Because You’re Mine

It was ‘Bob Ross’ night as we liked to call it and the four of us had our canvases and paints all ready to go.

The beginning steps weren’t too difficult. We were simply instructed to lay the base colors; the light blues of the sky and the deep greens and browns of the rich earth below.

I was practically Michelangelo at this point.

Then we started adding depth, definition, and contrast.

By the time we got to the mountain range and ‘happy trees,’ I was no better than a 2nd grader with her finger paints.

My final product was anything but perfect. All my hopes and dreams of ever becoming an artist had been swiftly whisked away. But I still loved it.

I thought it was a beautiful painting; worthy of being prominently displayed on my wall where everyone could see it.

Sure it wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t care.

It was mine.

This reminded me of one of my favorite children’s books by Max Lucado, You Are Special.

In this adorable, yet incredibly relevant book; applicable even to the wisest of theologians, our young puppet named Punchinello inquires of his creator, the wood worker named Eli…

“What do I matter to you?”

Eli looked at Punchinello, put his hands on those small wooden shoulders, and spoke very slowly. “Because you’re mine. That’s why you matter to me.”

I absolutely love this part of the story because it is in this moment that the lie every adult knows is confronted … ‘my value lies in what I can or cannot do.’

What a debilitating lie this is.

Our confessional theology; the theology we proclaim to believe in, tells us and the world that our value comes from the One who made us. However, our practical theology; the theology that we actually live by, more often than not tells us and the world that we don’t really believe in what we proclaim.

If we did, there would be no such thing as comparison or pride in our small groups, anxiety when answering a question in Sunday School, or broken friendships among believers.

Rather, our lives tell a story of vain striving; of people who look within rather than above for assurance and value, believing that either…

  1. I’ve got this; or
  2. I suck.

The ‘I’ve got this’ lie suggests to the world that we believe God loves us because of all the good we do while the ‘I suck’ lie implies that we believe that God’s love is conditional; apt to change; to increase or decreased based on our actions or lack thereof.

Both are essentially the same lie – ‘my value lies in what I can or cannot do.’ One is through the lens of pride and the other is through the lens of self-loathing.

Both are equally destructive to the believer’s life.

As I’ve searched deeper into the precious Word of God and developed a greater, more personal understanding of this faith that I claim, I’ve also become more acquainted with the depth of my depravity; of all the ways that I’ve thought wrongly about God and conducted myself accordingly.

This is one of those areas.

I’m only now realizing how much of my life has been driven by this deceptive belief that I had and still have some part to play in determining my value as a Christian.

In some regard this may seem fairly innocent; common even and often masked with sympathetic words such as ‘insecure’ or ‘low-self esteem.’ We might even try to mask this lie with empowering words; words that tell me that I’m ‘self-aware’ or ‘introspective.’

To some degree it’s good to be introspective and aware of one’s motives and actions, but when that turns into a means by which we try to gain favor in God’s eyes, this seemingly innocent misconception suddenly becomes insurmountable.

This lie that I had some part to play in determining my value and worth as a Christian suddenly, when under attack from the enemy, morphed into the lie that I now have a part to play in guaranteeing my salvation.

Yikes! That escalated really quickly!

But do you see how different those two lies are yet how closely they can be related?  Even the slightest fallacy in our beliefs regarding the Gospel is enough for Satan to plunge his dagger of deceit into and twist until we are unraveled by pain, illegitimate guilt, and confusion.

I realized that nearly the entirety of my faith had fed into this lie that I had some part to play in how much (or how little) I was valued by God.

I had a ‘good day, bad day’ faith and once faced with some serious life circumstances, immense fears, and relentless lies from the devil, it quickly stole my focus from that of Jesus Christ standing firm on the water to the fact that I was merely human and could not, within myself, walk on water.

Because I saw myself as part of my own front line defense against Satan rather than the truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and Word of God that makes up the impenetrable armor of God (Eph. 6), I presented the enemy with the perfect opportunity to strike at the weakest point in my defense…me!

And I am no match against the powers of hell or the urges of sin, fear, and temptation.

Like Helm’s Deep in the Lord of the Rings – just one, extremely small area of weakness, when targeted by the enemy, was enough to bring down the steadfast walls that protected what was most sacred to the people of Rohan.

Just one, extremely small area of weakness in a believer’s theology and belief in the Gospel is enough to seriously disrupt and derail the security that protects what is most sacred to the Christian’s faith – salvation only by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And since the Word of God alone is secure and infallible, it is only when we, fragile, limited human beings assume some degree of God’s limitless nature as our own that we erode our defenses against the flaming arrows of the enemy.

