“We are far more valuable than we think, far more broken than we think, and far more salvageable than we think.”
My pastor has been teaching on these three key aspects of The Good News, and while I regularly find myself nodding enthusiastically to the second and third parts of that equation, I have to admit I’m having a hard time embracing the first. I really matter? We all matter? All seven billion of us, running around doing mostly meaningless stuff like watching TV, paying bills and cooking chicken?
For many of us—especially if you were raised in a guilt-ridden, sin-focused, confession-heavy brand of church—accepting that we are broken is second nature. If you’re anything like me, once you’ve lived enough years you’re certain to have racked up a whole list of real-life examples that back up just how much of a mess you are.
It’s also easy for most of us to believe God is good (unless you’ve been a part of a church that still clings to a “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” approach). The classic table grace we recited as children, “God is great, God is good, and we thank Him for our food,” drives that message home.
And in my experience, life has backed it up. As I’ve grown older, I’ve had many opportunities to combine that head knowledge with heavy doses of heart knowledge: I see all kinds of evidence of God’s redeeming love in my life. It’s no coincidence, I suppose, that my awareness of God’s work salvaging me has increased along with my awareness of my brokenness.
So I can grasp that I’m a mess and God is good. But the three parts of this Good News are not on an a la carte menu—they’re a full meal deal. Taken one by one, they don’t mean much of anything, and even accepting two of them at a time doesn’t have that weighty, perfect completeness that we associate with God. When I leave out how valuable I am to God, I am discounting the God that created me, the gifts He’s given me, and the work He has for me to do. I have to believe that I am a beautiful mess, an important mess, a loved mess, being salvaged each day by a redeeming God.
My husband and I talked about this some while were eating lunch the other day. “I was raised by extremely loving and supportive parents, in a church that did not focus on how depraved and sinful we are,” I said. “How can it be so hard for me to accept my value to God, here in His world?”
Jason pointed out that the negative tends to sink in and stick with us. If someone says 10 good and 10 bad things about you over the course of a week, the negatives will start playing in your head like a broken record, drowning out many, if not all, of the positives. If we want to focus on the good things, we have to be extra intentional, maybe maintaining a file or bulletin board dedicated to reminding ourselves that we’re valuable and worthy, packed with gifts and God’s love.
Maybe that’s why, when we read the Bible, it’s easy to recall the many verses about how we’re falling short and missing the mark. But the Bible is also packed with verses like Zephaniah 3:17:
The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.
I remember first hearing that verse (or really hearing it) when I was 20. I was spending the summer with a Christian college student organization, doing your usual combination of hanging out, playing volleyball on the beach, studying the Bible and singing. One of our go-to songs was based on that Zephaniah verse, and one evening, as we sang it, I surprised myself and everyone else by spontaneously bursting into tears.
I suddenly realized what it was really saying: God was not only pleased when He created me—back when I was all cute and helpless and hadn’t yet made a zillion mistakes—but He takes great delight in me now. He even rejoices in me—in all of us! And I’m going to guess that God’s rejoicing is way heavier and more powerful than my screw-ups.
Clearly I still have a lot of work to do when it comes to carrying around the weightiness of God’s rejoicing, on a daily basis. I have to keep reminding myself, over and over again. But it’s gradually sinking in. I’m starting to get that it’s God’s great love for me—His belief that I have value and worth here on this earth—that drives Him to salvage me in the first place. I’m starting to really grasp who He created me to be—that all of the gifts and quirks and needs are a part of who I am and who He loves. (Creating a Love List, which I wrote about here over the summer, has been an important part of that journey.)
At the end of the day, it is only through understanding the full picture—our value, our brokenness and our ability to be salvaged—that we can begin to understand what it means to be brothers and sisters of Jesus. He is not ashamed of us, and God is rejoicing over us, right here in our beautiful mess.
“Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.” Hebrews 2:11
Kristin Tennant has been making a living as a freelance writer for 10 years. She lives with her husband Jason and their three daughters in Urbana, Illinois, where she leads a weekly Bible & Beer discussion, plays her viola at church, and loves sharing meals and conversation with friends. She blogs at Halfway to Normal, and you can connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.