We can only keep on going, after all, by the power of God, who first saved us and then called us to this holy work. We had nothing to do with it. It was all his idea, a gift prepared for us in Jesus long before we knew anything about it.
-2 Timothy 1:9 (MSG)
I am a…..
-SAH Household Manager
In the western world, what we do defines who we are.
I do, therefore I am.
Our value is in our production, and our value is in our accomplishments.
And the world has functioned like that for a long time.
This all works well when it’s unquestioned and you’re able to do your thing every day just like normal. But what about when a pandemic hits? What do we become when our self-identifiers are stripped away?
This is about identity. Let’s reflect broadly for a moment. We all have the natural tendency to define our value based on a set of criteria. For most of us, that involves two primary things: what we do in our work/daily lives, and how people respond to us.
I enjoy thinking about the enneagram personality typology. I happen to pretty purely in the "Two" category, which means that I often define my value by using others as a mirror. If I can make you feel better and you respond well to me, I use that to build my worth. I like seeing on people’s faces that I have helped them. It makes me feel valuable.
So what happens when EVERY DANG FACE I SEE IS PIXELATED?
I’m in for an identity crisis unless Jesus quickly enters into my self-orbiting world. You might be, too.
The bottom line is pretty sobering. If we don’t feel useful, we quickly start to believe we are useless.
God’s kingdom functions differently than the world. We are valuable not because of what we do, but simply because we are. We are created with value that cannot be diminished. God has done the work, not us.
I love that at Jesus' baptism, the Father’s voice speaks affirmation to the son before he’s accomplished anything of earthly value. Thirty years old. No followers. No wealth. No published teachings. Possibly still living with his parents.
This is my son, with whom I am well pleased.
The value is given first. The actions flow out of that. But the identity is secure.
Our worth is not defined by our work. It does matter. It just doesn’t matter ultimately.
You could accomplish nothing today, and you are still of infinite value in God’s eyes.
You could fail miserably at every task you set your mind to, and your worth would not be diminished.
You could find that working from home limits you and makes you less effective than you wish you were… and God would not be disappointed in you.
You could be out of work and feeling lethargic and angsty and irritable, and the truth remains that you are still loved beyond measure.
You could be overworked with no emotional margin, and God says...there’s grace for that.
You could be a parent who feels like your kids have gone feral over the past month and you don’t know what to do besides throw food into their room and hope for the best. And even so, you are worth dying for.
The power in this good news is that it changes our ability to handle the present struggle.
If our primary identity and meaning is tied to other people or our ability to accomplish a great deal each day, then for many, the current situation becomes unbearable. But, if our identity is secure, we can find rest even in the storm.
The Apostle Paul is one of our greatest examples of a life at peace because of what Jesus has done, not what he accomplished. Indeed, much of our New Testament was written by a violent terrorist, who was an accomplice to murder on multiple occasions. Yet he became a peacemaking agent of reconciliation in Christ. He was also a workhorse: highly educated, having many skills, and accomplishing more before and after his conversion than most of us could ever dream of. Yet he spent years in jail, unable to “accomplish” anything. And Jesus shaped him in those quarantined moments as much as the active moments. I can imagine Paul living through today and giving us a framework beyond our production-based value system.
He might say something like this:
If I work, I work for Jesus! If I can’t work, I rest in Jesus! Which one is better? I can’t decide! If I parent with great strength and ability today, I praise God for the power to do so! If I fail miserably and lose it with my kids, what an opportunity for me to receive the grace of God that flows without end. If I am ill or scared or at risk and need to be cared for by others, what a gift to see the image of God in those who serve me! And if I am able to care for others, I am refreshed by the very Spirit of God giving me the ability to do so. I am beyond content in every situation. What a gift God has given me, that I can be filled even when the world is empty. Nothing can separate me from the love of God or the infinite worth I have been created with, that Jesus would lay down his life for me, regardless of my abilities. Praise God!
Jesus, help me find my worth in you.