Good for what???

This is a elusive question for me. What am I good for? It’s a difficult question because it’s one that I can never answer satisfactorily for myself. It’s twin brother, How do I fit in? recurs in my mind like a familiar dream that is meaningless. I find myself troubling over these questions, although it took me until today to actually name them as questions, or better, anxieties in my mind, heart and soul.

These questions manifest themselves in my life in ways that only recently have I been able to identify. Here is the familiar, tangible pattern in which they become flesh: I feel as though I need to get involved with something important. Next, being involved in something meaningful makes me happy and brings me contentment. The result is that I continue to search for meaningful things, missions, and challenges to take up. The result usually ends up being less than satisfaction for me… and always more searching for the next thing.

The assumption is that I will do something worthwhile by marrying my desire to work hard with my intention to do something that benefits others. Then, yes then, I will be content and fulfilled.

So, again I get involved with something out of a desire to seek to be of use in a group dynamic where I am valued. Then, the cycle is repeated and ultimately fulfilled, and I am disquieted. Without a doubt, I question the way in which I fit into the new “mission”, and I begin to doubt myself. Most recently, I have been able to identify times when for no other reason than my own anxiety about how I fit in, I sabotaged my position, filled myself with anxiety, and began to search for the next thing to throw myself into, again questioning what am I good for. The anxiety becomes such an obsession that I cannot speak. I become so caught up in myself that I can, at times, watch my hands shake. So, I end up in a group where I wanted to be, but debilitated by my own anxiety.

This is the tragedy of volunteerism. The idea that we find fulfillment in philanthropic ways is a sweet pill that turns sour when digested. The problem that I am finally beginning to understand (be patient with me because I am only wise enough to pick off the lowest hanging fruit of my behavior) is me. Volunteering for a cause is not iniquitous. Looking for ways to mix professional advancement with vocation is not wrong. The problem is me. I am not fulfilled with what I find here. I am not fulfilled with the very best that I can find in myself. I am not even satisfied with doing good for others. Even when I serve the Lord I find evil present in my thoughts and actions.

These kinds of revelations are a bit of a struggle for me. A few weekends ago, I commented off the cuff: how do I fit into this family? I said it because of the way that the men in my family are so very mechanically inclined. I am not. I am not helpless, but I admit that I am not built to understand and find contentment in mechanical pursuits. Since I am inclined to self-analyze, and most would tell you that many adult behaviors can be traced back to childhood and the family, I believe that my self-questioning came about because I didn’t know how I fit in my mechanically inclined family.

So, I look back on my life and see what kinds of things I did to try to fit in. Most were rife with insecurity. I believe most who did not fit in would admit the same privately.

To bring my thoughts full-circle, I believe that I struggle to fit in which bears the question of what am I good for. This iniquity presses me on to find different interests or groups to pursue in which I ultimately struggle to fit in, and then lose interest or sabotage myself in some way. Even “keeping in step with the spirit” I find sin intertwined. I cannot escape it. Even when I pursue righteousness wholeheartedly. In my heart there is always a slight bit of rot in the form of sin.

This is a conundrum for me, but words fail to express the turmoil that it produces. Thank God that Saint Paul wrote in Romans 7:21-25:So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”

Thank God that the fact that we struggle like this is the normal Christian experience. We “have been crucified with Christ” in our baptism, but the old sinful nature refuses to stay dead. So thank God. Thank God that he “rescues” us from our own “body of death”. We are members of God’s family because Jesus bought us. We belong. We were purchased at a price. We are good for something. We are loved by God.

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