A pair of Beach Chairs

Accepted, After All

Birthday Card

My daughter and grands made me a lovely card for my birthday this year. They each worked on it—from conception to fruition—designing, lettering, drawing, painting, mailing. It’s a keeper for sure.

The theme is lovely. It celebrates that concept of who my daughter believes me to be, and then, it tells me so.

The idea? To bless me, on my day. To say, “We love you. We celebrate your presence in this world. We like you just the way you are.” I can hear, even now, the voice of Fred Rogers.

He would have applauded the theme of the birthday card, that notion of celebrating a person, each and every one, special. Do you know these songs from his program, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood? Check them out— “It’s you, I like”, and “You are Special”.

Feeling like you are special, and that you really are loved just the way you are, can be a tough concept for many. It can be hard to accept. When we can’t view ourselves through the Father’s eyes of love, we are left with what we think about ourselves, or what others think…or, more accurately, what we think others think.

Sometimes we struggle so much to be accepted, that we end up trying really hard to become acceptable. So we present our best idea of what we think others want, and show that version… one that somebody might, just might, find acceptable.

Have you, too, spend far too long changing yourself, ever like a chameleon, into that version of yourself that somebody might like—or least not dislike, ignore, discount? I think it’s fairly common, this worry, among those of us who suffer from a sense of inadequacy.

Jerry to the Rescue (Well, sort of…)

Have you seen the movie, The Disorderly Orderly, starring Jerry Lewis? It’s hilarious. My older sister found it one summer when we lived very close by. She and her kids, and me and mine, watched it a couple of times that summer, and then every summer thereafter–for years’ running. It helps us makes fun of this dilemma, in a light-hearted Jerry Lewis sort of way.

Burned into my memory is poor, hapless, Jerry Lewis, eager, eager, stupidly eager to please. We laugh out loud at the invariably countless bumbling, stumbling, havoc-creating mishaps.

At one point, the charge nurse, played brilliantly by Kathleen Freeman, breathes out these famous words, barely controlling herself in the throes of a nervous breakdown (caused, of course, by Jerome, Lewis’s character). She intones, through clenched teeth:

Jerome — don’t — try — so — hard.”

Poor Jerome. How about you? Are you able to let go of trying so hard? It’s a process, but there is such a release, when we begin to ease up on ourselves, and be acceptable, by actually accepting ourselves.

Letting it Go

I’m learning that I don’t have to try so hard. As I’ve been able to really apprehend that my life is hidden with Christ, in God, I am freed from so much anxiety about this world and its insecurities. (Colossians 3:2-3). I begin to relax. I exist more and more within the loving embrace of God’s love. So, I don’t try so hard. I don’t need to. Read how Paul encourages believers to see themselves:

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.

Colossians 3:1-3

Notice how, when our minds are in the realities of who we are in Christ, and on our life hidden with Him, we are set free from worrying so much about what others on this planet happen to think about us. It’s actually not to be our focus, after all. How can I worry about not being “acceptable,” when God chose me to be His child, and accepted me into His family?

Focusing on Him, and on who He says I am, I am freer than I’ve ever been. I’m even having fun in previously threatening social contexts—I’m able to finally relax. It’s freeing, to just be present with others.

I can enjoy spending time with them, without fearing their disapproval–at least not as much as I did, before.

Father God

How does that even work? Well, for me, it came about when I really accepted the truth that God is my Father. My Papa. And part of that process included working with a gifted Christian counselor. He helped me work through a lot of false narratives, and lies that I had believed, like thinking that I had to earn love.

No earning needed. Already loved. The Father of the Lord Jesus Christ is my Father. And He is a good Father. A Father I can trust, confide in, hope in, rely on, run to. How does that even work? That we should be called the children of God?

Yet, that is what we are!

It’s all over the New Testament, this truth. The love of the Father, through His plan to send His precious and only Son into the world: when He did that, He made us family.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

John 3:16-18 (NIV)

Family

After Christ conquered the grave, He ministered for 40 days on the earth, and then He went to heaven. God sent His Spirit to His followers–these followers that were now Christ’s brothers and sisters, and fellow-heirs with Him.

Over the past two-thousand years, He has brought into the family of God more brothers and sisters. Now, God has a lot of children—all of those who have turned from their own way, to follow Him. All of those who have bent the knee, and made Him their Lord and their God. Are you one of His? I hope so!

This mind-blowing fact, that as believers we are adopted, welcomed in, included—ones who formerly were not part of the family, are now indeed a part of the family of God—this is the gospel. The good news. And it is life-changing. As it was meant to be.

May I invite you to pull up a chair, and sit for a while with the truth that God has revealed in His Word?

Receive the love, accept the invitation to belong–that invitation from the Father in heaven. When you gave your life to Christ, you became a member, in full standing, of the family of God. The voices (even your own) that tell you otherwise, are not speaking the truth.

The truth?

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children, because they don’t know Him. Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but He has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like Him, for we will see Him as he really is. And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as He is pure.

1 John 3:1-3 (NLT)

You don’t need to try so hard. You already count. You are already loved. Just the way you are.

A Prayer

Father God, my Papa, You said that as many as received Jesus, You gave the right to become children of God. That you love me, want me, and accept me to be your very own child, your daughter, just blows me away. And Your goodness to me doesn’t even stop there! You made me a co-heir with your son, Jesus. And not only that, You didn’t invite me into Your presence just once. You see me, flawed me, imperfect me, blows-it sometimes me, and You still love me, want me, and accept me. You said that the one that comes to You, in will in no wise cast out. Help me to see myself the way that You see me. Amen.