When your heart hurts and your soul is achy, you’ll try almost anything to feel better, and words that you wouldn’t swallow normally go down easy if you trust the one holding the spoon. This happened to me very recently.
I was on my way to work, listening to a Christian radio station after a particularly difficult morning. I had to scold both of my kids for not doing things they’d been asked to do, and even though I knew that I hadn’t raised my voice or said anything that wasn’t true, my attitude had been very self-righteous. Needless to say, I was feeling gross and down on myself. I hate being the bad guy, especially when I have to wait eight hours to get a sincere hug from my kids.
It was at this moment that the playful banter between radio hosts turned serious. I don’t remember all of what they said, but these words stick out in my memory.
“You are so special that you are worth dying for. Jesus thought so.”
“You are God’s first thought every morning and His last thought every night.”
“It doesn’t matter what other people think of you.”
Like I said, the words went down easy because I wanted to hear them, but a few hours later, as I was teaching a lesson on sentence structure, Scripture came to mind unbidden, verses that refute the mistruths I’d heard on the radio. I call them mistruths instead of lies because I don’t believe for a second that the people who spoke them would intentionally mislead anyone. I think that their statements began in truth and then misfired, fueled by emotion and experiential bias, something that happens more often than we think, something that most of us are guilty of from time to time.
Thankfully, so I wouldn’t get an overblown image of myself, God reminded me that though I am special, having been created by God, I am not, by my own merit, worth dying for. Jesus died for me, not because I was worth it, but because dying for a flawed and sinful being like me brought God the most glory. His was an extravagant sacrifice that defies logic, not His due diligence.
Also, though God loves me, I am not the center of His world. He is the center of mine. As He is capable of more than we can imagine, it’s possible that all of His thoughts include me, but not to the exclusion of other things as the statement that I heard suggests. When He thinks of me with love, it is in relationship to His purposes and the role that I might play in them.
It does matter what people think of me. As an ambassador of Christ to the world, I represent Him in all that I do and say. My behavior either points others to Christ or scares them away. That’s why it is so important that I do what Paul did and try to be all things to all people so that I might win some. That’s why the Bible tells me to live at peace with everyone insofar as it is up to me. When and if I’m wrong, I have to admit it and ask forgiveness. I can’t blow off my mistakes because God loves me and will forgive me. That would be an abuse of His grace.
Whew! It was a lot to swallow, but the Father chased it with this bit of encouragement. He loves me and is able to use all things, even my mistakes, together for my good (the same goes for my children) and His glory. His words didn’t excuse my temper or the deep-wrinkle frown that I gave my kids when I left the house. They didn’t go down quite as easily as the sugared-up version of the truth that I’d been fed earlier, but they healed my hurt and soothed my soul. And they made it just a little easier to wait for those hugs.