7 min. to read.
I showed up at Walla Walla University, a small Christian school in the southeast corner of Washington, as a transfer student. I was moving geographically from Ohio to Washington and conceptually from architecture to theology.
You can bet not many credits transferred. I was behind my peers. I was far away from home. I only knew a small handful of people. I was feeling insecure.
The key that opened the door for me was my guitar. Every Friday night there was a gathering in the lobby of the men’s dorm. A few guitar players led out in old summer camp tunes and a few worship songs. A crowd filled the edges of the room, and the balcony above, and people sang for an hour, sometimes more.
The guys who organized this event were seniors, soon to graduate. When they discovered that I played guitar, and had summer camp experience, they invited me to join them. It was my way in!
Something to Prove!
Suddenly, I had a place. I could contribute something that others wanted. My sense of security shot up.
That event was one of the building blocks of my college life. I met incredible musicians that I loved working with.
I had a blast playing music nearly every week. People started to know who I was. It was great. When I was in that room with the music and the crowd, I was on top of the world. I felt at home, secure, worthy.
Put me in a room with musicians significantly better than me, or shift my schedule so that I couldn’t participate for a few weeks, and I started feeling insecure and antsy. I didn’t realize it at the time, but something about my heart was being revealed.
Guided by a bad story.
I had longed believed a story about myself: I wasn’t accepted.
The only way for me to earn my place was to perform well. When I had a context where I could perform, and when I did well, I felt like I belonged. When I couldn’t perform, or someone else could perform better, I started feeling insecure again.
Questions fought for stage time in my mind. Am I worth something? Am I an accident? Do I belong?
These are the questions that trouble many of us. Sometimes even the circumstances of our lives conspire to make these questions even more painful. A childhood trauma, a hard-to-please parent, being adopted, or abandoned, or abused.
- Some of us establish our worth through our performance.
- Some of us though our financial means.
- Some of us let the world know how valuable we are by amassing influence and power.
- I’ve known people who could prove to themselves that they were worth the air they breathed because of how religious they were, or how much they were involved in social activism, or by how great of a mother they were.
The expressions were as different as the people involved; the underlying sickness was the same. People desperate to avoid feeling insecure were driven to achieve in order to secure their place.
In nearly two decades working with people and hearing their stories, I’ve seen this come up so often I’m getting comfortable suggesting that this is, in fact, universal. We’ve all got something to prove.
The trouble is that our attempts to prove our value leave us short-changed. That’s what happened to me with my guitar. There are always better guitar players out there. Programs come and go.
Eventually, I graduated and went somewhere new where there weren’t crowds of people singing and listening to me play every Friday night. If that (or anything) was the source of my belonging, then I was in big trouble.
Where does your value come from?
The same is true for you. If you are trying to build your sense of value on any external thing, you’re building a house on the sand. Jobs can be lost. Money can be stolen. Relationships go bad. Children, even the ones you worked so hard to raise right, have a mind of their own. Every external source of belonging or value can disappear, leaving you aching and alone.
This identity of not belonging, of not being enough, strangles us. It shapes our life goals. It drives us into and out of relationships for unhealthy reasons. It undermines a healthy spiritual life. It’s not a part of the abundant life that Jesus promised us.
Starting the 210 Life.
You were created by God, a hand-made piece of art, with a good and beautiful purpose.
There’s a different way of thinking about ourselves and our lives. I’m calling it the 210 Life. (A little on why that name, and where I’m coming from here.) Essentially we are standing in place where we can see our lives from a certain perspective, and that perspective needs to change. This perspective can change how we see ourselves, how we see God, and as a result, how we live.
Here is a new place to stand that will offer a different perspective on your life:
That sentence is rooted in Ephesians 2:10. I’m calling it Position 1 and I’ll be unpacking it in the coming posts.
A new position from which to see your life.
The first part is this: “You were created by God.”
One of the main reasons I believe that Genesis 1 & 2 portray humanity being handcrafted by God is to convey this important truth: You, as a member of the human race, were made by God. That means you are not an accident. You are not unexpected. God, as the ultimate artist, made you. Great artists make art that is infused with their character and vision. They invest time and care in every piece. So it is with you. That means that you are not worthless.
This was true before you ever accomplished anything! Before you learned to tie your shoes, before you achieved good grades, before you decided if you would be a Christian or not, before you did anything that anyone could assign value to–you were handmade by God. Your identity begins as a unique, one-of-a-kind, piece of art. Made on purpose. Made with value. And you belong to the One who made you.
There’s more ground to cover regarding why this establishes your value, and how it impacts your sense of purpose, but that’s for a later post. Today, reflect on this.
You don’t have to strive or strain to prove something about your value. You can embrace the truth of your genesis. By standing in this new place, you can see a different perspective on your life. It’s a perspective you need when you’re feeling insecure.
You are a unique creation of the Great Artist. As such you are of inestimable value.
Question: Where do you struggle with a sense of value, and how do you deal with it?