"But now says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I
will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall
not overwhelm you;
when you walk through the fire you shall
not be burned,
and the flame shall not
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in echange
Because you are precious in my sight,
and honored, and I love you."
Yesterday after church, I was getting set to take Wyatt, Jacob and Reid down to Camp Pyoca, and our car was quickly becoming stuffed with dufflebags, pillows, and sleeping bags - not to mention the rowdy laughter and joking of three young boys. But, when I looked over to my right in the passenger seat, I noticed a little piece of blue paper rolled into a nice little scroll with a black string tied around it. Uncertain of how it actually got into the car, I took up the scroll, untied the string and rolled it open.
The contents of the paper was a worksheet Betsy Demmings had given to the children in Sunday School, inviting them to fill in several phrases concerning their fathers. For a moment, my heart seemed to skip a beat. As I glanced over the questions, I immediately realized that I was about to get a peak into my daughter's true thoughts about me. One of the questions read, "I know my Daddy is mad when ______________," and I felt a certain dread coming on. I could sense my daughter was about to reveal a truth about me I didn't want to face. What annoyance does she perceive in me? What place of churning anger?
But, in the end, my real fascination came as a result of how my daughter answered the following statement, "It makes my Daddy happy when ______________."
You can see her answer above. It is the type of answer that only a child can really bring to us. In her finest cursive, she simply wrote, "Elise."
It makes my Daddy happy when Elise.
I don't think my daughter could ever quite imagine how wonderfully accurate that statement is. Her very existence is itself joy to me; her very presence in my life an incredible demonstration of God's grace.
If you spend enough time reading through the Bible, one of the dramatic realizations that begins to dawn upon you is that God takes delight in you. It can take a long time to settle in. We tend to think there is no way God's stance towards us would be one of joy. We tend to let the verdict settle on "disappointed" or "still deciding."
Yet, despite our doubts, the Gospel brings us this good news: God loves us. Our very presence in His life brings Him joy.
To understand that we are born anew by grace through Jesus Christ is to come to this wild assertion: God is delighted in us. In the Old Testament, there is perhaps no finer description of God's wild love for us than the first four verses of the 43rd chapter of Isaiah - the prophet who refused to let the people of Israel believe they were an insignificant, throw-away people. He insisted over and over again that the Lord God of Israel was intimately bound to and concerned about His people.
For the early Christians, they latched onto God's perception of us as precious and realized that this no longer applied to just the people of Israel. They realized that now all those who love God and who had been called according to God's love were precious and chosen in God's eyes (Romans 8:28). Peter even went on to use this truth as a wonderful analogy of what it means to be a part of God's loving plans in Jesus Christ:
Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God's sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be build into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ ...
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
-1 Peter 2:4-5 & 9
Once created and fashioned by God in His own image, we were created as a chosen and precious. That was the original state of our first spiritual parents, Adam and Eve. And I have no doubt that when Eve was filling out a Sunday School worksheet in the Garden of Eden, she wrote, "It makes my Heavenly Father happy when Eve."
Over time we lost that understanding. The Fall made us "futile in our thinking" (Rm. 1:21). Thinking we were growing up, we became silly and confused and replaced a deep bond of trust with overwhelming insecurities, sins, and - ultimately - a bondage that leads us to fill out the statement "It makes my Heavenly Father happy when ______" with phrases like ...
When I don't mess up.
When I'm a good person.
Our image before God was marred. In fact, it is wasn't just marred. The deadliness of sin is that it irreparably damaged our standing before God.
But, the good news never stops in our moment of despair. It always takes us on to the hope we have through Jesus' great sacrifice and ultimate act of love for us:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
-1 Peter 1:3-5
There is no way God would be willing to do all that for us unless God was absolutely thrilled with us.
There is no way Peter could write those words above unless it is absolutely true that in Jesus Christ, each and every one of us is treasured and adored by our Heavenly Father.
So go ahead. Do it.
Write it out on a sheet of paper.
"It makes my Heavenly Father happy when _______________."
Then, right there in that blank. Write your name.
How would today be different if you were to realize that God's desire is to share it with you?
Consider again everything that God has done for you in order to win you back and to give you new life. Take time to give thanks for God's saving love towards you.
Reflect upon Peter's words that Jesus became for us the stone that was "rejected." How does Jesus' own willingness to suffer for the sake of love encourage you to reach out in love for others who feel rejected or burned?
What most holds you back from feeling like God could be delighted in you? Lift that thing to God - asking for God's mercy to remove that burden, that image, or that struggle from you.