To prefer man to God: A strange and unhappy slavery is that of a man who seeks to please other men. I vow never to do anything nor to leave anything undone because of what people think. This will set up in me a great interior peace. -- St. Claude de la Colombiere
I posted this quote recently on Facebook and a very thought-provoking discussion followed. One question that was raised is how one knows when one is crossing the line into slavery of another person.
I remembered some thoughts I pondered a year ago, namely this post (Idolatry, Dignity, Authority and Worship) and this one (The Fear of the Lord). At the time I wrote these, the Lord was dealing with my heart about the sin of habitually holding, as it were, my dignity under the water, to try to drown it, because of a warped notion that this is what it would take to please others and therefore be acceptable. That I did this was by no means as conscious as I am able to write about it now, but it retrospect I see that's exactly what the Lord was trying to free me from.
But I saw today, in pondering my friends' discussion of slavery to the opinions of others, that my sin of how I reacted to others was actually rooted in a deeper misunderstanding, not just of my relationship with people, but with God Himself.
I thought of this old song: I'm Your Puppet. Check out these lyrics:
Pull the string and I'll wink at you, I'm your puppetThis has got to be the most vile notion that ever passed for a love song. This is not about love at all, but about someone eagerly surrendering their dignity, longing to be controlled, and understanding that as a sense of "belonging" in love to another person.
I'll do funny things if you want me to, I'm your puppet
Mm. I'm yours to have and to hold
Darling, you've got full control of your puppet ....
Mm, your every wish is my command
All you got to do is wiggle your little hand
I'm your puppet, I'm your puppet
I'm just a toy, just a funny boy
That makes you laugh when you're blue
I'll be wonderful, do just what I'm told
I'll do anything for you .....
What I realized today is that at one time, I prized myself on thinking this way towards God. Of course I wanted to belong to God, wholly and entirely. I craved it. I wanted Him to be in control of every aspect of my life. I wanted to do anything He told me to do, including anything difficult or painful. I wanted to do anything at all that God desired that would please Him. Really, I couldn't believe that He would simply love me, so like the prophets of Baal, I had to resort to violence -- to my very nature as a human being. After all, aren't we suppose to sacrifice ourselves?
This "puppet" way of being is not the sacrifice of myself in any holy sense of the word -- it's whoredom. It's idolatry. God's way of sacrifice is to treasuring what God has given to me -- and through me to the greater community -- and raising it up with joy in dedication back to the Lord for His purposes. This puppet way of being is asking God to trash me if He has to, if only to give a few scraps of attention.
We deeply and unceasingly yearn for love, for belonging, for the warmth of another human heart. But we end up submitting ourselves to control, and controlling others. Which way do we go to get free?
I belong to God, not because of my great effort to get Him to love me. He loves me because I am lovable, because Love Himself has created me. Everything about me, about my existence, is because of Him who created me, who gives me His very life in Christ. With the firm assurance that He is everything to me, it makes sense that I cannot be a slave to pleasing another. I cannot be a whore when the Lamb claims me as His Bride. When I act that way, I am falling out of who I truly am, in Christ. Always He extends His arms to receive me back. And when my falling days are done, those arms will draw me in for eternity.
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Ps. 27:1