“Go home, Michelle. We don’t need you here.”
My brother’s words stung. What do you mean, you don’t need me? I thought, immediately defensive. Of COURSE you need me! This school would fall apart without me! I had helped start this little English school in northeast Asia three years earlier, and was responsible for finding textbooks, designing the curriculum, assessing student ability, training new teachers, hosting visiting teams, and keeping things running smoothly, as well as teaching a very full load of classes.
“You’re no good to anyone here when you’re miserable yourself,” my brother Michael continued, quietly and firmly. He had been teaching at the school with me for the past year, and had seen the strain I’d been under. And he wasn’t one to mince words when the truth needed to be told. “You’re a mess. We’ll be fine without you. You need to go home.”
Though it was painful to hear, I knew Michael was right. For months, I’d felt like I was at the breaking point almost every day. The compounded stress and pressure of an extremely demanding job, very little rest, conflicts with roommates and co-workers, and not feeling understood or appreciated by my leaders was getting to be more than I could bear. Ignoring the warning signs of burnout and depression, I’d stubbornly pushed on, insisting that I was fine. But my “stuff it and forget it” method of dealing with stress was not working anymore. And though I tried to mask my emotions with a pasted-on smile, apparently the only one I’d been fooling was myself.
But the part that was hardest for me to accept was that the school didn’t NEED me. I needed to be needed. My identity was wrapped up in this superhero image of the girl who could do it all, the amazing cross-cultural English teacher who overcame every obstacle and sacrificed her own comforts for the greater good of her students and team. And now here was my brother saying that they would survive without me! How could they?
Need to be Needed
“You can’t be the savior of the world, Michelle,” a friend had gently rebuked me years ago. “The job’s already taken.” Now her words came back to confront my prideful self-importance and inflated image of my own ability. Who did I think I was? I had been relying on my own strength for far too long. And now I was paying the price for it.
Apparently the apostle Paul struggled with similar issues. He also had to be reminded where his strength came from. The Lord told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (II Corinthians 12:9a, NIV).
My brother’s confrontation that day in our little English school in northeast Asia forced me to face the reality that I can’t be the savior of the world. If I need to be needed, I will never recognize my need for Christ.
Instead, I can now say with the apostle Paul, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. …For when I am weak, then I am strong” (II Corinthians 12:9b,10b, NIV). HE is my source of strength. HE is all I need!