In Christ Alone My Worth Is Found

Attachment-1

Sometimes it’s the people we barely know who end up having the biggest impact on our lives.

Often it’s a negative impact: a snide comment that sticks to our heart for years like gum under a desk. A leader’s decision that trickles down and alters everything. A careless action that they “didn’t mean,” but to you, who cares? It meant everything.

Oftentimes, however, it forever changes our life for the better. Words from authors we’ve never met and never will can rattle us, shifting our entire perspective. Random acts of kindness of complete strangers can forge some of the most unforgettable memories. Even a scripted line delivered by an actor in a movie can pierce us to the core.

About six months ago, someone I barely knew made this kind of impact on me.

I had decided to take a class for the second time, a class that I had first signed up for five years prior but never finished. It was a free class at the seminary where my husband has been pursuing his masters degree, designed to equip women for the unique role of being a minister’s wife. The first go around I was a newlywed working as a teacher, was not yet a mother, and quickly grew annoyed by several guest speakers talking about things irrelevant to me at that time… so I lost interest, and dropped it.

This second time I was in a completely different season of life. After nearly six years of marriage under my belt, I was a full time stay-at-home young mother of four, with a husband nearing graduation and preparing to enter full time ministry. I was still reeling from the recent completion of the adoption of our eldest, and sleep-deprived with a still-nursing newborn.

Postpartum had been a struggle with a capital ‘S’ and we were all still adjusting to our not-so-little family of six. I felt perpetually exhausted, overwhelmed, and like a shadow of my former self. To top it off I was daily fighting unshakeable feelings of inadequacy, feeling like I had morphed into an inattentive wife, grumpy mother, bad friend, poor housekeeper… never good enough at any role, always striving but always failing. 

Sound familiar?

A couple of friends were going to take the class and invited me along, and while it sounded crazy at first to add something to my already overflowing plate, I decided to join them. It was only once a week, in the evening, and TBH? It meant one night a week of NOT HAVING TO DO BEDTIME. All the praise hands.

That’s where I “met” her.

She hooked me on the first day with her warmth and genuine spirit. She was “just” a mom and a professor’s wife, co-teaching the class with another professor’s wife. She was kind, engaging, and humble, and I bet the majority of people would take one look at her and write her off as being simply a sweet lady, with nothing more to offer than a smile and a casserole.

They would be wrong.

This woman had PASSION.

After the first half of the class was spent going over the syllabus and getting to know one another, her co-teacher sat down and she calmly took the podium. And for a solid hour, she laid it down. She explained that she wanted to make clear from the get-go exactly what this class was NOT intended to be…

…and in doing so, she made clear what had been muddied in my heart and mind for months.

Our primary goal was not to learn to be the best wife we can possibly be. It was not to learn to be the best mother we can be, or the best friend or anyone else, because our worth is not defined by our relationships with each other. Neither is our worth defined by how “well” we’re doing… at anything.

Before we do anything else, we are simply to love and be loved by Jesus, because our worth is found in Him alone.

Let me say that again:

Before we do anything else, we are simply to love and be loved by Jesus, because our worth is found in Him alone. 

That reminder practically slapped me in the face, waking me up from my fog of relentless striving for some hypothetical “best version of myself.”  I felt freed, and calmed, and loved hearing those words. I’d no doubt heard them countless times before, but they burst with fresh significance in this desert season.

But here’s the thing: she didn’t stop there. She got practical. She got specific. And she got excited!

She began to dive into helpful strategies for better understanding the Bible, His love letter to us. She tackled head on the lies that the enemy uses to try to keep us from opening it at all: that it’s too complicated for us to comprehend, not worth our time, outdated, irrelevant, unnecessary. She enthusiastically reminded us that our culture and generation has more resources for understanding the Bible, and by extension, learning about our very Savior, than ever before in history… and gently reminded us that we also have more distractions than ever, too.

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Romans 15:4

She recommended dozens of tips and tricks, websites and books, resources galore to help us with our one, simple, fundamental purpose in life: to love Jesus, which we are only able to do because He first loved us. She then stressed that it is worth the time and effort we pour into loving Jesus, because we will not find our worth in any other role than as His forgiven and beloved daughter. And it is only after we have found our identity in Him, after we have been taught how to love by first experiencing His love, that we will ever truly be able to love others.

“And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world… We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:14-17,19

She went on to remind us that we love Jesus, because He alone satisfies. Not our professions, not being the perfect wife, not prepping the most Pinterest-worthy cute and healthy lunch boxes for our kids. He alone brings peace. He alone restores our soul. No one else, no other role, nothing we have or can do compares to the satisfaction we find in His love for us.

And with every word my love for her grew like wildfire, because with every word I could see: she believed, with everything in her, that she was imparting truths that could save us. Truths that could save not only our actual spiritual lives, but restore joy where there was despair, and bring peace where there was chaos.

She was not there to teach, not really, though she was an excellent teacher. God used her that night and many thereafter to personally encourage me, and show me that I was not alone. That pursuing my relationship with Jesus could no longer come second to pursuing my relationship with my husband, kids, and others… that it had to come first. Because when it doesn’t, it’s like putting clean clothes on, day after day, but never showering. You can only hide the filth for so long before everyone suffers.

I breathed easier on my walk home that night from class. I mentally crumpled up the to-do lists that had been running on loops through my head. Love Him. Spend time with Him. The rest would get done. Loving Him had to come first. I would love my people better afterwards because of my time with Him.

The Father used someone I barely knew to speak directly to me that night, and I doubt I will ever forget the impact made by that woman after God’s own heart, a woman I am honored to call my sister in Christ.

The truth is we never know who might be listening to us, and how God might want to use us to help another, even if we’re not aware of it! Let us always make sure, then, that our “speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that [we] may know how [we] ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:6 And may “no corrupting talk come out of [our] mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29

Thank you, Mrs. Karen Yarnell, for loving Him and His Word with such passion.