It was the Monday to end all Mondays.
We had made it to lunchtime only hanging by a thread. Leftover hamburgers from the weekend grill were forced into the microwave while hunger held tightly to the greasy door handle, waiting for the ding. Peanut butter slathered bread and counters alike and blueberries were passed from hand to hand with care. Precious manna, they were. And none must be lost.
Somewhere between baby’s cries for yogurt and the big boys’ banter of who forgot to feed the dogs, I caught a glimmer in her eye. The corners of her mouth began to turn audaciously upward – a midst all the mess and the noise – into an idea.
When she spoke, it was in that voice that carries. That voice backed and strengthened by creativity and courage.
“I’m going to tell you a story.”
The effect on the room was startling. Yelling evaporated, spoons ceased their clatter, boys sat down, and the microwave let out its final cry. It was not just an end but also a beginning – as all endings are, of course.
“There once was an orphanage where three little children lived among so many others … ” And she lulled them into a quiet mealtime accompanied by the confident cadence of her tale. I can’t say I let the enchantment of the spell fall on me, though. Sometimes mothers have to work when they can and I kept at my job of sweeping crumbs and whisking blobbed jelly off the floor before it ended up someplace worse. But I listened in my mindless way.
“The children wanted to be adopted so much,” she said, convincing us of their sincerity with her eyebrows. “But times were hard throughout their whole land and few were those who could afford to take in extra children … until one day.”
This turn of events brought a new light to her listeners’ eyes and if they had not been eating, I think they might’ve started biting their nails.
“A young couple showed up at the orphanage one day looking for just the right child to welcome into their home. They looked all the children over; they spoke to several; they walked the halls and watched them play. But three of the children wanted to go home with this couple more than anything else in the world. They wanted to be loved … ”
At that, she broke off, her fingers busy at the edges of her PBJ. But after only a hiccup in the flow of her story, she jumped back in with a question, all avant-garde:
“What would you do if you were those three children? How would you act when you saw that couple coming down the hall toward you … ?”
The seven year old spoke up first, “I would be as nice as I could be.”
Her five year old sister was quick on her heels, “I would try to be cute,” batting her eyelashes for effect.
Eight year old brother threw in the last suggestion, “I would help people. I would hope they would notice that I was a helpful child.”
I almost dropped the grape jelly.
Because the cuteness, the niceness, the helpfulness? These are ways my children assess themselves worthy to be loved. Heck, I might as well fess up. These are ways I’ve assessed myself worthy to be loved.
And I’m stumbling along in this everyday life, trying to plant my feet firm enough to leave an imprint for those who come after; to forge a path for these tender, plump faces that they would someday face the mountains brave and loved and yet never lose that tenderness. I try to be nice and I try to be cute and I try ever-so-hard to be helpful. But the truth is, so often I get hung up on this worthiness thing.
I forget that I’m loved as I am.
There is no amount of niceness, cuteness, helpfulness – or let’s try some more grown-up adjective-ish nouns, shall we? – holiness, modesty, obedience, submission, character, integrity, sobriety, self-control, generosity that can win God over any more than He already is. Sometimes we try everything we know to turn His head and make ourselves irresistible to Him, as if He hasn’t already made it clear to us that He wants none of those rags.
He wants us.
And the avant-garde of the Gospel is that we can do nothing to earn or deserve the love of God for us. It is not rational, not measurable, not dependent on us. It is not forged by worthiness nor dissuaded by the wretchedness of life in this skin. This is indeed one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation; that nothing is so secular that it cannot be sacred (M.L’Engle).
He has named us “beloved.” He has declared us sacred. He has loved us first.
And the message of the Cross? Even in all its ugliness and pain, was a declaration of a different kind. It was the final, defining word on God’s extension of Himself man-ward. Nothing was going too far, not even death. Because when Jesus hung there and whispered, “It is finished” through his blood-stained lips and gurgling up from a broken heart, I wonder if he also meant “You are worth it.”
Oh, it was an ending, to be sure; but that’s not all. Like all endings, it was also a beginning.
Perhaps it is where Freedom begins.
