Maintaining a positive self-image

Replacing the Lies with Truth (Part 3): You are Loved

December 1, 2016

[Read the previous post in this series here]

 

It’s easy to be reminded of our flaws, isn’t it? Call them whatever you want: sin, weaknesses, imperfections, junk, baggage (or a vast array of other equally negative words). These are the things we discover when we compare ourselves to others and come up wanting. They are our secret failures and disappointments with our own selves, our big mistakes and hurts that we have nursed for years. They are the things that have pushed people away from us or the things that have caused us to withdraw from others. The things that have made us feel like less of a friend, less of a Christian, less of a person. They may be small—or not. But we all have them. It’s the natural result of living in a world that breaks us. Of living with the cancer of sin.

 

 

Underneath all our doubts is the big question: “Can I be loved for who I am?” Can any love cover me and my flaws and my mistakes and my sin and my junk and my baggage?

 

The answer is “yes.”

 

 

This post is not meant to be a spiritual Band-Aid to slap on our old wounds. Everything is not magically okay once we remember the love of God. We still hurt. We still sin. We still fail in our human relationships. “Jesus loves me” is more than a children’s song. Unfortunately, it has become an overused, trite Christian truth like “God is good” or “I am blessed.” But when Jesus communicated it, He didn’t deliver a pretty pre-packaged saying as we do all too often. Rather, He used the power of story.

 

 

You may know it as the parable of “The Prodigal Son” from Luke 15, but don’t be misled by the title. This is the father’s story. In this familiar parable, a wealthy man’s younger son asks for his share of the estate early—a request which his father grants—and then departs for a distant country, where he squanders his wealth on wild living. Eventually, a famine comes to the land, and the son, with not a cent to his name, scrapes out a living feeding pigs.

 

 

He is starving. But then he remembers his father’s house, where even the servants are well-fed and secure. He decides to go back, beg his father’s forgiveness, and ask to be treated as a servant.

 

 

He is still far from home when his father spots him. The original Greek stresses the phrase “a great way off,” implying that the young man’s father was not at home but rather ventured out every day to watch for his son’s return[1]. As soon as the father sees his son returning, he “had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (v. 20). The son asks forgiveness and relinquishes his claim to the title of “son.” The father does not stand for that. Instead, he clothes his son with the best robe and sandals and adorns him with a ring, all symbols of the young man’s restored status as son and heir. Yet if anyone was unworthy, it was he.

 

 

Living in this world, I think we often feel that we have to conform to a certain standard to deserve love: whether from God or from anyone else. Too often—yes, even in Christian circles—we feel that we have to hide our struggles. We nod and smile, say, “God is good” and “I am blessed” along with the rest, but inside we’re prodigal sons, struggling with sin and weakness and junk and asking God—begging Him, “Do you love me? Do I matter?” We want to think that if we try hard enough, someone—God, a stranger, anybody—will look twice and really see us, past all our junk and weakness, and look on us with love.

 

 

This post has been hard for me to write, because, friend, I get it.

 

 

The constant striving. The measuring myself up to a perfect standard of my own creation. The discouragement when I fail, when my sin and weakness and junk becomes glaringly obvious not just to me but to others.

 

 

The love of the prodigal’s father reached down to the very depths. It didn’t matter what the son had done. It didn’t matter whether his confession was sincere or not, whether he came back to his father for the right reasons. The father who loved the prodigal son is the same Father who loves us. There is nothing about us that we can hide from Him. There is no distance we can flee that He will not seek us. And there is no depth we can fall, no blemish so great, that can make Him turn His face away and withdraw His love.

 

 

[1] Jeremiah, David. The Jeremiah Study Bible. Worthy, 2013. 1417. Print.

 

 

 

 


 

Natalie Macek – Column: Maintaining a Positive Self-Image

IMG_6146Natalie Macek is a college student who studies Elementary Education Integrated Studies at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, with the goal of becoming an elementary or middle school teacher. She currently works as the editor for Refined, an e-magazine for Christian teen girls and their moms.  She loves drinking warm cups of tea and trying to capture life on paper . Natalie is passionate about her faith in God and about reminding girls of their identity and value in Him, especially as they navigate the struggles of middle and high school.
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