The Art of Mirriam Neal

Worthy?

I follow quite a few Christian Instagram accounts. You know the kind I mean – beautiful photography pages run by artsy Christian women, constantly posting quotes in swooping calligraphy or posting pictures of half-empty coffee cups with their thoughts from the day.  While I generally enjoy what these women post, there’s a repeated phrase I see every other time I pull up my feed. Someone will be holding one of those cute adjustable lettering-signs with the words You are worthy.

It’s a nice, affirming phrase. It even sounds fairly Christian on the surface – Christ died for me, so naturally I must be worthy of His attention.

Am I, though?

A few weeks ago I bought a study book called Proven by Jennie Allen. She opens the book with a story from her own life, featuring her daughter. “After years of tutors and tears and so much hard work and so little reward,” she writes, “my child received a diagnosis: Dyslexia.” When Jenny sat down to tell her daughter what was wrong with her, the girl began to cry. Her reason for crying, however, took Jenny by surprise as, after a few minute of tears, her daughter said, “So there’s a reason all this has been so hard for me?”

The tears, Jenny writes, were relief. Relief because the difficulty was now something they could understand, something they could work with.

Before I continue, let me state something: I’m a very independent person. Not to say I don’t need help or that I have it all figured out, but I loathe asking for things. I can take care of things myself, I don’t need to burden anyone else with my problems, I’m the shoulder people lean on and not the other way around. I’m always fine; if I work hard enough, I can keep everything under control. My control.

These aren’t always conscious things I tell myself, but the mindset of ‘I can handle it’ is very much alive and well in me. In a society that views independence as the ultimate achievement, it might not sound like such a bad thing. Coupled with the fact I’m an optimistic realist, this means I’ve often found myself telling people, “You can do it!” or, “You’ve got this.”

Harmless, encouraging phrases. A lot like “You are worthy.”

As I finished the introduction of ‘Proven,’ one question stood out to me.

What do you hope for in this study? the book asked me, and before I quite realized it, I’d written down an answer that stunned me.

I hope to stop believing in myself.

It sounds so backwards, doesn’t it? We’re constantly told that we can do it if we only have the guts, that we can handle anything that come our way, that ‘we are enough.’ And it’s a flat-out, bold-faced lie. A clever one, too – if the enemy can wrap up a debilitating lie in the wrappings of encouragement and optimism, it’s much easier to swallow. Chocolate coating makes it go down easier.

But the truth is – none of us are worthy. None of us are enough. We don’t got this.

Sure, maybe ‘we can do it’ to an extent, but not the way God can do it. It can seem like we have things under control, but sooner or later we’re looking at a broken mess and wondering what happened? 

John 7: 37-38 says, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

In comparison,

Jeremiah 2:13 says, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and  have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

When we start believing that we are enough, that we are somehow worthy, it places a huge burden on us to continue being enough, to keep being worthy. But it’s a surprisingly difficult thing to maintain, because how do we know what’s good enough? What’s ‘worthy’ enough? What’s our work to worth ratio?

When we start believing we’re worthy, we place the responsibility of God’s grace on ourselves, and none of us have shoulders broad enough for that. And so I’m trying to let go. To ignore the voices that tell me I’m worthy, that I’m enough, that I’ve got this, that I just need to believe in myself.

It’s time to believe in Someone much bigger. Someone who makes us worthy – and that, I think, is a very freeing thing.

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