Without a deep realization that I am intrinsically valuable and that GOD loves me more than I could ever imagine and unconditionally and FOREVER, I grew up through elementary, middle school & my freshman year with a very dismal self image. I would joke around and not be serious because that would feel vulnerable and, perhaps I thought, if someone really saw me (which I didn’t even know who that was anymore) and didn’t like me, then it would hurt just too much. I simply and consistently rejected myself from groups of people before they had the chance or opportunity to reject me, which I felt was either inevitable or too painful to leave to chance. I was blessed by God to have such an amazing church youth group, which is something that I earnestly pray every young person is able to have at their disposal. They were amazing and loving, but they were not perfect and I wasn’t going to go all in and open my heart all the way and risk that dreaded fear of rejection. I remember vividly the first time that I met the youth pastor’s brother-in-law, Caleb Dennison. He was around 22 or so at the time and the youth group went to Taco Bell. He was so cool; and that is not just my opinion, everyone else seemed to think so too. He was so comfortable with who he was and he was also really outgoing. Where was his sense of self protection? Why was he so confident in who HE was? I kind of resented him for not sharing my cautious attitude towards relationships. I used my self righteous knowledge of the Bible to justify thinking of him as prideful and arrogant. When, really, he just spent time with Jesus and his Heavenly Father and knew who he was; and he walked in it. I believe that Caleb had a powerfully true sense of self that God Himself has helped forge and I also believe that God graciously allowed His handiwork in Caleb to shine as a light(house) to me; and I did not like it. It sparked discomfort and jealousy in me towards him. So I used my tainted and painful filters to bring him down in my own mind to where I saw myself; but he did not fit in my insecure box. I thought that everyone else should feel the same way that I felt. I mean if I didn’t see my own intrinsic worth, then how could I see the intrinsic worth of anyone else? That doesn’t make sense that some would have inherent worth and others not. That summer break, after my freshman year in highschool, I went to a week-long church camp. A few of my peers who also went to this same camp missed the mark of kindness towards me. I do not remember what they did or why they did it; and honestly, I didn’t really care at the time either. This is quite different than my usual, self-conscience self. God had been working and my negative sense of self worth was getting torn down by the same one who brought the walls of Jericho down. Nonetheless, when we arrived back to our home church, Caleb, 2 of my peers & myself were standing around and talking. One of my peers, with tears in his eyes, apologized for what he did or said about me at the camp. I said that it wasn’t a big deal and I didn’t even know what he was talking about. He refused my flippant dismissal of it and pressed his apology even more (in front of the other 2 guys). I realized that he was sincere and I told him that we can go forward as if it never happened (whatever it was I still do not know nor do I care about the specifics). Caleb, the one who would not fit in my insecure box, looked at me square in the eyes and said, “Mark, you are beautiful.” I said something flippant to brush off the somewhat awkwardness of accepting such a compliment. He, realizing that I didn’t see what the Holy Spirit revealed to him about me, said again, “No. Mark! You ARE beautiful.” As he looked into my eyes with sincerity and didn’t let me brush this off without a serious attempt to express what he saw in me, his words hit the hardened walls of my insecure heart. Finally accepting this sincere expression from someone that I looked up to so much, was too much for me to keep my composure. Now there were 2 of us guys in tears. I love these 3 gentlemen with all of my heart and I am in awe of our heavenly Father and how He beautifully brought us to restoration and wholeness with Himself, ourselves and each other all in a beautifully connected way. Later that night, I had the inclination that the Lord was still up to something, so I prayed and asked Him what He was doing. As I was praying and worshipping the Lord, I saw this vision of a man kneeling before the Lord. He was so free and knew who he was and he was taking such delight in the Lord and the Lord was delighting in him. It was so beautiful. I said, “I want to be like that person.” He didn’t struggle with constant guilt and condemnation. He was happy, open and vulnerable and secure about it. Look at how he worshipped the Lord and the confidence that he had in his heavenly Father. I walked up to this man in my vision and as I looked at his face I realized that it was me at that very moment. The self-perception that I accepted into my being saying that I was just a dork and not cool and not worth it and an outsider was powerfully shaken. The way that God viewed me and our relationship sunk deeper down into my being than just head knowledge. I see how God sees me and I love it. And I see the closeness that we have and I just have to walk in it. If I was so wonderful and amazing, then I knew that every other person God created was too; and if my perception of myself was so different than God’s perception of me, then my perception of others was also very different than God’s perception of them. This created a desire in me to see others the way that God, our heavenly Father, sees them; and every time I pray to see someone like He sees them, He answers my prayer…I just need to pray it more, like A LOT more…like ALL of the time. Knowing how God loves me and sees me and seeks after me and delights in me, lets me know how He loves, sees, seeks after & delights in others because He doesn’t play favorites. May the love of God pierce your heart. May His face shine towards you and may you give your heart (in whatever condition it is in, right NOW) to the Lord and may this continue to break down the fortified walls around your heart and build trust and love for the living God. May the love of God shine towards you and through you, in Jesus’ name amen.
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.”
Psalms 139:13-18 ESVhttps://www.bible.com/59/psa.139.13-18.esv
“For God shows no partiality.”
Romans 2:11 ESVhttps://www.bible.com/59/rom.2.11.esv
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11 ESVhttps://www.bible.com/59/jer.29.11.esv