Turning the corner to go into 2016, the expectant hope that usually accompanies the ending of the holiday season and the start of the new year was halted by a loss in my family. My grandfather passed away unexpectedly in a work related accident on Christmas Eve and sucker punched us all. I’m new to grief. I’m not good at it. It seems like I haven’t had to face the death of a loved one as much as most people I know. I have “grieved with those who grieve” but it’s not quite the same when you’re the one trying to figure out how to be– knowing that this person is gone. Fyodor Dostoyevsky captured it best when he penned,
“The darker the night,
The brighter the stars,
The deeper the grief,
The closer is God!”
Grief makes you vulnerable.
Vulnerability makes you either want to connect or escape (if not both).
Philmont’s “Closer” has always had a special place in my heart because it got me through the death of a different kind when I first heard it in 2011. I had always associated this song with loss, but upon reflecting on death and hearing it again, I have been struck by the connection between vulnerability and worth.
This verse always stops me cold and washes over me like a flood.
Who am I?
That You would die to prove.
That the worthless are all worth it.
The curse has been removed.
It seems contrary to the oh-so-holy “less than” verbiage that permeates our churches, conversations, and thoughts. Like grief, worth is scary too. It takes strength to acknowledge that you are valuable. “Righteous” self loathing is much easier. It’s so noble to be “unworthy”, isn’t it? We wear it proudly, boldly–like a badge of honor. A facade of false humility is easy enough to put on and an even better distraction to keep us from accepting that this “unworthy” mask serves only to conceal the lie that we are worthless.
That’s actually what we mean most of the time when we say that we are unworthy. I will speak for myself, but I am sure I am not the only one. Some may say these are semantics, but are they? To be unworthy comes down to what someone deserves based on their own goodness or merit. According to Webster, worth on the other hand is all about value regardless of one’s merit. So to be “worthless” would mean being of no use, importance, or effect. Do you see the difference? Can you be one without the other? What does it look like to be unworthy without being worthless?
A well known illustration comes to mind when thinking about worth. It goes something like this… A pastor takes a $20.00 dollar bill and shows it to the congregation asking who wants the bill. Everyone wants it, of course! The pastor proceeds to crumple up, spit on, step on the $20.00 bill while asking if anyone is still interested. The response remains the same.
The bill has not lost it’s value despite the reckless mishandling that it had to endure. I think that we see ourselves like that dirty $20.00 bill. Caked with filth and muck we can’t see that we are valuable to ourselves, let alone our Creator.
A year ago, I would have been offended and inflated with Pharisaical indignation at the idea that God could see our worth before being covered by the blood of Jesus at salvation. I knew Christ came for sinners, but I never really thought about why. If we are as worthless as we think we are why would God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth see fit to send Jesus to bridge the gap between a spotless lamb and and insignificant worms like us?
Because only we can make ourselves insignificant — but not to God.
The flaw in this logic is that we don’t realize that it was always in God’s design to make us valuable. From the dawn of Creation, we were precious to Him –even in separation.
Genesis 1:27 NLT
So God created human beings in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
Jeremiah 1:5 AMP
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you [and approved of you as My chosen instrument], And before you were born I consecrated you [to Myself as My own]; I have appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
Recently in a prayer meeting, the Lord began to gently show me what a giant risk he took in making a way for us to know him. Both Jesus and God the Father became vulnerable time and time again to “prove that the worthless are all worth it”. From the garden to the grave, God’s compassion for his creation is fierce.
But we despised him.
Genesis 6:6 NLT
So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart.
Even after rejecting Him over and over, while carrying the wound of a broken heart, He chooses love that is raw and unassuming. Wanting so deeply to be loved in return, He sends Jesus, the face of selfless love, and vulnerability.
Philippians 2:7 NCV
But he gave up his place with God and made himself nothing.
He was born as a man and became like a servant.
What offends us religious types most of all, is the fact that He has no prerequisites for sinners in order for the offer of salvation to be placed on the table. It’s unheard of. So unlike us. We never give unless we can take. But this radical, vulnerable, lovesick Christ lays it all down just for the chance to walk in life and in love with us.
Romans 5: 6-7 AMP
While we were still helpless [powerless to provide for our salvation], at the right time Christ died [as a substitute] for the ungodly. Now it is an extraordinary thing for one to willingly give his life even for an upright man, though perhaps for a good man [one who is noble and selfless and worthy] someone might even dare to die. 8 But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
So can we please take a minute and decide once and for all to end our self-deprecating spirals, complete with to-do lists of what we need to do to feel we are still in God’s good graces? Jesus is enough and He is waiting for you to sit at the table with him and just be. Smash these false beliefs about striving and self-loathing all in the name of Jesus. Enough! Let’s stop getting caught up on how far off we are, but on how incredibly close He is.
We may be unworthy, but we’re worth it.