I was frustrated. The naps, the workouts, the physio appointments, they all felt like a waste of time, an ongoing interruption in the midst of everything else pressing.
I listened as I ran at the gym, then as I stood on the bus, returning again and again for yet one more pass through Isaiah chapters 40-43. I heard the words. I knew what I needed was tucked somewhere among the beautiful promises. And I knew that I wasn’t hearing it, not with my heart, not in a way I could receive. I cried for help to hear what He was saying, to let it sink deep, and God put the words, this time, in the mouth of another. A friend, unaware of my morning listening, prayed the words from Isaiah 43 over me, “You are precious and honored in my sight, and . . . I love you.”
It rang in my head all week: “You are precious.” I can’t hear Him say this and brush it off, not if I want to come closer to the blazing fire of His love. He lets us hear His heartbeat not merely so we can study Him or even revere Him, but so we can be one with Him, our loves set aflame by His own.
When I treasure something, I want others to treasure it too, to respect it and treat it with care. They honor me by honoring what matters to me. Since God treasures me, learning to love myself is a part of loving Him. I think how I feel if someone bad-mouths a dear friend, and I hurt over the thoughts that God hears me think about myself. And somehow it makes it a little easier to forgive myself, to cook a proper meal, or to do the shoulder exercises for the thousandth time when I can offer my efforts to God as a gift of love for Him.
Why do we struggle to live this truth that we are precious? Why is it so hard to believe not only that God sees us as precious, but that He wants us to see ourselves the same way?
Maybe it’s partly because we’ve confused our terms: worthy and worthless are not opposites. Worthless is the opposite of precious; worth refers to our God-declared, God-bestowed value. Worthy is the opposite of unworthy; worthiness speaks of our our ability to earn something. As clear as God makes it that we are unworthy, all having sinned, He makes it equally clear that we are of immeasurable value, worth going from heaven to hell and back again to reclaim. We are unworthy, yes, but never worthless. We are precious. And all – including this preciousness – is gift.
So maybe it’s a linguistic issue. Or maybe it feels selfish to invest in ourselves. But our bodies and souls, talents and skills, loves and desires and personalities are entrusted to us to steward and invest and use for His glory. We honor Him when we live in the ways that they work best. We do it not just for ourselves but for Him who values us, and for others who need to know they’re precious too. It turns out that we can’t practice compassion with other people unless we can be kind to ourselves (Brene Brown). And we’re not free to love others until we receive God’s love for ourselves.
I reach for the cross and cling. It’s solid, and when all else is shifting, this stands firm. Here He engraved us forever onto the palms of his hands. And here, in costly red ink, He wrote this truth into the center of history: “You are precious and honored in my sight, and I love you.”