You Are Not "Just" Anything

I don't think most people even notice it when this word rolls of their tongues.

"I'm just a ____."

We use the word just like a shield, revealing a sense of uncertainty about what will follow. How are we being judged? Are we up to the standards of success? We want to deflect potential critique by letting people know that we already know that what we're about to say isn't all that impressive.

Except it is impressive... If we have the eyes to see it.

We are human beings, created in the image of an incredible God. Whatever we do as a job, whatever we do as a hobby, whatever we do as a volunteer, we bring unbelievable potential with us.

We can listen. We can care. We can encourage. We can forgive. We can serve. We can teach. We can make something new. We can bring life.

God has given humans the capacity to bring light and love and goodness into God's world.

Which means you are just amazing.

I hope you can receive that word today.

You are not just a _____. You are just amazing.

Finding Jesus at the Gym

I've been trying to find a rhythm of time these days. Something that could provide a sense of schedule now that I've lost the routine of going to work in the morning.

Enter: the gym.

I have been going to the gym while my son is in preschool. I workout during that window of time when I find myself jobless and kidless, with the potential to fall down the click-holes of the Internet if I'm not mindful. Losing my time and footing feels especially risky in this season of wandering and waiting.

I've been trying to get back in the habit of going to the gym anyway, hoping to lose some weight and gain some health. So, there seemed no better time to start than now.

The gym carries its own holes I could slip into, old habits of obsession and eating disorders, fears of looking as awkward and out-of-shape as I feel, shame about the size of my frame, anxiety that this endeavor in the end will be some sort of failure. I have been swallowing hard, and going to the gym anyway. 

-----

I was on the lateral elliptical machine, listening to a podcast sermon from my friend, Micah. It was an introduction to the book of Hebrews, in which one of the opening verses says this, 

image.jpg

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. - Hebrews 1:3

If Jesus is the exact representation of God, then any picture we hold of who God is that is not in line with what we know of Jesus, is wrong.

At the end, Micah challenged everyone to participate in a prayer exercise, to release to God a picture we are holding of who He is, and allow Him to replace that with a picture of Jesus.

Explanations of experiential service elements are usually the point of a podcast when I press skip and move on to the next sermon. Something is lost for me when I wasn't there to participate in them live and in-person.

But this time, I didn't press skip. I closed my eyes and wondered if God might meet me right there, at the gym, in the space between.

-----

The day before, I had been wondering if God was indifferent towards me.

My failures and my shortcomings seemed more visible than His goodness, and I wondered if He could, if He would, provide me a job I would love. I wondered if He cared about something that seems so trivial in comparison to the needs of this world.

I don't think I actually believe God is indifferent, but sometimes the things we don't believe feel more real than the faith we wish we had.

Eyes closed, moving in the rhythm of the elliptical machine, I gave the word "indifferent" to God, and asked Him to replace it with an image of Jesus. Skeptical, I might add, that He would actually do it.

Before I had time to think, I saw Jesus washing my feet.

I've heard it said that Jesus washing the disciples' feet was a great act of servanthood. Though that's true, it was also a beautiful embodiment of intimacy. Touching feet is not something we do when we are indifferent towards someone. Taking off someone's sandal, putting their foot in water, scrubbing their toes clean, these are all intentional acts that require closeness and time.

I imagine Jesus wiping my feet while He looks at me with a gleam in His eyes, the kind of satisfied look you see in the face of a loved one after the shared richness of deep conversation. I imagine Jesus gently wiping my feet until all the filth- the sweat, the fear, and the shame- is washed away by his love.

-----

I open my eyes and slow down. My workout is done, and it's time to get off the machine. 

I walk away hoping this picture of God will last longer than the post-workout high. 

-----

Do you have a picture of God that needs to be replaced with a picture of Jesus? God might just give you a vision if you ask for one. Even if you ask at the gym.

Comment

Depression is Biblical

Psalm 88Depression carries a stigma for those who suffer under its weight. On top of the burden that already exists for those who live with it, we place shame and doubt and frustration. It’s cruel and unnecessary.

There is a particular stigma that exists within the Christian subculture that depression is somehow wrong. People are led to believe it is somehow a sign of not having enough faith or not being inside God’s will or having done something to displease God.

That idea is not biblical. Not in the slightest.

I challenge anyone who says that depression is outside of the experience of a person of faith to read Psalm 88. These are the words of someone who is in the midst of deep anguish. In fact, at the front end, the Psalm declares itself “A song to be sung to the tune 'The Suffering of Affliction.'”

Listen to the words of Psalm 88 from the New Living Translation.

O LORD, God of my salvation,      I cry out to you by day.      I come to you at night. Now hear my prayer;      listen to my cry. For my life is full of troubles,      and death draws near. I am as good as dead,      like a strong man with no strength left. They have left me among the dead,      and I lie like a corpse in a grave. I am forgotten,      cut off from your care. You have thrown me into the lowest pit,      into the darkest depths. Your anger weighs me down;      with wave after wave you have engulfed me.      Interlude You have driven my friends away      by making me repulsive to them. I am in a trap with no way of escape.      My eyes are blinded by my tears. Each day I beg for your help, O LORD;      I lift my hands to you for mercy. Are your wonderful deeds of any use to the dead?      Do the dead rise up and praise you?      Interlude Can those in the grave declare your unfailing love?      Can they proclaim your faithfulness in the place of destruction? Can the darkness speak of your wonderful deeds?      Can anyone in the land of forgetfulness talk about your righteousness? O LORD, I cry out to you.      I will keep on pleading day by day. O LORD, why do you reject me?      Why do you turn your face from me? I have been sick and close to death since my youth.      I stand helpless and desperate before your terrors. Your fierce anger has overwhelmed me.      Your terrors have paralyzed me. They swirl around me like floodwaters all day long.      They have engulfed me completely. You have taken away my companions and loved ones.      Darkness is my closest friend. 

This is not a Psalm of easy answers. It is filled with brokenness and pain.

I think this Psalm teaches us an important lesson: let’s stop trying to fix people. This Psalm does not have platitudes. It does not pretend things are explainable. It does not fix. It does not resolve.

Psalm 88 sits in pain with its singer. Its words come alongside like a friend, offering the safety of honesty and presence.

Parker Palmer has written about his experience as a Christian suffering from depression and how people responded to him. Many people visited him during his darkest days, trying to help, but many of them just added to the hurt.

But one friend, one friend brought his presence in the most beautiful way.

“Blessedly, there were several people, family and friends, who had the courage to stand with me in a simple and healing way. One of them was a man who, having asked my permission to do so, stopped by late every afternoon, sat me down in a chair, knelt in front of me, removed my shoes and socks, and for half an hour simply massaged my feet. He found the only place in my body where I could still experience bodily feeling—and feel connected with the human race.

He rarely spoke a word, and when he did, he never gave advice but simply mirrored my condition. He would say, “I can sense your struggle today,” or, “It feels like you are getting stronger.” I could not always respond, but his words were deeply helpful: They reassured me that I could still be seen by at least on person, life-giving knowledge in the midst of an experience that makes one feel annihilated and invisible. It is almost impossible to put into words what my friend's ministry meant to me."

Let’s follow this example. Let’s enter with people in their pain and not try to fix them. Let’s give those who are suffering space to simply be without adding the burden of shame to their already heavy load.

Psalm 88 shows a God who wants to be present with us in the midst of it, without easy answers. Let’s provide that presence for one another.


That was my reflection on Psalm 88. Link up with your own reflection below. Or stop back next week with a reflection on Psalm 89.