The first thought to blaze across my consciousness that morning was, “Maybe we shouldn’t go.” It was so clear, and so strong, that I could not ignore it. Frowning a bit, I reached out to silence the obnoxious beeping of my alarm.
As I readied myself for the day, I prayed. If the Lord didn’t want me to go, I reasoned, He could close the doors pretty easily. Going out of town would be impossible for me if one of my babies woke up feeling sick, for instance. Or perhaps my husband’s work would take a turn and require his presence. I entertained notions of narrowly avoiding a fatal car accident or some other cataclysmic event, all because God Himself had warned me not to go. I was willing to listen and snug up in the relative safety of my home, though I’d have felt disappointed for sure.
I had looked forward to this event for weeks. My very favorite author on the planet was due to speak in a town 5 hours north of us. I’m not sure I’d have been so willing to go out of my way for anyone else, but this particular writer had truly been used of God to challenge me. I had been a Ted Dekker fan from the early days of his writing. He is an incredibly gifted storyteller with a knack for making you think. But when I read his Circle Trilogy in 2004, my world shifted.
Mr. Dekker has this vision of God that is…well, the best term I can think of is seductive. The God of his fantasy series is called Elyon, which in Hebrew means “Most High”. Elyon embodies strength, power, playfulness, joy, and beauty. He feels fathomless sorrow, has endured horrendous suffering, and is wholly enamored with His creation. He is personal. The power of story is profound, and I instinctively understood that this vision of Elyon is truth. El Elyon: Most High God, is the God I serve.
And for the first time in my life, reading these stories, I yearned for Him.
Over the next nine years, through both spiritual Edens and deserts of the soul, one thing remained. The groaning for a God such as this. A gut-wrenching desire to be in His presence; to throw off the shackles of restraint and sing and dance and laugh with Him. This desire is a gift that has brought my focus back again and again to the only One who is worthy of my devotion: Jesus Christ.
Have these past nine years been years of growth and spiritual bliss? Well…no. In fact, after discovering such an alluring portrait of God, I found myself thrown into several years of torment. How could I grasp this God and fully experience Him? I could not seem to get a firm grip on such a vision of my Creator. Just when I thought I had grabbed onto some understanding, it would somehow slide through my fingers leaving me feeling empty and foolish. I became depressed. I tried to numb the pain in any way I could find. As I spiraled downward, I despised myself more and more.
Eventually I came to a certain uneasy peace. I tamped down my inner demons, my self-loathing, and carried on with life. And life was good. I even had the occasional spiritual experience that validated my belief system. But still, something in me yearned for more.
It’s odd to look back and so clearly see the hand of God orchestrating so many small things. There are so many things over the course of these years, especially in the last one, that led me to that book tour for Ted Dekker’s latest title, Outlaw. To the exact message I needed to hear.
Mr Dekker pointed out that we all have a deep desire to be significant. We all are born with the need to be valued and loved. We learn that when we do certain things, act in certain ways, we receive approval. That makes us feel loved. And oh, how marvelous it feels to be valued! It is addictive, yes?
Mr Dekker worded it well,
“We learn, at a very young age, to live our lives through the perception of others. If they like us, we’re OK. If they don’t, we are nothing. So we must modify our behavior (often pretending to be something we’re not) in order to be accepted.”
The truth of this slammed into me with almost a physical force. I sat there in my seat and, in that darkened room, could clearly see where I was deriving my value from. I could instantly recall the victories and the wounds that have shaped my behaviors. And that all of it was a desperate attempt to matter. To be deemed worthy of love and acceptance.
Where do you get your significance? Your value? Is it through being a great wife or husband? Being beautiful or intelligent? How about in being a ‘good’ Christian or in serving at your church? We all do this. It is part of the human experience.
But we fail, don’t we? The people we rely on to make us feel important fail. And when we fail or when others do not see us in a way that makes us happy, we feel empty. Worthless.
Our souls cry out in frustration: Who am I? Why am I here? We ache deep inside for acceptance, for significance, for love.
So what is our identity? Who are we really?
*John 1:12 says, “But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.”
We are daughters and sons of God. Yahweh, the self existing one. El Elyon, God Most High. I know we all know that in our heads, but ponder that for just a moment. Daughters and sons of the Creator of the cosmos. This is our identity!
What does this mean for us? Let’s look at some verses…
Ephesians 1:4-5 says, “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”
So this tells us that we are: Loved. Chosen. Predestined. You. You were chosen to be a child of God before the world was ever made. Bathe in that for a moment…
Ephesians 1:19-20, 23 “I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. …And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.”
Ephesians 2:6 “For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.”
Hebrews 10:14 “For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.”
Colossians 2:10 “So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.”
So let’s recap here. We are: Loved. Chosen. Predestined. We have the same power in us that raised Jesus from the dead. We are made complete. Made perfect. We are seated in the heavenly realms. And again, we are complete.
Most of us think of these promises as ‘someday’ things. But pastor Timothy Keller states:
“By referring to the future, Paul turns our imaginations to what it will mean to be radiant, glorious, beautiful, and perfect. Elsewhere Paul says that Jesus lives to present us to Himself “radiant…without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Eph. 5:27) We know that this is guaranteed, and therefore, is essentially true now. We are to live today knowing we are, and always will be, an absolute beauty in the eyes of God.”
This is not a someday thing. This is a NOW thing.
I don’t want to judge myself anymore based on how others see me. I want to live in the freedom of knowing that I am already completely loved. That I am of infinite value to the only One who matters. Then, and only then, will I be able to pour out the love of Jesus himself onto those around me.
This thinking will make me an enemy of the laws of this world. An enemy of narcissistic heathens and legalistic religious folk alike. I will be an outlaw, of sorts.
And I’m ready.