Much ink has been spilled over the phrase “but God” in Ephesians. I never saw the beauty, until recently.
Perks of Being a Wallflower was a paradigm shifting movie for me. (Yeah, I saw the movie before I read the book, I know.) 15 year old Charlie is an introverted child, and the book chronicles his formative years in high school as he makes friends, has encounters with drugs, deals with thugs and bullies, and learns about himself. The book is told through Charlie’s eyes as he writes letters to a friend. We don’t know who this friend is, but Charlie is completely at ease sharing with this friend. The look into Charlie’s mind is fascinating as he describes growing up and making friends as an introvert.
The longer that I spent with the book (having read it four or five times), I started to get different stuff out of it. One of the latest times that I’ve read the book is when Charlie and his teacher, Bill, are having a conversation in a classroom. Charlie is confused why people aren’t treating themselves the way that he felt they should be treated. Bill responds with, “People accept the love that they think they deserve.”
I think a lot of us could easily attach ourselves to this mantra. We don’t feel like we deserve love until we do more for someone else. Until we’ve worked hard enough to earn their favor. Until we’ve looked danger in the face and pressed on. Until we’ve reached a certain level in X to gain their trust. Until we’ve done X, Y, and Z. And it’s exhausting.
But some of us don’t know what to do otherwise.
But let’s look. What you think about yourself is bad, but our position is bad as well. We were dead in our trespasses: not just trespasses that we were trapped in, but those we actively engaged in. We deliberately followed the prince of the power of the air, he who blinded us to the light of the gospel. We carried out every fleshly desire of our body and mind, regardless of the consequences. We were children of wrath. Add in your own. Not worthy of love. Can’t live up to the standard of beauty. Too stupid to be worth someone’s time. Not enjoyable or personable enough or antisocial. Asocial at all.
We all know what we think about ourselves.
But. The interjection is almost a thought unto itself. It hears what you’ve said, considers it, and stops you in dead in your tracks. “Yes, I’ve heard you. I know you don’t think you’re loveable; nor do you think you’re worth much. But.” But says that there’s a different world, one better than the one you’ve created for yourself. Better than the only one that you can see.
Oh, how quickly we turn back to ourselves and turn to our own empty reservoirs. How long must we mire in our own thoughts of self-hate and self-pity? How long until we turn to the living waters and open ourselves up to the strength that comes from that grace that is in Christ?
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love that he had for us, made us alive together with Christ. Being rich in mercy because we were too weak to do anything about ourselves, he reached down and brought us out of our mess with no judgment. With his great love that was not earned, not deserved, but given when we were yet enemies. Together with Christ, our friend and our brother, the firstfruits of our resurrection. Brought to life by the glory of the Father and now, now we are joined to him.
So, my friend, and myself, I hear what you have to say.
I know what you think you’re worth and what you think you need to do about it. What you need to do, or gain, or be, in order to be loved.
But try telling yourself this whenever you have a horrible thought about yourself:
“But, God”and accept the love you don’t deserve.