by Glison Angela Lehto, author of Miss Aqua and the Fear Monster, scheduled for digital and paperback release in 2016!
In our busy, performance-oriented culture, it’s challenging to not equate achievement with self-worth. From childhood, we are taught that good behavior results in approval, respect, and love from other people. When we behave in a way that pleases our parents, we merit more positive attention. When we earn good grades in school, our teachers recognize us. When we excel in sports, we’re awarded with adoration. In every arena—early childhood, academics, athletics, family life, and career—we are taught this basic worldly principle: my worth depends on how well I perform.
This is true even in the Church. Children who attend Sunday school faithfully, bring their Bibles, and memorize their verses get the stickers and cool prizes. The adults who volunteer and serve on committees and teach Vacation Bible School get the most recognition. We don’t mean to, but in the brokenness of the human heart, every one of us mistakes our worth for our good behavior.
God isn’t like that. Not at all. Nobody but Him would observe the blatant rebellion of a hard-hearted sinner, the destructive behaviors and selfish actions, and say, “I love that person!” Not only does He love people who don’t perform well, He places great value on them. So much value, in fact, that He considered us worth His own humiliation, suffering, and death. No, God does not equate the worth of a human being with his or her performance. Not in the least!
That’s what makes the Gospel so radical! That’s why people got upset at Jesus when He told the parable of the vineyard workers. Jesus gave them a story about a vineyard owner who hired workers at various times in the day. When dusk came, the owner paid them all the same wage, whether they had put in twelve hours or forty-five minutes! One point of that parable was to show that God greatly values us just because we’re His, regardless of how deserving (or undeserving) we are.
In God’s Kingdom, the only person whose performance counts for anything is Jesus. And His performance counts on our behalf. Our worth has nothing to do with how hard we work, how high we jump, how many Sunday school classes we teach, or how fervently we strive to be good Christians. Our worth is given, not earned. We’re valued by God simply because He created us. We are His and He loves us. And He considers us worth saving even before we ever do anything that glorifies Him.
I was struggling to remember that I’m worthy in Christ. Like all of us, I sometimes get confused and fall back into the broken system that says my self-worth is directly proportional to how much I’m accomplishing. I was in a season of rest, recovery, and learning to be still and wait for the Spirit. But the enemy was accusing me of being lazy and selfish. I heard a nagging voice in my head ask, “What are you doing for the Kingdom of God?”
Then, much to my surprise and delight, I heard the Holy Spirit reply through my thoughts, “I’m doing exactly what the t-rex did for Jurassic Park: just being myself!”
The t-rex! Yes! What made her so special? Was it because she accomplished such great things for the executive board? Did she earn straight A’s? Was it because she could quote Scripture from memory or volunteered for nursery every Sunday? (That would be an even worse idea than putting me on nursery duty!) No, the tyrannosaurus rex was amazing simply for being herself. She was this huge, terrifying, powerful, majestic, incredible lifeform, and her unique worth came just from being God’s wild, awesome creation. She made Jurassic Park so great simply by being what she was created to be.
Now, I know the metaphor starts to fall apart when you remember that she ate some of the human characters, but the point I’m making is that this beast made the movie. She was the crowning glory of Jurassic Park. At the end, she ironically is the reason the heroes escape (she kills the velociraptors that were hunting them). The banner comes streaming down from the ceiling in front of her: “When dinosaurs ruled the earth!” And as this banner proudly flies across her, with John Williams’ brilliant musical score filling the scene with grandeur, she lifts her gigantic, fearsome head and splits the air with a terrible, earth-shaking roar!
That’s how God sees us! We’re His amazing, unique, beautiful, divinely-empowered creatures, and He is glorified by us simply being ourselves. We reflect His splendor. We are the tyrannosaurs in His Kingdom, and our worth is inherit because we’re His creations.
So now when those little demons come nagging me and trying to tell me I have to work harder to be worthy, I remember that I am a t-rex in God’s Jurassic Park. And guess what, demons? God’s hurricane of unconditional love for me knocked out your power. I’m going to tear down my paddock wall! ROAR!