Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Do You Need Someone to Give You Your Worth?

I suppose since I’m single again, I'm friends with a lot of single women. Sometimes they have always been single, sometimes they are like me, single again. But one thing I have learned through all my trials and talking to people throughout them is that the human experience is just that - human. Universal. Both men and women long to be loved, as well as respected. The funny thing is, is that treating someone with respect is loving. And treating someone with love, is respectful.

I think as women and men we long for those things in their particular expression - whether respect or love. The Lord made women particularly long to be loved, and He graciously commands husbands to meet that need. The Lord made men in their natures particularly long to be respected, and He graciously wants that need to be met, as well, by commanding women to respect their husbands.

A friend told me recently that she read somewhere that the more in love a widow(er) was in their marriage, the more they long to be remarried. Once you've tasted what it's like to be treasured, you long to be treasured again.

The last time I was single, I had never tasted of what it is like to be gospel-treasured. So I didn't know what I was missing. It's like if you have never tasted bubble tea before. You don't need bubble tea, because you don't know what you are missing. But once we introduced bubble tea to our friends, they would drive 45 minutes on a regular basis just to get some bubble tea (that's right. Most of you have never tried bubble tea. You need to – get the “black pearl milk tea” - But you can't go back afterwards. It's worth it though). See, I've gotten distracted by bubble tea. The point is this, a single woman said to me once, "You've already been married. You've already had children. So if you don't again, at least you've already accomplished it once in your life." And I say, it's just the opposite. Once you've tasted and seen, you realize all the more sharply what you are missing. So single ladies, I get where you are at. In fact, I get what it is to long to be loved more than I ever did the last time I was single.

One morning recently, I was feeling overwhelmed and didn't want to face some parenting struggles I was having. I felt so angry that Andrew wasn’t there with me. But I didn’t understand why I felt angry. I thought, "Even if Andrew was here, he would not be in our house all day. I would still be dealing with these parenting issues without his help. So what is it that I wish I could have from him?” Then my Bible reading schedule was about Elijah being taken up to heaven. I thought, "How did Elisha feel when Elijah left him? It doesn't say anything about that. I would feel like, 'No, I'm not ready. It's not been enough time. It would never be enough time.'" And then I burst into tears. Those were the thoughts I had when Andrew left me for heaven – “No, I'm not ready. It's not been enough time. It would never be enough time.” The Holy Spirit used His Word to hit upon what had been upsetting me.

I simply missed Andrew.

I thought, "It's not Andrew's help with the kids I long for. It’s not anything he could do for me. I didn’t want anything from him. It's that I didn't think I could face parenting without his love. His love was my Premium fuel. I could do all things through Andrew whose love gave me strength."

Love gives amazing strength and brings out the best in us, the dormant beauties that neither you nor anyone ever dreamed were there and were never cultivated by anyone else. But the language I heard in my head "through Andrew I could do all things..." exposed to me how I was exalting the love of a man to idolatrous proportions. I realized the lies I was believing. Andrew could never satisfy me in that way. And any time I looked to him to take the place of Christ in my life, I only ended up terribly frustrated and disappointed. Because Christ is jealous for His rightful place in our lives, and He will only thwart our efforts to look to anything less than Him for our satisfaction.

How does the gospel answer the question of longing to be treasured when it seems there was only one person in the world that had such a grasp of the gospel that he could love even me? What do I do when that person is no longer present in this world to love me?

Someone in my small group recently said he found that the worse his wife might act (yes, she was sitting right there. And was fine with him sharing this), the more love the Lord gave him for her. I laughed when I heard him say that, because I knew exactly what he meant. That was how Andrew loved me. The more Andrew knew me, the more he understood my sinfulness, the more he loved me. That was the gospel! I think this type of love - gospel love - feels so much richer than human love. Because the more your spouse loves you - even in the midst of your sin - the more you feel your unworthiness of his love. When you sin, rather than return it with shouting in anger at you - he returns it with affection and gentleness. It's shocking and can only be supernatural. And as a result, it can only be a picture of Jesus. After all, it is His kindness that leads us to repentance.

