Worth

I want so badly to have a tangible measure of my worth. I want some sort of cosmic report card that says I got straight A’s, or maybe a plaque on my wall that says I won Best Human. To be honest, I spend way too much time and energy searching for this tangible measure. I tell myself that maybe if I wear a certain clothing size, or am involved in a certain number of charitable organizations, or finally figure out how to have great hair, then I will finally be able to put to rest my insatiable need for perfection. As you can imagine, this leaves me chasing after the wind; running in circles and getting nowhere.

According to Romans 9:23, we were made for glory. I think that my desires, and maybe yours too, point to that reality. However, I’m pretty certain we were not made to live our lives in a fruitless search for human “perfection.” Not only is it exhausting and unattainable, but it reinforces the lie that we aren’t valuable the way we are.

Jesus says that our worth comes from being God’s beloved children. I want to take Jesus at His word, I really do, but there is a part of me that still believes my worth comes from my outward appearance, or my achievements, or what people say about me. Surely we will get to the end of our lives and be judged on if we had good fashion sense and ate only salads for lunch, right? Right??

 
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Me circa ’91, not winning any awards for fashion

Sometimes, in the middle of my vanity and selfish ambition, I’m caught off guard by the reality that I do have a legitimate measure of my worth, and it has nothing to do with my clothes or my finances or my job:

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” -Romans 5:6-8

“The Lord did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you…”
-Deuteronomy 7:7-8

 

Jesus didn’t stand in our place because we were the smartest or funniest or prettiest, but simply because we were loved and valued as creations of God.

It reminds me of a clinical placement I had two summers ago in the NICU. These babies had not yet done a single darn thing – no accomplishments, no words of wisdom, no acts of service. Many of them could not even breathe without the help of a ventilator. And yet, everyone who laid eyes on them just knew they were valuable, and that it was worth it to work around the clock to preserve their lives. It wasn’t because they had proven themselves to the world, but because they were inherently precious and sacred, just like we all are.

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Photo Source

The death and resurrection of Jesus prove that we are not only valuable, but that we are infinitely loved and accepted. At the end of the day, isn’t that what we are hoping our achievements will obtain for us anyway?

We are never going to achieve perfection this side of heaven. And that’s okay. Because we know that on the day when we see Jesus face to face, it is then that we will be made like Him…

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” -1 John 3:2

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Prone to Wander

Every so often I reach a point where I feel the need to re-evaluate why I’m following Jesus. It’s not that I’m giving up on Christianity or faith, but rather that I find a desire to dig deeper into it instead of settling for the superficiality in which I can sometimes unexpectedly find myself. I think about why I became a follower of Christ in the first place- Was it because I wanted to feel like a moral, “good” person? Because I want somewhere to go on Sunday mornings? Because I’m scared of death? And then I think back to that fall day when I realized that Jesus was who He said He was. It wasn’t an experience I was expecting, much less intentionally seeking. In fact, it was a lot like a line from my favorite hymn, Come Thou Fount: “Jesus sought me when a stranger….”

Yes.

As Jesus Himself puts it, “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). I mention this verse not to minimize our role in having faith, but to emphasize the fact that Jesus is the author and initiator of our salvation, and we love Him only because He first loved and pursued us.

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I ❤ mornings
When I reach these junctions in my life, I find myself deeply relating to Peter in the following scene (John 6:66-68):

From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.

‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve. 

Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’” 

Oh yeah.

I’m reminded once again that it has only ever been in Christ that I’ve felt fully satisfied and at rest, all of the voids in my heart miraculously and gloriously filled. It’s never been in a fleeting moment of euphoria or glimpse of peace that I’ve gotten from something temporary, like graduating from college or earning money or going on a great vacation. My heart is so forgetful, and time and time again I have to be reminded that it is Jesus alone who has the words of life. Not only that, but He is life, and life more abundant (John 10:10). It is in Him that we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). It’s not in our jobs or our relationships or our entertainment, no matter how good and enjoyable those things may be. As C.S. Lewis brilliantly puts it, all of the good gifts in our lives are just rays from the sun that should cause us to look up the sunbeam to the sun, which is God Himself.

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One of my favorite “sunbeams”- dinner with friends
“Pleasures are shafts of glory as it strikes our sensibility….I have tried…to make every pleasure into a channel of adoration. I don’t mean simply by giving thanks for it. One must of course give thanks, but I meant something different…Gratitude exclaims, very properly, ‘How good of God to give me this.’ Adoration says, ‘What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary coruscations are like this!’ One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun….” -C.S. Lewis

I have to be reminded of this truth whenever I am tempted to think that full life is found in our earthly gifts, instead of realizing that the gifts are simply a way for God to reveal Himself to us as our ultimate and greatest good.

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Peonies at the farmers market
“Oh to grace how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it 
Seal it for Thy courts above”
-Come Thou Fount

Marriage Prep

First, let me offer the disclaimer that I know absolutely nothing about marriage. I only know a very small amount about preparing for it, and those are the insights I want to offer here. (You will also notice that I’m using this post as an excuse to show you more engagement photos*. No shame.)

