In Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts” this is her admission, her announcement, her proclamation. Life is loss… when, what, who will you lose? It’s not a matter of will I lose, but solely when will I lose.
The other day at the movies, we saw a preview for the new Annie. I’m going to have to see more than that one trailer to judge whether or not I’m going to see it. You see, “Annie” holds a special place in my heart. The roles played by Carol Burnett, Albert Finney, Bernadette Peters and Tim Curry, in my mind, can’t be replaced with a newer, fresher face. It was my go to movie as a kid. I would watch it over and over, and imagine that I, too, was the fortunate child that was adopted by Daddy Warbucks.
I smiled as the awkward and seemingly uncaring man became a slightly more awkward deeply caring father. The unlikely and outwardly appearing ragamuffin Annie got the gift of a lifetime simply by being bold and confident, and by convincing Grace, Warbuck’s personal assistant, that she was the orphan perfect to spend a week with the billionaire.
Got to love a kid with pluck!
It is the gift of a lifetime! A reserved theatre all to herself, an indoor swimming pool, and all the amenities any kid would give anything to enjoy! But, something in Annie had never given up on her family, her dream of a mom and dad that loved her and longed for her so regardless of the gift, she chose instead to use his resources to find what she had forever dreamed of… And his love was great and despite his own affections, Warbucks set out to give her what her little heart desired.
Enter the enemy.
When Rooster and his voluptuous lover saw what money could be had if they could convince the world they were the long lost parents of the orphan, the plot thickened and love was tested. So, desperate to believe that she could be a part of the family she had dreamed of, she fell for the lie and embraced the deceiver, saying goodbye to the man who desperately loved her, loved her enough to let her go.
Almost immediately she sees the mistake. It was a lie. She was tricked, and her dream life looked like her greatest nightmare. As strong and independent as she was, there was no escaping without help. And, the same man who moved heaven and earth to give her what she wanted, moved them again to see her saved! And she at last realized, that she had a family, that her dreams could never have captured her reality, and finally she was loved and felt like she belonged.
Our life in Christ isn’t much different. Too often we are adopted children of the Living God living like scrappy orphans. Whether it is because we have been independent so long we don’t know what it is to have support or a Father watching our back, or if it’s that deep down inside we can’t believe that we were chosen, the deceiver uses these insecurities against us to hold us back from our family and to keep us from our Father’s arms. But, just like in the movie, that’s where Grace steps in. But, unlike the movie, Grace doesn’t have to convince the Father, He sent Jesus to adopt us all. We fail to realize is that He moved heaven and earth to save us once, and daily He moves them to bring us closer to Him. Only, unlike Warbucks, He didn’t have to learn to love us, we didn’t soften Him or have to earn that love (though we live like it), instead He loved us first, had His eyes set on us (not a boy, or a more fitting guest as in Annie’s case) and knew from the beginning of time that all time would be spent gathering His kids and bringing them home. He has given us more than a locket, engraved with His name. He has engraved our names on the palm of His hands! Each one of us, no one neglected or singled out, everyone that desires has the right to be a child of God!
So come on, orphan Annie’s, let’s start living like children of the Best Dad ever! 🙂
Graham Cooke said that “God doesn’t focus on what is wrong with us, rather, He is attending to what is missing.”
My daughter wants to be a cheerleader. This is a pretty tall order – Not because she isn’t capable but because she is missing some key components in order to do so. As a parent I have a choice – point out what is wrong with her… Or attend to what is missing.
If I choose to point out what is wrong with her, I will very likely crush her spirit. But, if I choose to attend to those missing key components, not only is she capable to live her dream, but she will become confident and strong not only to fulfill that purpose but the passions that inspire her later.
And isn’t that what God is about? With our acceptance of Christ and the knowledge of Him removing the blot of sin and the punishment it affords, what good does it do for God to point out what is wrong with us? Instead He is better served (and I mean that in the very literal expression of that word) by pointing out what is missing and what He provides, what He has already provided!
This is what I see. We are too sin conscious. This serves one purpose, the purpose of the law, to point out our failures and precipitate the exhausting effort of keeping up with holiness. This mindset leaves us feeling defeated and undeserving, which has the eventual effect of crippling our service as Ambassadors of Christ. We will never measure up.
This is what I believe. If we paid less attention to what we were doing wrong or right and more attention to what is missing from our lives, keeping us from dwelling in His fullness, and seeking God for that supply, we will become more holy. The end that we seek through the means of performance is fully met in the knowledge of who we are in Christ!
Let me step back a minute. The key there is “who we are in Christ.” Without Christ we are still stained with sin and our punishment is death. It doesn’t sound nice. We don’t like to hear that some are excepted, but it’s the Truth. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by Me.” Without our acceptance of Christ as our Savior, we are still marked by death. His blood and resurrection is what changes who we are to what we are meant to be. Those who are without Christ are judged by what is wrong AND by what they are missing. But, at any moment, in understanding and humility, they can change all of that!
