"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." - Luke 2:19
Every now and again, God sends someone into my life who, for whatever reason, just seems to know what to say. Some say that's the prophetic in action. I don't care what you call it - I'm just glad it happens.
I woke up early yesterday, and one of the first things I read was an email from... well, a friend, for sure - but an unexpected one. I'm not even 100% sure how we went from being people who knew the same people at church to being friends, but we're definitely there - and this morning's email was proof positive.
They were just two words in the middle of a letter, but they shaped my entire day: "You're important."
Can I just tell you, I really can't honestly remember the last time anyone said anything even remotely like that to me?
From a traditional religious perspective, that word carries all kinds of danger and warning with it. The Pharisees and Sadducees - they were important, right? (Mild sarcasm alert:) So by all means, belittle yourself, so you won't be caught in that trap.
Jesus spent His entire time here on earth walking among and ministering to "the least of these." Women, children, lepers - you name them - if they were outcasts of society, you could bet Jesus was spending time with them. And He wasn't just around - He was doing things. Like healing them. Defending them. Telling the self-righteous, arrogant people who knew how to "get it right" and therefore felt justified in judging others to take a flying leap, and to look in a mirror on the way. He gave dignity and hope to everyone He encountered (well... except maybe to the self-righteous, who didn't think they needed it).
Dignity. Hope. Importance.
I'm not sure it was possible to know Jesus and not feel valued. (Sidenote: I think even the people He yelled at were people He valued. He wanted them to get their heads out of their rule books and change their attitudes so they could actually see and know God. Even when they killed Him, His heart toward them was compassionate and forgiving...)
Maybe it's just because we don't want to risk being Pharisees, or maybe it's because no one thinks to remind us and so we forget, but I think it's possible that we don't always really understand that we're important. The Bible tells us that God knows how much hair we have (which is really impressive, when you think about it), that He knows the plans He has for us (do you know how many people there are on the planet?), that we're a part of what He's doing in the world to draw all people to Himself; theologians call mankind "the pinnacle of creation." And it's easy for me to look at other people and see their value, to see someone hurting or stressed out and take an extra 5 minutes to say, "Hey, you're not alone in this. I'm with you. I'm praying for you." But for whatever reason, I'm somewhat floored when someone does the same thing for me. I get it that "people" are valuable to God; but I don't think I always get it that I'm actually one of them.
So those two words yesterday were life to my soul. I carried them around all day - listening to God whisper their truth to my heart. I'm ... important. Not in some puffed up, obnoxious way - but in a quiet, loved-deeply and individually valued-by-God way. I think if you'd asked me if I knew I was important to Him, I would have said yes in a heart-beat, but yesterday I realized that I tend to measure my value by what I do. I have people in my life who are awesome about saying "thank you" and "great job" - but so often it's about what I've done, and not who I am. And I guess that's what was so life-giving about hearing those words from my friend. Those words, in their original context, weren't about what I could do. They were about me.
It was pretty amazing.
And I love how God took those two little words and turned them into a day-long conversation. I think it was Rob Harrison who once reminded me that even Karl Barth could sum up all his theology by saying, "Jesus loves me, this I know." Sometimes I think we really do just have to ditch all the complicated whatnot of our lives and go back to that, and like Mary, just treasure that truth, and ponder it in our hearts.
So if you've been in a season lately where you've just felt devalued, or if you feel as if you are valued more for your usefulness than for who you are, I'd encourage you: Remember that you're important. Before He created you, He knew you (Psalm 51). You were born on purpose, with purpose, yes - but the point is, you were born. The God of the universe thought you up, and made you - and He loves you tremendously. Just for who you are. As you are. With no conditions or escape clauses, no opting out, and no regrets.
Jesus loves you, this I know - for the Bible tells me so. And He is with you, always. Whatever this day may bring.