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Josh and I are part of a marriage mentoring program through our church, and the program involves three main things: monthly meetings with a mentor couple, a weekend retreat, and seminars at the church. Our mentor couple is absolutely amazing, and they’ve done such a great job walking us through the topics in the mentoring curriculum. It’s also worth mentioning that they have a delicious homemade dinner waiting for us each time we arrive, which doesn’t hurt our attendance rate.  I have learned so much from these meetings, with the main takeaway being the revolutionary idea that I am no longer a “me,” but a “we.” Wait, I remember thinking when I first heard that. So… I’m completely giving up my individuality? I soon realized that was not the case at all. Ideally, as Josh and I both submit our lives to each other, we will become better versions of ourselves. Instead of completely losing our individual quirks and character traits, they will become enhanced as we are loved, supported, and encouraged by the other. At least, that’s the goal. I seem to have a weird amnesia thing going on with these marriage lessons. For example, during one session we discussed the importance of making decisions together, as opposed to one person dominating all of the decision making. I nodded along and really did agree wholeheartedly with the concept. Then, the very next day, I made a huge decision without even consulting Josh. I know. I’m learning!

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Throughout this mentoring process, I’ve come to value and respect the institution of marriage more than ever before. It is no easy or glamorous task giving your life to another, but it’s so beautiful in that it is a picture of what Jesus did for us. He loved us so much that He gave up His life to give us a better one. I’m going to be completely honest here- when I was younger, I figured marriage was just a sneaky way to get to stay at home and pop out some babies while your husband toils away at work making the big bucks so that you can have a KitchenAid mixer and granite counter tops. I like nice counter tops just as much as the next girl, but I’m learning that there can be a lot of beauty in mutual sacrifice and submission. In western culture, it seems that we sometimes value our independence to the point of isolation. But biblical marriage puts its foot down and says, no, I’m not going to live for just myself any longer. I’m choosing this other person to put ahead of myself and to serve more than myself and to live out each day with so that I can show them what it looks like to be loved like Jesus loves us. Now that’s a pretty tall order, and I’m under no pretenses that I will be able to do that well every day of my life. But I’m encouraged knowing how highly God values marriage, and I’m certain that He will somehow give me the strength to love Josh well even on days when my heart isn’t feeling very loving.
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As we’ve journeyed through marriage preparation, I’ve felt everything from scared to overwhelmed to excited to grateful. I’ve learned that it is actually possible to love someone more each day, and I hope that continues into our marriage. I’ve learned that it’s really fun to wear a sparkly diamond ring, but it’s even more fun to think about living life with your best friend. I’ve learned that I am extremely selfish, and that sometimes, just the thought of submitting my entire life to someone else makes me want to book a trip to Cancun and hide out for awhile under a straw hat and oversized sunglasses. I’ve learned that it is totally worth the risk of being vulnerable and honest in order to have someone else know and accept your weird little self for who you are. I’ve also learned that marriage would be nearly impossible on my own, and that it is only by God’s grace that I won’t completely wreck this thing.

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“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” -Tim Keller in The Meaning of Marriage

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“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of His body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.-Ephesians 5:25-32

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I’m in awe of how God created marriage to mirror His relationship with Christ, and the fact is, even with all the grace in the world, I am incapable of “doing” marriage perfectly. I hope that in my imperfections, and in my attempts at love that are often strained and limited, I can point my husband to a greater reality, which is an eternal and perfect “marriage” as the bride of Christ. I’m not enough to fulfill my husband, but Jesus is. And my prayer is to love my husband in a way that points to Him. I know I have a million and one more things to learn about being a wife, but for now, I’m going to enjoy this sweet season of engagement and learn what I can, while resting in the fact that God’s grace will fill in the cracks where I fail.

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*All photos courtesy of Rebekah Senter Photography

Pittsburgh

I love a good change of scenery. Over the weekend, my sweet mom flew me up to Pittsburgh to visit with her and her fiance. Despite the fact that much of my family lives in that area, I had never actually explored the Burgh. Doing so reminded me that a) I love cities, and b) I need to explore new places more often!

We mostly ate and walked, which, coincidentally, are two of my favorite things. The night that I arrived, we went to visit my grandpa and then grabbed dinner at a place called Double Wide, which had a really fun menu ranging from pulled pork BBQ to tofu skewers. The next day, we set out to explore the city of Pittsburgh. Once we got there, we started off with an amazing lunch at Bar Louie overlooking the Monongahela River (try saying that five times fast). I got the best fish tacos ever:

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After stuffing ourselves silly, we took the T over to Three Rivers Park and walked along the waterfront. I found a tiny home!

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Future home?
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Riding the T
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Three Rivers Park

Pittsburgh is such a cool city with so much history. Mark, my mom’s fiance, acted as our unofficial tour guide and showed us all the old banks, steel buildings, train stations, and ketchup factories.

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What I think of when I think about Pittsburgh: Heinz ketchup, rivers, and bridges
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Photo taken while walking across the Smithfield Street bridge

For me, a trip to Pennsylvania is never complete without a visit to Handel’s, otherwise known as The Best Ice Cream Place of All Time. I try to get a new flavor each time, and this visit I chose (after much deliberation and roughly 100 samples) chocolate peanut butter brownie.

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On the final day of my trip we woke up to grey skies and rain, which was just as well since I didn’t have much time before I needed to get to the airport. We spent the morning drinking coffee and eating a delicious breakfast made by my mom, who does such a good job of spoiling me whenever I get to see her.

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It was so nice to spend a weekend in my mom’s new city with nothing on the agenda except eating and adventuring. Shouldn’t every weekend be like that?? Until next time, Pittsburgh!

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