That being said, as we are reborn in Christ, we are equipped for everything our life in Him requires. God isn’t a task master, He is the giver of all good things. He will never ask something of us that He hasn’t already given us in advance. So, He gave us Jesus to take away what was wrong, and now He reminds us that what we are still missing He has already given us in vast supply!
“Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence. And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him.” (1 John 3:20-22 NLT)
I think a big reason people refuse to come to Christ or believe in God is because they fear what He will do, and that is because they do not know Who He is. I think of Jesus telling the parable of the talents. Why didn’t the guy with the one talent do anything with it? He says “I knew you were a hard Master…” The word “knew” is more like “convinced.” When we are convinced God is one way, heaping shame and guilt upon us and seeing us as infidels never able to measure up, if we perceive Him as hard and cruel and unyielding, if we see Him as vengeful and punishing, that’s how we will respond to Him… In fear, not reverence, in hatred instead of love.
How do I know? Well, I’ve seen it, and it breaks my heart that someone cannot see my Father and Saviour as accessible and grateful and merciful and loving. Secondly, I’ve experienced it. If I came down on my daughter and told her she wouldn’t measure up and that she should just forget ever pursuing her dream, she would think me mean and cruel, and I would be. But, when I lovingly instruct her in what it takes to do what she desires and we take the time to help her make those changes, no doubt she might not like me at first because I’m asking her to change her sedentary ways, but in the end through her perseverance and my support and love and encouragement, she will realize that she is free to be more by replacing her doubt with confidence.
God wants to do the same. He wants us to see our relationship like the latter example rather than the first, but too often we see changing our ways as punishment rather than transformation and being led as brain-washed rather than walking in freedom from guilt and shame.
My daughter may never be a cheerleader, but she is learning new habits and a mindset that will set her up for greater things to come! And I know God is doing the same with me – little by little, day by day, pointing out that in fully abiding in Him I am found whole!
“Let’s just go.”
She said it with a voice of defeat, tears on the verge of breaking free. We had been in the same store for almost an hour trying on outfit after outfit. On the hanger they looked cute, anything hangs beautifully on air and wire, but on a real body fabric pulls, and hugs, and stretches making the wearer feel as if there is something wrong with her and not the size 2 fashion.
We left the store in silence. She walking two steps ahead head down, unwelcoming. I walked a protective two steps behind cursing super models and anorexic-sized media stars that made my daughter feel somehow less than. On the verge of tears myself, I started the car while she sobbed quietly beside me.
Those are the two words that annihilated my heart.
Those were the words echoing in hers.
“Why do I have to be so fat?”
And, what do I say? From the time she was born she was solid. The doctors would be surprised when they weighed her, people would be caught off guard when they tried to pick her up, by the time she was 8, I could barely lift her. But she wasn’t obese, not to the naked eye, but according to the charts and standards not based on anything I can see that is healthy she’s classified as “overweight.”
I knew the second part to that question, “…when you’re so small?”
To make matters worse, I’m small without trying. I always have been. In the way that she feels unattractive because of her weight, growing up, I felt unattractive because of my lack of shape. Strange. Mother and daughter, battling how we were created on two different sides of the scales.
I did what all good mothers do. I addressed her beauty. Her flawless complexion, her smooth skin, her sparkling eyes, and her hands that could easily be used for modeling expensive lotions, but no matter what I point outed, she reminded me, “But, it’s just not fair.”
And it’s not. Body shape isn’t fair, but more than that, it’s a beastly battle that every woman faces at least in some season of life, if not everyday. Whether it’s an addiction to food or an obsession with body image, we find ourselves on the verge of self-destruction more often than satisfaction.
“My friends laugh at me because I eat all my food at lunch.”
I almost spit out, “Then, they aren’t real friends!” But that wouldn’t help matters, she already feels like she is friendless. So I find myself holding onto the only two words I can safely say, “I’m sorry.”
And I am. I’m so sorry that she has to grow up in a world where size 0 and size 2 classify as beauty and health and girls who wear a size 9 or size 13 are judged as slobs and lazy. I’m sorry that her friends feel the need to judge her for her appetite when they skip meals and gorge on snacks. I’m sorry that they make clothes that hang beautifully on wires but aren’t made to fit a frame with curves. I’m sorry that she can’t see her beauty because it doesn’t look like every one else’s. I’m sorry that as a mother I can’t do anything to help her but to do my best to point out her positive attributes and pray that someday soon it sinks in. I’m sorry that all too often numbers on a scale or the digits on a tag have the power to destroy a girl’s confidence. And most of all, I’m sorry that I can’t relate because maybe if I could, she might see that I don’t just say these things because I’m her mom but because beauty is deeper than fashion and her soul is more attractive for its perceived flaws than her desired perfections.
“It’s okay, mom.”
And it will be. The storm has passed and miles away from dressing rooms, I begin to see her perk up a bit. And, for the moment, life seems fair again.