Join the conversation on Mondays in July as the writers of Living the Story explore the facets of living FREE from the lens of our own experiences. Was it a moment of guidance or direction, a season of love, a time of healing or rebirth when you experienced true freedom? We want to hear about your encounters too.
Mark your calendar! On July 29, we welcome Heather Kopp, author of Sober Mercies: How Love Caught Up With a Christian Drunk, as our guest writer with an opportunity to win her new book.
Oh my, Kelli. All of this… the gathering effect of your daughter’s voice, the other children–all ears, the truth of what was revealed from down deep…all of it is so revealing…what we all long for:
*deep, rich story-filled lives
*knowing we are loved
*knowing, *truly* knowing, that we are enough
*that always, we are chosen, over and over and over again.
And those last lines caught my breath…
” I wonder if he also meant ‘You are worth it.’
Oh, it was an ending, to be sure; but that’s not all. Like all endings, it was also a beginning.
Perhaps it is where Freedom begins.”
Holly, you know you are a true friend if you see more in them (or in their writing) than they see themselves. 😉
Thank you for drawing out beauty, friend.
I love the story in this, it rings so true.
Thanks, Jason, for living the story … at my side.
Love this, Kelli. Christ bought our freedom once but somehow we have to find it again day after day while we are warming up hamburgers in the microwave and listening to the world that God gave us. If we listen we learn…and somehow the wholeheartedness we long for grows as does our reliance. We live in a world that wants to pull our freedom out from under us when we aren’t paying attention. So glad you were listening to those voices that day……
“the wholeheartedness we long for grows as does our reliance.”
Thank you, Deanne.
Amazing. “God loves us just as we are.” I spend too much energy trying to be worthy in His eyes. A good thought to begin my week.
These messages come in the most mysterious of ways, don’t they Pamela. Thank you for reading and blessings on your week.
Oh, Kelli, I love this! I want to tell all of my children and grandchildren To hear how they perceive their worthiness to be loved. To encourage them that they are loved because they were chosen, before the foundation of the earth. Beautiful, Kelli, beautiful.
i know, Dianne, that question/story is so eye-opening, isn’t it? i will be curious to hear your loved ones’ answers …
thank you for being here and for engaging.
So needed this today, as I’m neck-deep in my own limitations, feeling the strain of the hard trying to earn up my worth and failing all the while. Thank you, Kelli.
perhaps there are times we hold out hope for one another then … ? in our case, Cara, i’m almost certain this is true.
“I forget that I’m loved as I am”. Oh, me too, Kelli! What a difference it makes though when we do remember such audacious grace and mercy freely spilled out to set us free from self-preoccupation and concern. How precious those young souls are in your care and how much we can all learn out of the mouth of babes. Thank you for the rich simplicity of this message. I needed to hear it today. Blessings 🙂
on my better days i know that it’s too good NOT to be true … but then there are those other days. like Mondays.
i love what you said about how the love of God sets us free from self-preoccupation and concern. yes, this. exactly.
thanks for reading, friend.
Enough. Just as I am. Loved and needed for living and doing nothing else. Kelli. Thank you. Just thank you. Wow.
yep, i think you got the message loud and clear, Kris. 🙂
thanks for reading. (and for sharing.)
What a beautiful way to dispense truth!! A story about a story about the gospel story!! I love it!
The Story written in many ways across our days, yes?
Thanks, Mom, for reading and for sharing.
I’ve already said it to you, how your writing left me undone. Still thinking about the beautiful picture you’ve painted of your family and the wisdom of young voices, message bearers of truth in a seemingly insignificant moment. But that you had ears to hear His voice through the mundane moments, it’s so inspiring Kelli.
thank you, my sweet Shelly.
your generous words always bring me a lift and a grin. love you.
Isn’t it so true that only a story can calm the raging storm of all the wee ones in full swing? And especially this one, Kelli. Truth, wrapped in story.
yes, Laura. fascinating how Truth weaves Himself into my everyday.
thank you for being here, my friend.
Your storyteller and mine could invent some pretty fine tales together. I think your daughter might be a bit like her mama! But the message tucked into that tender tale? So convicting for me. As a daughter of the King. And as a mother of many.
i bet our kids could find many things around which to connect, Alicia. stories being one, for sure.
thank you for reading, and for your encouragement.