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.
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…
- I’ve got this; or
- 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.