You need to know that.
You need to know it because it’s truth, truth that will set you free.
And when you know that you matter, you can stop trying to prove it and start giving yourself away. (John 13:3-5)
Maybe you're thinking, “Of course I matter. I know that.” But . . .
- Do you find yourself cranky if others aren’t grateful for your service?
- Do you apologize for bothering someone when you need to ask for help?
- Is your life a panic of rushing here and there trying to keep your world in orbit?
- Is your standard answer “fine,” even when you’re not?
- Are you so focused on others that you fail to care for your own needs, needs that, if they belonged to the other person, you would insist be attended to?
- Or are you so focused on your own needs that you ignore the needs of others?
- Do you feel guilty if you say no?
Any of those can be a sign that you don’t really believe that you matter. You yourself. Not just what you do.
How did we reach this place?
For some of us, it's obvious. We've been told we didn’t matter. Ignored. Abused.
For others, it's more of a puzzle. As surrounded as we were by love, somehow, somewhere, the lie crept in that we didn't matter.
Maybe we sang the Sunday school song, “J-O-Y, J-O-Y, this is what it means, Jesus first, yourself last and others in between.” Maybe we absorbed it not as a description of willing service flowing out of a secure identity as the beloved, but as a statement of our worth in the world. Yourself last.
Maybe we were taught that it’s wrong to be angry. And, since “anger is the energy Mother Nature [or God?] gives us as little kids to stand forward on our own behalf and say I matter,”1 maybe we understood that we weren’t worth standing up for.2
There are a million ways we might have been duped into believing that first lie that has echoed through the hearts of every person since: God doesn’t really love you. You don't really matter. The important thing is that, somewhere deep down, we have believed it. The more important thing is that it's not true.
Come with me for a moment.
Listen to the words of Dr. Luke as he records the echo.
- The Father speaking to Jesus: “You are my Son, whom I love. . .” (Luke 3:22).
- The devil speaking to Jesus: “If you are the Son of God. . .” (Luke 4:3).
- And right there between the two, ending that list of 75 fathers and sons (you know - the list we usually skip), this startling statement: “. . . . the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.” (Luke 3:37)
Jesus, the son of God. Adam, the son of God. I think Dr. Luke is saying that Jesus’ sonship is ours too. That we, too, are loved. That all temptation, Jesus’ and ours, is aimed at making us question our belovedness.3
Listen to the words of the apostle Paul: “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ . . . . ” (Eph 1:4 NLT)
And the prophet Isaiah: ". . . you are precious and honored in my sight, and. . . I love you. . . " (Isaiah 43:4)
And the apostle John: "See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!" (1 John 3:1 NLT)
And listen to the words of God himself, wearing our skin, praying our feelings, living our limited, struggling humanity: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. . . .” (John 15:9)
Stand on the road at the foot of the hill the day after He spoke those words. Look up at that rough middle stake and the One on it. He’s there because you matter.
And he wants you to know it.
1Joann Peterson cited in Gabor Mate, “When the Body Says No,” p. 274.
2There are, of course, healthy and unhealthy ways to express our anger, but that’s another question for another day. . .
3Oh, do listen to this free 30 minute talk by Ross Hastings. It's the most helpful teaching I've ever heard on temptation.