow myself to be loved.