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It was time to make lunch, and a happy two-year-old stood on the stool beside me at the kitchen counter, gibbering away.
“What’s this?” he asks, holding up a light brown orb.
“Onion,” I reply.
“Onyi,” he mimics the sounds as best as his little tongue allows.
“Yes,” I chuckle.
“Onyi, onyi, onyi…” he sings as if to himself, completely wrapped up in his own world now. It’s just him and his revelation: the onion.

Thankfully, he surrenders his precious “onyi” and we chop it up, along with the veggies. His butter knife cubes the air as mine cubes the pork. We then measure out the flour, his favorite part of any recipe because he can do it all by himself. I turn my attention to the pan on the stove so I don’t burn lunch, leaving him to his game of flour transportation via spoon.

I mix all the ingredients together in the pan, turn the burner down, and give them another good mix before checking on my Sous Chef to make sure the butter knife has not been replaced by the real one. It hasn’t. Good. It’s still lying there on the cutting board where I left it, and my son’s butter knife is close by. Next to his knife, my eyes follow a trail of white leading to a fluffy, white pyramid, and in front of it, as serious as could be, stands a little human, wet flour thickly caked onto his shirt and face. He’s drinking dry flour from a cup with a metal mixing bowl atop his head. Noticing my gaze, he turns his head and beams, “Look, Mama, I made lunch.” It’s a meal fit for a king as far as he’s concerned.

It was at that moment that the Voice spoke to me. The gentle, quiet voice that reaches into my very soul pushing past all the distractions and pretenses, dividing bone and marrow, light from dark. “Just so you know,” it began, “that’s what you look like serving Me. Your ”help“ is neither efficient nor necessary. It actually creates more work for Me, but I love that you are next to Me, involved in what I’m doing. I love that you want to help Me. I even love the bowl on your head and your messy shirt. Yes, I see them. I delight in working side by side, but you’re not doing great things for Me that I couldn’t do for Myself. I want you, but I don’t need you.”

He Doesn’t Need Me

I want God to need me, to be unable to function without my energy, ideas, and service. I want my prayers to direct and empower Him to fulfill His will. Of course, I know that none of these things are biblical, but when push comes to shove, I want to be important. I long to be indispensable. My soul screams a yearning to be the one that God can’t live without. But His all-sufficient, speak-the-world-into-creation self does not need the messy, floury, mixing bowl-crowned me. That truth petrifies me. If I’m not useful, will God abandon me? If I’m not the best at everything, will He move on to someone better? My mind knows the answers to these questions, but my heart shudders at the possibility. How will He react when I let Him down? I better hide this bowl. Oh my gosh, look at my shirt. What a mess. I’m such a child. Is He looking at me? I can feel that He is. He’s disappointed, I know it. He’s mad at me for spilling. I can’t take it. I gotta get out of here, away from Him.

I run away because at the bottom of my need to be needed is insecurity. What if I’m not enough? The lie, lurking in the shadows, is that God not needing me is the same thing as Him being indifferent toward me. There’s nothing indifferent about God. He’s self-sufficient, but that’s not the same, and it doesn’t diminish His love for me. In fact, it’s this very character quality that ensures that His love for me is poured out in its purest form. He doesn’t need a thing from me, so His love is free of greed and manipulation. His love is an extension of who He is, not a maneuver to get what He wants. Everything is His already. He doesn’t need me.

God chooses the menu, and He’ll make sure that lunch doesn’t burn. But I feel ridiculous standing here with a bowl on my head. Yet the truth is I’m a child, and I sometimes do childish things. He knows that and sees that. I don’t need to pretend otherwise by hiding the bowl. It’ll inevitably find its way back to its perch anyway. This isn’t to say that it’s a fashion statement and something I flaunt. Call it what it is: childishness. I have it, and God knows and loves me the same. And that’s that. It’s not the centerpiece of my service, nor does it disqualify it. The same goes for my messy shirt and my pathetic ‘“lunch.”

This puts me in my place, but that place isn’t that of a guilty cowering dog. God’s Voice was direct and truthful, but it didn’t make me want to run. His words were a rebuke. But instead of feeling shamed, I felt liberated.