This type of supernatural, gospel love is so rich. Once you've tasted of it, how can you live without it? And yet, that is what Jesus does for us. He knows everything about us. All the dark things that we don't want anybody to know. All the dark things about us that even we ourselves don't want to face or admit to ourselves. He loves us not because we are worthy or attractive in ourselves. He loves us, even though we so often shake our fists in His face, saying (though perhaps not out loud, but in our grumbling or bad attitudes or taking our anger out on others), "No, God, that's not how I envisioned my life. No God, that's not my will. And Your will doesn't look good to me." He loves us in defiance of our daily sin. He loves us in our neediness for Him. In fact, the more we need Him, the greater His grace.

As I was thinking these thoughts, I wasn’t sure they were enough to cause me to face the day. A moment later, my friend called. And though it was thoughts of Andrew that had spurred these contemplations, and her situation was different, I found myself having to rehearse to her the very truths the Holy Spirit had just comforted me with (just as 2Cor. 1:4 says He will do).

She expressed her fears about opening up to someone interested in her, because what if he rejected her once he knew her? And I said, "You will just have to rest in the gospel. That's what we all need to do. It is a battle to rest in the gospel. That is what I am trying to do this morning." I said, "Jesus loves and accepts you, because He's loving. Because His love is so vast, His love overflows out of Himself onto you. He loves you, because He made you and He loves the work of His own hands. He loves You because you bear His image, and He loves His own image. He loves you so much that He shed His own blood for you. The God-Man shed His blood for you! Blood worth more than gold - infinitely. No one else could come close to loving you like that. No one else has anything worth that much to make such a sacrifice for you."

Jesus loves me infinitely more than any human ever could. Than Andrew ever could love me.

Now, I don't want any of you to misunderstand me. I'm not saying anything here about having self-esteem. In ourselves, we are worth nothing. But in Jesus, Jesus is our worthiness.

I said, "He rejoices over you like a groom shouts with exultation over his bride." What more do we need? Jesus is enough. And all our worth is in Him. We do not need a man to tell us we are worthy or to give us worth. Jesus is worthy in our place.

I said to my friend, "So it doesn't matter whether a man values you or not, because Jesus does. You are loved and accepted in Him. And when He looks at you, He no longer sees all your filth and unworthiness. He sees the perfection of His Son. He sees you as if you always obeyed Him perfectly."

My friend asked, “How do you know that?”

I said, “Because it says it in His Word.”

Yes, this woman was a Christian. So why did she ask that, when she knows the Bible? Well, if we're honest, don’t we question what God says repeatedly in the Bible all the time? Don’t we say, “Jesus loves me? I don’t feel like You do. I don’t believe You. Because if You loved me, I would get my way. And my way looks wise to me.” Or, "All I want is what everyone else gets," or "All I want is to be normal." Or, "What I want is a totally legitimate and not sinful desire, so why aren't you giving it to me?" So maybe, we’re actually not all that different from my friend. Maybe my friend was just honest.

When I got off the phone with my friend, I found I was ready to face the day. The Holy Spirit had ministered to my heart that morning. He showed me through reading about Elijah - of all things - I wasn’t really angry, just sad. He let me have a good cry. And then He let my friend call me, because He knew that rehearsing those truths would help me to believe this child-like, yet difficult truth - Jesus loves me.

So, actually, do you need a Man to give you Your worth? Yes, we all do. But thank God that we don't have to achieve our worth, because Jesus already has - Jesus gives us His Worth. So we can rest. We don't need our worth from anyone but Him. As my pastor often says, "Who cares what the serfs think, when we're already loved by the King?"

Christian, let us battle to believe, let us battle to rest in the truth that Jesus loves us. Let us continually confess and repent of our unbelief and pray, "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!" Let us pray, "Lord, help me to taste and see that Your love is better than life.

The LORD your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

- Zephaniah 3:17

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

John Piper's Bloodlines

If you've followed this blog for a long time, you may have picked up that I'm a big John Piper fan. From his Don't Waste Your Cancer blog post to his Job sermons that we repeatedly listened to during cancer to his books and other sermons that convinced us in our early 20's that the supremacy of God in all things must drive our every thought, desire, and decision, his influence largely sustained Andrew and I through cancer. I've finally gotten around to watching his video about his new book, Bloodlines, and I loved it. If you are wondering, it is completely unrelated to cancer. Rather, it has to do with growing up in the South in the 50s and 60s as a racist and the profound reversal that took place since. Take a look:

Bloodlines Documentary with John Piper from Crossway on Vimeo.