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.

The Eye of the Storm

One of my passions is natural disasters.

While my studies mostly focused on the humanitarian efforts of post-disaster response, I always found the natural disasters themselves to be very fascinating.

I love learning about the awe-inspiring power that they display; how regardless of our innovations and technology, wind and water will forever have the upper hand.

Because of this passion, I would jump at the chance to ride in one of those airplanes that fly straight into the eye of a hurricane.

Call me crazy, but I think that would be awesome!

The eye of a hurricane is at the very center of the storm and believe it or not, is the calmest part of the storm. “Skies are often clear above the eye and winds are relatively light. The eye is calm because the now strong surface winds that converge towards the center never actually reach it” (Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois).

That’s where I want to be!

In the eye of the storm.

We go through a lot of storms in our lives though, don’t we?

Sometimes we find ourselves fighting through the fiercest winds and waves, unsure of how we’ll ever find our way out when our present circumstances restrict our ability to see or feel.

One storm in particular that always stands out in my mind was in between my sophomore and junior year of college.

I had survived freshman and sophomore year…barely, and was now anticipating the approaching fall semester of my junior year and was absolutely dreading it.

I couldn’t even tell you why, but all I knew was that I just couldn’t go back there.

There was so much to do; the pressures of performance, acceptance, and achievement weighed heavily on my mind and then of course the looming terrors of failure and loneliness nipped at my heels.

Sophomore year had started me off in the nurse’s office only weeks into the school year. I had managed to make myself physically sick due to stress, anxiety, and depression.

It was then that I knew something was wrong, but through the remainder of that school year I couldn’t manage to find my way out of this particular storm.

I tried to hold onto things of the past; staying huddled in the memories of better times.

When that didn’t work, I tried to hurry things along and force life stages to happen sooner than they should in hopes of changing my presently painful circumstances.

Let me just tell you now, this does not work.

In fact, it only made matters worse.

When we are in the storms of life, we often try to do one of two things. We either try to move backwards and relive happier times or we hurry forwards, attempting to outrun the storm.

Yet, just like a hurricane, behind us and in front of us the torrents rage and the winds howl, but stillness can also be found.

When we move with the storm and position ourselves in the very center of God’s love and grace, we find blue skies and calmed winds.

We find ourselves in the eye of the storm.

Even though all around us the storm still rages; trees snap, houses tumble, relationships are broken, and opportunities are lost; even with all the destruction and heartache rushing around us, if we remain firmly planted in the center of God’s love and grace, we will experience internal respite and peace.

Many of the fears we experience in the stormy seasons of life boil down to one thing:

Proving our worth.

I overwhelmed myself with activities my freshman and sophomore year because I wanted to prove that I was capable.

I sought relationships because I wanted to prove that I was desirable.

I pursued God because I wanted to prove that I was a good Christian.

I feared failure because that proved that I wasn’t enough.

I feared loneliness because that proved I was lacking.

We are constantly trying to prove ourselves.

However, when we strategically place ourselves in the center of God’s will; in the very eye of the storm, we don’t have to prove ourselves, for it is in Him that we live and move and have our being.  – Acts 17:28

If this is true and if we full-heartedly believe this, we will begin to realize that we have nothing to prove because it is not for ourselves that we live, but rather for Christ (Philippians 1:21).

If our lives are for Christ, then we are not tasked with the responsibility of proving ourselves but rather  with proving Christ and His worth, which He has already done.

He proved Himself. He proved to the world His power, sovereignty, and authority over all things while on that cross.

When we position ourselves in the center of the storm, acknowledging that God and His purpose are in all things; when we stay in step with Him and remember that it is by Him, through Him, and for Him that we press forward, we will soon understand that we have nothing to prove because the One we live for has already done just that.

He proved Himself on that cross so that we wouldn’t have to prove our worth, for our worth lies at the very foot of that cross.

We have nothing to prove, therefore we have nothing to fear while in the eye of the storm.

 

Bridging the Gap

I remember watching this video for the first time. I had to have been a freshman or sophomore in high school and I remember one line in particular really stood out to me. It didn’t stick in my memory because I related to it, but rather because I couldn’t relate to it.

You are never too much, and you are always enough.

Too much? Enough?

Up until then I had never felt as if I were too much and had for the most part always felt like I had a lot to offer.

However, several years later, one too many heartaches and a few too many tears brought with them an awareness; a painful awareness of my own seemingly problematic complexity.

One too many minutes of looking in the mirror, a few too many numbers on the scale under my feet, and several crushing rejections told me I had plenty of room for improvement to be considered enough.

I finally understood that line as the lies seeped into the depths of my psyche.

                I am too much to handle.

                I am not enough.

Somehow you can feel both of these lies at the same time even though they are opposite of each other, but that’s how the devil crafts his deceits – to defy logic and resonate in our hearts rather than our minds because the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9).

What’s the first thing we say when given encouragement or advice as we’re faced with trying times?

“I know, I know…” (eye roll included)

We know the truth.

I knew I was cherished by God. I knew my beauty was found in His Spirit rather than my outward appearance. I knew because of Him I had worth. I knew He understood the depths of my complexity and loved me all the same.

This was logic.

This was head knowledge.

We find these truths in the Bible and repeat them to ourselves over and over again hoping that they will eventually find their way to our hearts.

However, rather than embedding themselves deeper and deeper into our hearts and minds, the repetition serves as a numbing agent, causing us to lose touch of the freedom these truths offer.

The 12″ gap between the mind and heart is overwhelmingly immense, but we try nonetheless to bridge the gap and always end up with an abundance of knowledge and a waning spirit.

I wish I could say that there is a point where our hearts might fully believe the truths we pound into our minds, but unfortunately that won’t happen this side of heaven.

For now, we only know in part…(1 Corinthians 13:12).

We don’t know the fullness of these truths because we are still human beings; our hearts are still deceitful and will always lead us astray.

We only know the freedom these truths offer in a limited sense; restricted by our finite minds. There is a day though where we will be able to inhale the fullness of God in entirety and feel our hearts pulse with living, breathing truth.

One day.

Until then, rather than dwelling on all that we are not, we should focus in on all that God is and all that eternity has to offer us.

Our identity; our worth does not lie within our own ‘enough-ness.’

Our worth lies just beyond our reach.

Our worth lies at the edge of the parted waters (Exodus 14:21-22).

Under the looming walls of Jericho (Joshua 6:15-20).

In the shadow of Goliath (1 Samuel 17:45-50).

At the doorsteps of Nineveh (Jonah 1-4).

At the foot of the bloodied cross.

Our worth lies where our own ability ends.

Our worth lies where Jesus Christ begins.

I can’t tell you anything more than you already know my friend.

You know the truth.

God’s love for you is more beautiful, more powerful, and more satisfying than anything this world has to offer.

So when you’re feeling as if you are too much and want to hold back, don’t.

When you are overwhelmed by your own failure and inability, look up.

Go ahead.

Allow the power of Jesus Christ to bridge the gap.

“Dare to be a little more of your honest to goodness, daring, real, raw, messy, imperfect, complete, and wholly loved by God self.” –Anonymous