He Wants Me

Even though He doesn’t need me, He wants to be in the same room as me. I often don’t want to be in the same room with me. I spend so much time frustrated with who I’m not, that I forget that my Heavenly Father delights in what I am right now. I’m so wrapped up in trying to pour the flour perfectly, impossible with my shaky hands, that I forget that He didn’t invite me to cook with Him because of my skill. He invited me because He delights in me. His everlasting love beckoned me. He didn’t hire me, scouring hundreds of applications for the best qualified person to accomplish His plan. He adopted me and offers me a home, not an office.

I’m not one screwup away from getting the pink slip. I don’t need to dress to impress nor must I climb the ladder to be noticed. I’m completely accepted as I am. Not who I want to be, but who I am in this very moment with all of my wonderful God-infused qualities and all the wet flour stuck to my shirt and face. I like to pretend, though, that I didn’t make a mess, like I can’t see the flour all over every surface of the counter and myself. I want lunch to be all prepared and perfect and the mess all cleaned before I invite God into the room. And so I try, try, and try harder to impress Him, forgetting that He’s standing next to me the whole time. More than that, He was in the room before I was. He’s the One who invited me in. But I forget about that in my pursuit to earn His favor. And after my best efforts, all I have to show for it is a cup of flour. No amount of effort changes who I am and what I can accomplish, but my deep insecurity will not accept that because what if my bowl-hat is too ridiculous and He’s embarrassed by me? What if a cup of flour isn’t enough to ensure His love for me?

The fact that He smiles down at me and laughs a good long grandpa laugh when I present my main course to Him makes my heart soar. He really isn’t here for the food. He’s here for me. This doesn’t make me the center of the universe. Oh no, reality with Him is so much better than that. It makes me the helper, invited into the creative process with the Center of the Galaxy. I’m working shoulder to shoulder with the Energizer, Sustainer, and Protector of all things that were, are, and are to come.

Yielding to His rightful position removes my insecurities and quiets my soul. It also frees me to be who I am. I no longer have to pretend to be God. I am once again a child standing next to Him on my stool ready to engage with wonder and anticipation in what I see. I don’t need to know what that brown ball is. I can ask. I don’t need to cube the pork yet; God’s got it. I can keep practicing on the air. I can pour the flour all by myself, and it doesn’t matter if I spill a little because it’s not about that tiny task. It’s about the experience of being in the kitchen together. That’s what’ll change my heart.

Isn’t that what it’s all about? Serving God, I mean. It’s not about doing extraordinary things. It’s about loving God and loving others. Our preeminent task is to love, not to serve. Genuine love ignites the heart to service. If you truly love someone, you’ll serve them. But the service is secondary to the love. Putting service first will slowly pull the heart into pride by thinking that it’s the best servant around—or into insecurity, thinking it has to maintain a certain level of service in order to earn love. Both are equally lethal to the spiritual life, and they both hold me in the center, which means that I’m living in a false reality. To get back to how things really are, how they were created to be, I first need to get back to the relationship.

A deep, dynamic relationship with God will bring about service and that of an extraordinary kind. The Apostle Paul calls these stunning elements of service the fruits of the Spirit. Serving isn’t doing nice things for others because it’s the right thing to do. It’s loving others as God loves us. He gave Himself for us. That’s what His love looks like, and that’s what I’m called to do. An impossible task on my own, but thanks be to God, I’m not on my own. I’m in close proximity and loved by God, and that’s changing me and changing the way that I serve. It kills the pride and vanquishes the insecurity. Then out pours peace, self-control, patience, kindness, love, goodness, gentleness, joy, and faithfulness. All essential qualities of a servant. It puts me in my place: that of a beloved child and a cherished servant.

The Triune God of the Universe invited me to stand next to Him, and He has invited you as well. Let’s forget about being “useful” for just a moment and close our eyes and imagine that we’re free from that burden—that burden to produce and preform in order to maintain our position of favor. Let’s forget about our silly notion that we’re the greatest servant ever. Let’s listen to the Voice: “I don’t need you; I want you.”

Wendy is a cross-cultural worker and author who knows the challenges and immense benefits of trekking into unknown territory. For the past 15 years, she has lived outside of her passport country and now resides in Central Serbia with her husband and son. For more information, follow her on Instagram: @wendy.zahorjanski or check out her website: