yes!

I heard a retelling of a movie recently, Chariots of Fire, about two men who viewed running very differently.

One man said he felt God’s pleasure when he ran–pressure-free. The other man believed running was the way to justify his entire existence, to prove himself.

The first man knew he was meant for a purpose, whether or not this purpose was inextricably tied to the outcome of his races. The second man ran to find his purpose, though fleeting–like the quick break of finish-line tape.

How many times do I wake up in the morning looking for the purpose of the day? How many times do I treat each day like a heavenly race, the God-glorifying, righteousness-promoting, ever-serving kind of race we’re called to? How many times do I treat each day like an earthly race, where I need to collect as many praises and affirmations and Instagram likes as humanly possible?

I’d say I choose the earthly race without fail, while the heavenly race is usually dead last on my list of preferred trails.

What’s problematic is how the choice of each morning reflects on who we know we are:

The first runner knows his purpose; the heavenly race is run to continue growing in that purpose. The second runner has no idea of his purpose; the earthly race is run to search for it.

If I chose the heavenly race, wouldn’t that reflect my knowledge that I am a child of God, and do not require earthly affirmation every minute of the day like it seems I always do?

But I choose the other one.

My earthly race requires me to seek my purpose in every corner of my life: purpose when I look in the mirror (am I pretty enough?), purpose when I pack a lunch for work (am I healthy enough?), purpose when I greet everyone at work (am I friendly enough?), purpose in my conversations throughout the day (am I funny enough?), purpose when I do or don’t get invited places (am I wanted?).

How exhausting and unnecessary and not fun at all! Where is the joy in asking people to affirm you all day long? We are all children of God, yet we act like grubby toddlers, asking for more and more and more affirmation from places that will never satisfy!

My day is a “success” when these questions are answered yes by other people. Yes, you are pretty enough, healthy enough, friendly enough, funny enough. Yes, you are wanted.

But how can those questions get answered to our liking without making everything about ourselves? Is it possible to be searching for purpose through the praise you get and still serve other people, glorifying God?

(I don’t think so.)

Talking about collecting praise for ourselves reminds me of one of my favorite ideas from Glennon Melton about abundance–you can read that here. The mindset we lock ourselves into when we compete for earthly praises is that if someone else has something, we can’t get it without taking. And since we are inherently selfish, our sorrow in taking is outweighed by our need for affirmation. But viewing this through God’s lens of abundance in grace changes everything. My favorite quote from Glennon in that article is about abundance, saying that we should:

…not only believe in abundance, but to CREATE more of it. To quit fighting for a bigger slice of pie and just bake a bigger pie and invite everybody you know to share it with you.

Glennon talks about two of my favorite questions surrounding the issue of purpose: Am I valued? Am I loved?

The answer I love, that Jesus tells us over and over again, for us to spread to other people, is yes.

Yes!!!!!

Yes you are valued!!!! Yes you are loved!!!

Yes, of course, you were created by a loving God who has a purpose for you that you simply have to live out. You do not need any of your crippling questions answered by anyone other than the God who determines your value.

And because you are so valued and so loved, you may not get grabby or possessive over the praise you get. It is not necessary to your purpose.

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jesus in the trenches

I am not a trained trauma counselor nor do I have personal experience with the following events that have recently made the news. The following should not be taken as any sort of professional opinion on the topic. I have attempted to address this with grace and understanding, but have inevitably failed in some regard. Nonetheless, this has been on my heart, and I believe Jesus is relevant everywhere. If you’d like to read about how the church and state can cooperate on these kind of problems, you can here. This is a problem with heaps and heaps of input coming from all sides–but what struck me as the most important thing to remember is that we may not be aware of the battles God has placed in someone’s life. Basing critique in compassion is always necessary.

A few weeks ago, Josh Duggar, the oldest child of the Arkansas Duggar family, made famous by their TLC show 19 Kids and Counting, was recently accused of molesting five young girls, to which he has since admitted. Jordan Root, a former missionary out of The Village Church in Texas, has similarly received much media attention for his use of child pornography. Former wife Karen’s quick annulment made it clear she believes he may have molested children as well.

Sin is the scariest, most heartbreaking demon we encounter. It seeps through towns and communities, into family rooms and bedrooms, with the vicious lie of, “This is okay for you do to. It feels good.” Abuse of any kind, including sexual, rears its ugly head in all communities. The church, and those who are expected to do the “right” thing are not exempt.

Jesus is better.

Jesus is better and he stands with us in the trenches of “this hurts” and “I feel betrayed” and “I don’t know my value anymore” and “I am so scared.”

These are deep and ugly trenches, with wounds that feel too heavy to be able to forgive, show grace, and love immediately following.

Jesus is better.

As people we are quick to place blame. I am quick to question the redemption of these men. But then I remember that if nothing else, my God is a God of redemption! He transforms, he restores, he puts what is broken in a more perfect and holy configuration than it ever was before. He sent his only Son so that we could be made new. He redeems. He is relentless in pursuing our transformation into people more and more in love with the goodness and gentleness–the values he preaches and Jesus lived. Not one soul is free from the relentless pursuit God begins for each and every one of us, for our own redemption!

Jesus, my Jesus, you are eternities mightier, holier and lovelier than we might ever be. We jump and we try and on our sweetest, most righteous day we are still wretched sinners. Sometimes we don’t even try for holiness. We take a comfortable seat in the trench of our ugly sin, living that story instead of the beautiful one of your endless grace and redemption.

Jesus is better than teenage boys who touch their sisters and grown men who watch children forced to grow up the instant they are filmed or photographed innapropriately. Jesus is better than angry commenters on the Internet condemning either of these men. Jesus is better than people who do not engage in any of these acts, but in their own sins the same.

But the sweet, glorious truth: Jesus is both available to all and commands all into a life more glorifying to him, casting off sin for intimacy with our incomparable Savior, the treasure of our hearts.

1 Corinthians 6 tells us the celebration-worthy truth about who we are, and what we are commanded to do based on this truth:

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God with your body (19-20).

Sexual abuse is inexcusable, and those who have been traumatically and devastatingly affected by it need people who will listen, believe, and take action–both to bring healing to them and help the abuser out of the sinful behavior as well. It may not always be beneficial for either to claim forgiveness or repentance so easily, eagerly, quickly, as a method of putting on a brave face. Forgiveness and repentance are attempts empty and void without the presence and grace of our loving God. It breaks my heart that these the destruction these sins cause cannot be easily solved. However, redemption, messy as it is, is a much more eternally-satisfying process than an easy solution.

It comforts me that Jesus stands in the trenches of pain and hurt with victims of sexual abuse, speaking worth instead of demoralization into these precious creations of our God: “I am with you. This is not who you are. You are mine.” It comforts me that he reminds all of us that we were bought with a price. He determines our worth, not an abuser.

It comforts me that Jesus stands in the trenches of shame and regret with perpetrators of sexual abuse. It comforts me that he calls these precious creations of our God out of that sin, commanding that all people glorify God with their bodies, and into glorious life with him: “I am with you. This is not who you are. You are mine.”