The scene is typical. Middle-aged man struggles with feelings of self-doubt. Ex-wife comes and goes, imparting a disconcerting balance of personal accusation and love. Estranged daughter entwines her life with his, just closely enough to strategically assault him with knowledge of his own faults. And he gets up one more day to see if today will be the day he proves to everyone his success, his worth, the meaning of his existence. The scene is tough, crass, and raw. We, the audience, squirm in our seats, uncomfortable and nervous, because we know he is losing the battle. The weight is too much for him, and for us. Art mimics life. Life hangs in the balance.
The scene is typical. We stretch our limbs, and straighten our clothes, as we leave the dark theatre, shaking off vestiges of reality that clung a little too closely. We smile, change the subject, and wonder where we can get a late dinner. It is not until the pre-dawn hours, in that vulnerable time of irresolute slumber, that we find ourselves in the scene too. And the question that finally awakes us is, “Where do I find my worth?”
It’s a good question… for the brave. For those who are not afraid of the answer. For those willing to risk truth. Because truth might force a change. Where do we find our worth? Certainly not in things. They are too insubstantial, too temporal. Besides, most of us old enough to have tried know it doesn’t work. Do we find our worth in people – in their ideas about us, their approval and esteem for us? Hmmm, this one is more substantive and alluring. In general, we want to believe people are good and worthy of our fullest investment. But people are vacillating. They can be weak and tenuous. Searching for our worth in others is like building our house on shifting sand. The people we love and admire in our lives, no matter how noble and pure our relationships are, will come and go. That’s how it is with people. That’s how it is with life. Our relationships will have a start and an end, one day.
So we are left to ourselves. But this does not give us comfort, for a life lived unto itself is unexpansive, insular, and static. Ask anyone. Like Shakespeare, Victor Hugo, Dostoevsky, and Mother Teresa. We cannot gauge our worth based on our own ideas of ourselves. That is delusional – mostly because the result will online slots always be skewed and inaccurate. Besides, we don’t even like people like that. In all honesty and humility, it is too easy to get to the end of our own limits. We regularly come to the end of our own ability to live values we profess as worthy – knowledge, patience, kindness, love, wisdom, goodness, beauty, inspiration, truth. So we are left feeling much like I did at the end of the movie. “Where does my help come from?” as the Psalmist says. (Psalm 121:1)
Where does our strength come from – to press on, living what we believe is a life of value and purpose? And how do we know if we near the mark? The Psalmist answers his own question. “My help comes from the Lord,” the one thing that doesn’t change, and has no limits. I recently found another verse, that gives me great strength. “Find rest O my soul, in God alone, my hope comes from him… My salvation and my honor depend on God.” (Psalm 62:5-7). I like that. My honor depends on God. What He thinks of me, what He inspires in me, what He works in me, is more likely to lead to honor and worth and value than anything I muster up on my own.
The Apostle Paul says it well. When we let Christ dwell in our hearts, our inner beings will be strengthened by his Spirit. Our poor, fragile egos that waver on the slightest tremor of disapproval or disrespect, will be strengthened in his love and power. (Ephesians 3:16-19) The result is that we will be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”. The emptiness that plagues our days, challenging our ability and purpose, vanishes in the one thing that give us value – His love for us. A love for us so great, that He would live and die for us, and then choose us as his very dwelling place on earth, desiring for us to live with him forever. Self-doubt and fear dissipate in this arresting love.
The scene is typical. Middle-aged man struggles for meaning. Ex-wife struggles for reconciliation. Daughter struggles for acceptance. All just want to be loved. And Jesus is there. In the blackened movie theatre, where hearts are secretly unraveled, for one hour and a half before we emerge on the streets again. He comes to those who dare to ask, those who dare to seek their worth. And we find life.
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth. He gives all men life and breath and everything else. He determined the exact times set for them and the exact places where they should live. He did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ ” Acts 17: 24-28