In his book Jesus Outside the Lines, pastor Scott Sauls shares his nightly ritual with his daughters. Each night, he pronounces a blessing over them, reminding them that they are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” that “nothing can separate (them) from the love of God,” and that “God made (them) beautiful and special.” He says, “I want them to remember and rest in what God says is true about them. Neither the culture nor their own hearts get to name them, because their maker already has.” (pg 26)
I’ve been thinking about that beautiful picture since I read it. It brings a few things to mind.
Young kids, like my three, are sponges. The school they attend caters to and capitalizes on the fact that young kids are incredibly receptive to learning and memorizing tons of new information. They may not fully grasp everything they are learning, but they have the capacity to take it all in and store it away. How imperative it is, then, that they are being exposed to and reminded of the truth of scripture and who God says they are in Christ.
Sauls’ words also fall right in line with something my counselor has shared with me. He tells me often that no one else gets to name me. No one else gets to tell me who I am. Not the mean boy from 8th grade who wanted me to believe I was fat, not the cashier at McDonald’s who made me feel stupid for miscounting my change (don’t laugh, I was traumatized), not even my parents. Only Jesus can do that.
I’m hoping and assuming that you’ve already seen “Inside Out.” If you haven’t, I’ll do my best not to spoil anything for you.
In the movie, we get to see the inner workings of an 11-year-old girl. We see her emotions, her “islands of personality,” which are built by and filled with the things she loves most, and we see her “core memories,” those that have shaped and impacted her more than any others.
I’m a lover of psychology, so I will never discount the importance and the impact of our memories and our experiences. However, as I pondered the importance of my own core memories and the way they have shaped me, I was pointed to the importance of recalling who I am in Christ.
It is imperative that I remember the gospel every single day. My feelings can change as quickly as my 4-year-old’s attention span. If I’m dependent upon my feelings to hold me afloat on any given day, my ship will sink. My husband can look at me the wrong way, or not at all, and I no longer feel worthy of love. If I am dependent upon my husband, my children, friends, and family to tell me who I am, I will almost always be confused, frustrated, and uncertain.
Henri Nouwen reminds me to keep returning to the solid place, where I know that I am loved by God. He writes,
“You must believe in the yes that comes back when you ask, “Do you love me?” You must choose this yes even when you do not experience it.
You feel overwhelmed by distractions, fantasies, the disturbing desire to throw yourself into the world of pleasure. But you know already that you will not find there an answer to your deepest question. Nor does the answer lie in rehashing old events, or in guilt or shame. All of that makes you dissipate yourself and leave the rock on which your house is built.
You have to trust the place that is solid, the place where you can say yes to God’s love even when you do not feel it. Right now you feel nothing except emptiness and the lack of strength to choose. But keep saying, “God loves me, and God’s love is enough.” You have to choose the solid place over and over again and return to it after every failure.”
These words are incredibly helpful for me, as I am a person who lets every failure of life affect me deeply. I don’t take criticism well. It becomes for me a value statement. As does praise, so it is just as dangerous. What I have to do is remind myself and be reminded by my community of what God says is true about me. What my Maker and Namer says is the solid place. My “islands of personality” function best when I view them as pieces of the divine-image-bearing creation that I am. My “core memories” are significant, to be sure, but they do not define me.
I too am “fearfully and wonderfully made.” “Nothing can separate me from the love of God.” I am more valuable to my heavenly father than the birds of the air. I am his beloved daughter. I am worthy. I am accepted. I am adored. I am a new creation.
I am so thankful for Jesus, without whom none of these things are true.