By Rebecca Landry
Kids have a way of saying things that requires something of you. They state things in such a way that seems simple; but when we listen, there’s such truth hidden in their words, and that truth is begging to be discovered.
Just to See You
My job involves a lot of things that I love to do, one of which is simply hanging out with kids. Most of what I do is coordinate and implement after-school programs for kids who are underserved. Being involved in the kids’ lives includes spending an occasional lunch hour at the elementary school giving high fives to my kids there and checking in to see how their week is going. Sometimes I wander through the cafeteria, and other times I will visit my kids in class or pull them out of class to work with them one-on-one.
One day I had pulled one of my kids from class to spend time with him and read together, but I could tell his mind was on 99 things other than reading. Somehow green eggs and ham reminded him of going to the pool in the summer, and at the end of nearly every page he would ask me questions about what the summer activities would be or whether or not we were going to cook at our after-school program next week. Used to seeing me primarily in the after-school context, at one point during our time together it occurred to him that he wasn’t quite sure why I was at school that day. He paused, looked at me for a moment, asked why I had come, then came to the conclusion on his own and said, “You came here today just because you wanted to see us?”
I didn’t want to defile the beauty of that question or cheapen the answer with anything more than a simple but glorious “Yes!” Yes, I came here just because of you. That is your value. That is your worth. Though that child is 1 in 50 for me and 1 in 300 in his school, on that day he was everything to me. He felt his value not because he won MVP or because he got all A’s on his report card, but because I communicated to him that though he was one of many, he was worth every ounce of my attention, time, and energy.
Nothing and Everything
It seems to me that the glory of humanity is that we are at the same time nothing and everything. In the scheme of life, this world, the universe, and in comparison to our great God, we are nothing—at best we are dust. But the value that Jesus communicated when he came for us makes us everything. In fact, our nothingness increases our value in the end. If God had become incarnate for a lovely, beautiful, desirable person, it would make a little bit of sense, wouldn’t it? If I went to that elementary school to have a very important meeting with the principal, that would seem about right. But the question that precious child asked me beautifully revealed his understanding of his seemingly insignificant life in the grand scheme of that school and in the city of Lexington, Kentucky—but it also revealed his understanding of his value and worth to me.
In the book Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl, N. D. Wilson wrote of the overwhelming power of a storm and how it feels so huge, so important, and so consuming in our corner of the earth when we can’t see past the sheets of driving rain or stop worrying due to the destructive winds. But the fact is that the storm is a very small, even insignificant, aspect of this monstrous sphere we inhabit. If a storm is a miniscule component of the face of the earth, what are we? Wilson wrote, “The storm is nothing, and I am less. But to an infinite artist, a Creator in love with his craft, there is no unimportant corner, there is no thrown-away image, no tattered thread in the novel left untied.” This is what we should realize: It is our very insignificance that makes our worth so incredible. We should not be valued this much, but we are.
In order to really feel our worth down to our toes, we have to truly realize and sit in our insignificance for a while, as uncomfortable as it may be. N. D. Wilson continued: “But be warned: here the company is low and classless. Here are the whores and thieves, the deviants and the downtrodden, the slaves, the unbeautiful, the lumpy, the people who look bad in suits. Even Christians. Here are the people who knew their own worth.”
Two Aspects of Our Worth
That last sentence leaves us guessing for a moment: What worth is it that Christians know? That we are low and classless and unbeautiful? Or that we are chosen, made clean, beloved, and pursued? Both. We realize our own worth—both aspects of it. I know that I am the worst of the worst and you would agree with that to my face if you could see inside my heart. We get a glimpse of this in 1 Timothy 1:15: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” But I also know that I am called beloved, clean, worthy, loved, forgiven, free, and accepted because of Jesus. It is newness in Christ, which is beautifully revealed in all of Scripture: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). That is the flip side of my worth.
Knowing only one side of our worth is unhelpful, but grasping both fills us with humble confidence. We are nothing yet still treasured and made valuable. This is not something that we can just grasp. There is something about our minds and our souls—a result of the fall or the work of the devil or otherwise—that makes us incapable of comprehending God’s immeasurable love. Paul prayed about this incapability in his letter to the Ephesians. “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:16-19).
Did you catch it? Our minds should ache a little when we get it, because this love surpasses knowledge. We actually need help to grasp the love of Christ because it’s too much for our finite minds. One day we will stare at our beautiful Savior and ask a question similar to that asked of me by a precious child: “You came just because of us?” If we grasp, through the power of the Holy Spirit, this great love and the glory of our insignificance, our lives change.
Communicate Their Value
We must know that we are nothing yet everything so that we can communicate to others that they are nothing yet everything. So this is the great challenge of our lives—to grasp and be overtaken by the incomprehensible love of Christ and love every human our souls meet with that same love; and in that love communicate to them the glory of their insignificance.
How is it done? Certainly by peering into the eyes of the souls around us and speaking to them, saying with our words and with our attention and with our actions that they are worth it—worth the time, worth the undivided attention, and worth the inconvenience. We must help others admit their weakness, realize their identity, and claim the strength, worth, and identity of Jesus Christ. Yes, they are one of many, but they have such worth because in their insignificance they are called valuable. The one who made us says in the big and in the small things, “I am doing this just for you.”
Rebecca Landry is as a social worker and loves life in Lexington, Kentucky.