Last night was one of those extremely wonderful nights that you don’t get all the time. I started the evening in a sour mood. I got home from work, ignored my husband, and just cleaned/cooked/folded to get my pent-up rage work usually brings out of me. I felt that way even when one of my sisters walked in, 15 minutes earlier than the rest. She was sweet and could tell I wasn’t in the mood. Then, the other girls showed up. This was my high school cell group meeting, so these days require a bit more energy and fun. I was NOT feeling it.
Brenda started sharing what she had studied out of the book we are going over prior to the school year: “Crossing the Line of Faith”. The content arrested me: people matter to God.
Lately I’ve been hooked on how amazing it is that we get to know God and how life changing it is to get closer & closer to Him. This was definitely an addition to my findings: as you get to know God, you see how remarkably people matter to God. Yes, it seems so obvious: God loves people. I mean Jesus died on the cross for us, didn’t He? But the passage we went over just focused on the weight of God’s care for us so well. The passage was Luke 15 – finding of the lost.
There are three examples of things that become lost in Luke 15 – a sheep, a coin, and a son. As we read through the process of each thing being lost it was SO relatable! A woman loses her coin and she begins to carefully search EVERYWHERE for it even sweeping! HA! How funny. When I lose something important to me, I lose my shit. It’s on my mind ALL day if I do not find it and if I want it right then & there. Such great efforts, emotion, and time is spent looking for things we care about when they are out of our reach. We think, we strategize, we PRAY for that we could just find what we are looking for – whatever it is! (I think I search for lost items of clothing weekly. Oh, the frustration and turmoil I go through over a pair of pants… How funny.)
Luke 15 includes my favorite passage from when I was a child: the lost sheep. Oh, how unreasonable the shepherd is!! He has 99 fine, smart sheep, but he leaves them to look for the one lost sheep. How STUPID did that little sheepy have to be to leave the comfort of his flock and the safety of his shepherd and get himself lost? He must’ve been the idiot sheep. I think I’ve always related to this little dull sheepy… What does the shepherd do when he finds his lost sheep? “Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep!’” I have found my stupid little sheep! YES! He cares so deeply for the little, stupid sheep that he gathers a party for its return.
Lastly, there is the prodigal son. He has everything: wealth, comfort, love… But he was ungrateful, demanded money, then left. How heartbroken his father must have been. (I think of my parents watching me go through my various spurts of rebellion… How much more could I demand of them when they had given me everything?!) Then, the world drags him through shit, and he returns home. Upon his return, there his father sees him and throws a celebration! He did not care what he had done, only that he is home now.
When we were done, one of the girls voiced a concern she has: that even though she has a relationship with God, she thinks that something will happen in her life to make God look at her after death and reject her from entering into heaven. At this point, I knew I could relate. How often do we think this way that my status with God is conditional?! That if I mess up, he must really be upset with me or annoyed with me or he will ignore me! He won’t be there for me anymore. This is SO sad.
Something I realized during the pain of a brother committing suicide was something beautiful. I wasn’t even too close to him, but I felt the weight of his absence. The body of Christ is so built upon each other, his death left a glaring hole. But then, as a friend and I spoke, she said: “I wonder what he did when he got to heaven… I bet Jesus walked up to him, threw his arms around him and said: ‘This is why I died for you. You are home.”
No matter what we do we have an amazing standing with God. That is how much we matter to Him. He will go to great lengths for us even if we’re as stupid and naive as a sheep or as demanding and rebellious as the son – he will ALWAYS welcome us with open arms.
Seeing this teenager get it, seeing the tears well in her eyes as we talked about this made me realize I was getting it, too. I had to be reminded. I had to rejoice in this. I forget too often. And we cannot forget. We CAN’T FORGET how solid grace is, how unshakable God’s love is because it affects the basis of our relationship with him. If I think he judges me, it will not be a good relationship. It will be based on pressure and fear. But with the freedom to come to the Lord as David does and voice whatever concerns you have – that’s a real relationship! That is why your best friend is SO cool. No matter what my best friend does, I will always be on her side. Even if I’m mad, even if she annoys me, even if I’m being a jerk: we committed to being best friends. If you mess with my best friend, you better watch your back. She’s my person. (Silly, but for real.)
God is staggering.
The second part of the lesson is this: as you get to know God, people start to obviously matter to you. 15:1-2 “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’”
During our discussion, one girl said: “This is something I struggle with, though, is caring about people…” Although, as she spoke she came to the realization that she has started to care more about people. One of the greatest motivators for caring about people enough to invite them to Beta or tell them about God is heaven. She realized that maybe I don’t care about them, but how much of a bitch do I have to be not to tell them about heaven.
I really loved her honesty. Yeah, it isn’t natural to care about people – especially this deeply! I could TOTALLY relate to her. As I thought about this, I realized how important people have become to me. Not all the time, obviously, but how much joy I’ve realized I have in others.
I believe this comes with getting close to God. As you see his value in other people, you start to value them yourself. Also, it must be the right thing to value if the God of the universe values it, right?!
Anyway… this is long and I could go on & on, but I’m so thankful I matter to God enough for him to love my sin-filled being and teaches me to value others.