There’s an old saying that goes, “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” Well, I’ve mastered that.
I don’t have to go very far to come face to face with my enemies. Some days, I just need a mirror.
I vividly remember a conversation I had with my dad when I was a sophomore in high school. Walking around the house, looking for my wallet, I was muttering under my breath, “Jenny- seriously? How stupid can you be? Why do you always lose things? What’s wrong with you?” My dad stopped me.
That day my dad told me he hated hearing me call myself ‘stupid.’ The sad thing is, I didn’t even know how often I was doing it. So for one week he asked me to keep track of every time I thought something negative about myself, corrected myself or called my own actions ‘stupid.’ By the end of the week I had a notebook full of tally marks and examples.
I was my own worse enemy.
I was amazed how often I was belittling myself. Dad told me that every time I belittled myself it not only devalued me, but devalued what God had created. I began to realize that if I truly believed the words of scripture- that I was created in God’s image- then to devalue that creation meant devaluing the work of God’s own hands. I was stealing glory from the one who made me, me.
Have you been there? Chipping away at the person in the mirror? Quietly telling yourself that another husband could better provide for your family. That another mom would be more creative or fun than you. That everyone else is smarter or more talented than you. Whispering to yourself that you aren’t good enough. That if you were more like this person, you would be _________ already. Who needs bullies and mean girls when we have ourselves?
Jesus speaks directly to this self-loathing by telling us who we really are. Listen to these phrases the Son of God used as he addressed His children. You are the salt of the earth... (Matthew 5:13) You are the light of the world... (Matthew 5:14) The very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:30-31) As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now remain in my love. (John 15:9)
Jesus spent his entire ministry on earth giving people value. He included the outcasts, touched the lepers, healed the sick, let the little children climb all over him, talked to women as equals, broke down divisions between ethnicities and taught through his actions that people trumped religious traditions and rules. When Jesus spoke, He often called men and women by their true names: Son and Daughter. Everything Jesus said and did stemmed from the intrinsic value God has given us as His sons and daughters.
Pastor Jonathan Martin says it best as he reflects on Psalms 139 in his book, Prototype.
Alone in the field, far removed in both space and time from the overwhelming voices we contend with every day, David came to a remarkable revelation: He was loved simply because he existed.
You and I? We are loved simply because we exist.
As I have grown older I have learned to be more gentle with myself and accept God’s love and delight for me; His assessment of my intrinsic value has replaced the old voices that tried to convince me I talked too much, I was stupid and always messing things up. And yet now I often contend with a new voice. The one that quietly creeps into my mind and whispers that I have somehow earned God’s love- or at least an extra dose of God’s delight and favor- because of the many ways I have served God faithfully. As if holding orphans in South Sudan, befriending the homeless, hugging the misfit souls that linger about after a concert is persuading God to love me more. Naive, tiresome arrogance.
And so it is a daily pilgrimage to wake up and ask the Lord to help me fully and humbly embrace my identity as given to me by Christ alone so that I can boldly and loudly proclaim-
Jesus Loves Me- simply because I exist.
Listen to This I Know-
A song I wrote to counter the voices that seek to diminish or inflate my sense of belovedness- the belovedness that has been given to me by Christ- through grace alone.