One might say that I had lost a sense of who I was; of my value as a child of God; of how much I was cherished, loved, and accepted.

However, I didn’t necessarily lose a sense of who I was. In fact, I elevated my sense of who I was and lost a sense and recognition of who God is.

My painting may have had some disproportionate trees, weirdly colored meadows and fields, and shadows that faced the wrong direction, but none of that equated to its value.

The finest works of art do not possess their intrinsic value on their own. They don’t even help in the process. They possess their value because their Artist is intrinsically valuable, making wonderful things because HE is wonderful; imputing HIS glory onto the works of HIS hands despite their inconsistencies and irregularities.

Because we are His, we are special.

Because we are His, we are valuable.

Because we are His, we are saved.

Stay Gold Ponyboy

Nature’s first green is gold

Her hardest hue to hold

Her early leaf’s a flower

But only so an hour

Then leaf subsides to leaf

So Eden sank to grief

So dawn goes down to day

Nothing gold can stay.

– Robert Frost

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton was my favorite book in High School and still has a place in my ‘top five’ list today. I read it several times; over and over again, willing the story between the two worn covers to never end. I fell in love with the honesty expressed by Ponyboy as he retold his story and how it coalesced with the stories of Sheri Valance, the Socs, the rest of the Greaser gang, and of course with Johnny Cade.

I related to Ponyboy at that time in my life, and even still do now because he stood apart from the average hoodlum that he was commonly associated with. He saw deeper, he allowed himself to feel stronger, and he loved longer and harder than any of his counterparts.

I admired Ponyboy.

I wanted to see beauty even when life got ugly. I suppose that’s why the scene in Chapter 5 was always my favorite when Ponyboy recited the poem by Robert Frost as shown above.

He was in the deepest, darkest time of his life; having simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time and was now paying for it. Yet, what does Ponyboy do?

He watches the sunrise.

The whole point of Robert Frost’s poem titled Nothing Gold Can Stay is one about the fleeting essence of this world.

Life is fleeting.

Good is fleeting.

Nothing good can stay.

Johnny remarks that the mist of the morning sunrise was the prettiest part; how it gleamed golden and silver hues.

Mist is fleeting. It doesn’t stay. In fact, it fades as quickly as it comes, gracing the watchful eye with its beauty for a few precious moments.

Later on, as Johnny is lying on his deathbed, he pulls Ponyboy close and whispers the iconic saying,

Stay gold Ponyboy. Stay gold.

Johnny knew that Ponyboy was unique; that he stood apart from the rest of the gang. He knew that Ponyboy saw things differently than the others.

He was innocent.

He was like a child with uninhibited and untarnished faith in all that was good in the world.

He was golden like the mist of an early morning sunrise. Though his innocence, like the mist threatened to vanish at any moment with the coming of day; the coming of judgment.

The coming of a life hardened by the harsh realities of their world.

Stay gold Ponyboy. Stay gold.

Hold onto the good.

Romans 12:2 tells us to not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Though our lives here on earth are fleeting, our spirit and our faith is not. We can stay gold. With the renewal of our minds, our hearts and our hope for greater things can remain untarnished by the dark and evil of this world.

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:17-19).

Our hearts and minds are renewed when we set our minds on things above (Colossians 3:2). When we set our minds on things above; when we look deeper, allow ourselves to feel stronger, and love longer and harder, we will be graced with the knowledge of a love that surpasses all knowledge.

We will be able to know that which is unknowable.

We will be filled to the measure with all the fullness of God.

This truth; this very reality that is ours for the taking is what sets us apart. It is what allows us to walk on water; to have a faith that is completely uninhibited and untarnished, even by the deepest of depths and the darkest of times.

Nothing gold can stay?

I beg to differ Mr. Frost.

While this world around us is fleeting, and yes indeed, even the good in the world is brief all the same, there is eternal good that will never fade.

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you…(1 Peter 1:4).

We have this living, everlasting hope that not all that’s good will fade. We have a goodness in us that is eternal and unending.

We have a King whose love for us will never fail.

We have a Home that will never perish.

We have a faith that can never be spoiled.

Hold onto all that’s good. Remember to watch for the golden hues that the Lord graces us with, reminding us of all the good that is yet to come.

Don’t stop looking deeper into the hearts of others, feeling the strength of the Holy Spirit within you, and loving the Lord your God and those around you longer and harder.

Stay gold my friend. Stay gold.