Recently the talk of "being used" has been a topic in my mind (again). It is always a problem of mine, apparently, that I am too easily persuaded by other people to do what they want me to do. I have my opinions, and I may be quite annoyed with people who convince me to do what I don't want to do, but all too often I will give in and think to myself, "Grrr....oh well." I'm not talking about any sort of real wrong thing or sin that people convince me to do, but more just the things in life that I don't really want to do, or the objects in life that I really don't want to give up. If a sin were at stake, I would have a good reason to not grant another's request, but if it is just a worldly object or some of my own time, I guess I have trouble arguing over and over about why I should disappoint them and not meet their request.
Anyway, the end result is that some people looking out for my best interests say that I let people use me. I'm not sure if they're right or not, but at times I see where that could be implied in my life. Of course, whenever "being used" is the issue, it is given in a negative light, and when I think about it in my mind, it is a negative concept as well. In some cases, being used is sort of a mutual thing, as in I give something to gain something else, but that's not exactly a healthy attitude on my part probably, even if it is arguably the normal state of mind for most people (since we all as humans have this selfishness problem). Perhaps in a relational way the reason that being used is seen as a bad thing is that the "user" cares only about what they can gain from the relationship, and doesn't really care about the "used" person as a person.
Now, on the other hand.... One of the studies I'm participating in at the moment deals with service to God ("Serving Lessons"). In section three especially (the section I'm studying this week), there is a good deal of talk about using the spiritual gifts and being used by God. This brought to my mind the thoughts of being used again. The difference is in this case that "being used" is termed in a positive light, as long as it's in reference to being used by God. I could ask a stupid question and say, "Why is it good if God uses me but bad if other people do?" The answer is that God is not the same as other people, and, well...you can't apply human rules to God. That answer -- which is applicable to a good deal of the issues I concern myself with -- does not really satisfy my inquiring mind, even though I know it is the right answer. In this case, however, we can say that God does not fit the description of a "user" because God does care about us as people, and not just as pawns to accomplish his purposes.
Well, this is all a bit confusing, and a ripe area for discussion . In any case, let us assume that being used by God is good, but being used by other people is bad. Where do we draw the line? Often the two categories of "being used-age" overlap. We might feel that God has given us the gift of finances, and so we feel it is our duty, within reason, to provide for the needs of others -- but where do we stop? I mean, I could live in a boxcar so others would have nice places to live. Or if my spiritual gift was singing, I could spend every weekend touring, visiting other churches and providing special music. But where then is the consideration for having a home church to worship in, and for (quite frankly) having free time on weekends to pursue our hobbies or other interests?
The point here (I think) is that we might be tempted to consider most of the "being used" by other people as a reflection of our willingness to be used by God. We can choose to see life as an opportunity to give ourselves totally away, with no regard for ourselves *at all*, especially if we remember the "living sacrifices" verses. But what this would seem to lead to is a classic case of burnout. Where to draw the line is the problem. Sure we all want and need to serve people, but at what point is it okay or even in God's best interests to say no?
After having said this, and hopefully not being too confusing about it, I guess I would say that I'm looking for opportunities for true service....well, on second thought, I'm first of all looking for a definition of true service. Here's a first shot: service that is ordained by God where a need clearly exists, and service that strives to reach a goal that is ordained by God. Strangely, that definition doesn't have any recognition for whether the service is appreciated, acknowledged or even realized. I guess that means that our service might go unnoticed, that we might get no compliments in exchange for our service, and it might even feel at times like we're being used. And so we must be discerning about when we are "being used" for God's glory and when we are "being used" because we fail to stop something that God has not ordained.