“A daffodil pushing up through the dark earth to the spring, knowing somehow deep in its roots that spring and light and sunshine will come, has more courage and more knowledge of the value of life than any human being I’ve met.”
– Madeliene L’Engle
“Until you get rid of this struggle in your life, God cannot fully use you.”
“Because of what you did, God will limit his opportunities for you.”
“You are an embarrassment. Why do you have to be so different?”
“You have no evidence to corroborate what you said. Therefore, it did not happen.”
I remember each event when these were said to me and by whom. Each conversation left me thinking, “Do I matter?” “Does my voice matter?” “Am I loved for me?” “If I have to change me for them to love me, then does that mean God doesn’t love me until I change?”
We all have those thoughts haunting the dark corners of our mind. In the stillness of our day, we hear the moans, cries, and chain rattling of these ghosts. We protect ourselves by turning on the TV, listening to music, and busying our mind, so the ghosts can’t imprison us in these down-spiraling thoughts.
Does God actually love me for me? The answer spoken in Fundamentalism would say, “Yes.” However, by how I was treated, how I was counseled, and how I was viewed, the reality was probably not until I changed. Sure, God loves the world enough to send Jesus. But, that only came across a participation prize for being human.
Does God actually love me? Do I have value to him? I have lashed out. I have the level of “snarkiness” to rival a Disney villain. I struggle each day. I voice opinions not popular. Does God actually love me, or do I have to change in order to experience his full love? Or maybe I’m just not at the mature enough Christian level to experience it?
How many of us have faced the same thoughts? Does God love us beyond a participation benefit for being human?
Jesus tells an interesting series of parables in Luke 15. Here, our answer will be found, dusted off, and rediscovered…
One of them lost and found
A man has 100 sheep. That is a lot of mouths to feed and a big pasture to clean up! However, one of them got lost. The shepherd leaves the 99 other sheep, and searches for the lost one until it is found.
What a great story! Most of us will immediately hear this and think of God’s heart for the lost. “God is searching for that lost sheep, and there may be someone here who is lost and needs to be found.” The preacher’s words are met with a hearty “amen” as the congregation sings Amazing Grace. Probably the piano is out of tune, and the song leader looks like a Looney Tune belting out the song.
But, back up. Let’s look at something we missed. Luke 15:3 states one of the hundred gets lost. “One of them,” shows us that this sheep isn’t some animal that doesn’t belong. This story isn’t a part of Sesame Street asking us which sheep doesn’t belong. This sheep was apart of the hundred. This sheep already was claimed by the shepherd. It was one of his.
He searched for what is his. The sheep did not lose its value once it was lost. In fact, the lost sheep is the passive character. The shepherd is actively looking for what is valuable to him. The shepherd exclaims, when his sheep is found in 15:6, “Let’s celebrate, because my lost sheep is found!”
Sure, we are either a lost or found sheep. But, his love does not change. It is not that he stumbled on a lost sheep and claimed it. Instead, he views the lost and the found as his and goes searching for his lost. How does this show the value God has for everyone? What values does that mean God places on us?
Dusting off the coin
A woman has ten silver coins. One goes missing. She stops what she is doing, sweeps and cleans her place until she finds it. Then she rejoices with her friends as something with value has been found.
Question – when a coin goes missing, does it lose its value?
No! Just because a coin is missing does not mean the coin stops being valuable in of itself. In fact, the woman (interesting that God is portrayed as a woman) cleans and dusts until it is found. She knew the value of her coin. It brings her immense joy to dust off the lost coin.
It is the same with God. He sees the value in each of us. Just because we are covered in dirt and dust doesn’t degrade our value. He intimately knows our value. He searches carefully for his lost, valuable coin. You and I have value to God whether found or lost.
He wouldn’t send Jesus to find something he did not know had value. The incarnation wasn’t a scouting mission to see what is valuable and what isn’t. God already knew, and he sent Jesus to seek and save his valuable lost.
lOVE prompting A LOST SON
The longest parable in this chapter is commonly known as “The Prodigal Son.” This is probably one of the best known parables in the Bible.
Yet, let’s look at a few things. The younger son takes his portion of his father’s estate, and goes off living a wild life. Through the dividing of the estate, the wild living, the famine, the feeding of pigs, and his return, there is one thing we must notice. He is never referred to anything other than the “son.” The father never saw him as anything lesser than his own son. It wasn’t that the father went to find a son. He already had one. He already loved his son, and he never took away that title.
Second, was it the son’s own will-power, determination, and work to return to his father? Many will say, “Yes! The son got up and returned to his father.” Step back to 15:17. He remembers the love and kindness of his father. He knew how his father treated the servants, and that prompted him to go back. It was not his determination. The son remembered the love of his father. In fact, 15:20 shows the heart of the father – “filled with love and compassion.”
The value of the son did not change, and neither did the heart of the father. The son did not have to prove himself or work his way through the ranks. The father accepted him as he was, cleaned him up, and rejoiced over his son coming home. God sees that same value on all of us. We never lose his love. People may change our status and give us different labels, but our value to God does not change.
embrace your value
So many times we let people to determine our value by our views, our personality, who we are, our beliefs, and our opinions. If it does not match up with someone, they treat us less than what we are worth. Their words become our mindset. We become brainwashed with beguiling degradation.
How many of us feel like we can never escape Romans 1:18-32? The voices of other’s feel like shackles imprisoning us to this awful state. Yet, are they the ones who values us, searches for us, and saves us? I am so glad it is a resounding, “No!” Because of Jesus, we are actually Romans 8 Christians – no longer condemned, home, and loved beyond anything we could imagine. No one and nothing can take away that love.
Just because a sheep and a coin were lost, does not mean the value was lost. In fact, the value made it more urgent for the shepherd and the woman to search.
Our value only gets lost in the dirt people throw on us. Once we dust that off, we will rediscover the value that is already there.
For too many years, I saw God’s love as grades on an assignment. My performance gave me more love or took away love. I learned that mindset from people around me. Instead, I need to remove the dirt others threw on me in order to rediscover the value Jesus sees in me. Everyday, haunting thoughts can imprison me in a beauty pageant of the pedestrians around me. Yet, if I daily see my value, then I know I am not in a contest. I am one of his, valuable to search for, and never anything less than God’s son.
Does God love me for me? Yes.
His love isn’t a participation benefit for being human. It is much deeper than that. He wants me. He desires me. He loves me, and he wants a relationship with me. Why does God love me? It is not because of me. It is not because I love God. It is because he loves me. That love is what prompts my heart to go to him; even as such a messed up person. My burdens, struggles, and hurts make his heart desire to be in a relationship with me. Me as me is what causes his arms to open wide.
Too many of us look at God through the eyes of others rather than the heart of Jesus.
Our value is not gone.
It is when we look at Jesus, we rediscover our value.