It’s what I long for, and it’s what you long for. I also withhold it from others and myself and so do you.
I’ve been wrestling with my acceptance in Christ because there’s a part I play in it as well: I have to accept what God says.
I can read his truth and his words, but if I don’t believe them, I’m still lost. There’s a difference between knowing truth and believing truth and it’s hard to believe the truth about acceptance.
When I refuse to accept the truth that God says I am set free from darkness, I stumble and fall even though light is nearby. When I refuse to accept redemption, I abdicate my inheritance of forgiveness. When I refuse to accept completeness in Christ, I give up confidence.
I once confessed my insecurity to a close friend and she sat open-mouthed and dared me to deny my statement. I couldn’t and she couldn’t believe it.
I’m good at playing the confident woman, but I shake in my boots and hide behind a smile and a sparkle. I don’t see what my friend sees. I see a messy-haired, scared little girl hoping to be accepted, but believing she won’t be and so I pretend. I pretend I’m full of confidence. I pretend I know what I’m doing. But inside? On the inside I’m afraid you will find out the truth and reject me.
God gives me opportunity after opportunity to strip my confident façade away and fully embrace his acceptance of me because it is only when I rest in his acceptance of me that I am truly confident.
Confident that I’ve been rescued, redeemed, chosen, and given access to the throne room of God. Confidence based in my own ability is shaky and will crumble. It has crumbled. Each time I’m publicly humbled–whether it’s through an editing mistake in a published piece, or my vocals cracking as I lead worship, or singing the wrong lyric at the wrong time–I’m given the opportunity to understand what it’s like to be confident in him.
This past Sunday, as I led worship, I cued the band and the tech team to section three of our opening song. They did their part, but I didn’t. I sang something entirely different. The smiles and laughter in the tech team cued me of my screw up. While the band played their way through my fumbling, I smiled my way through, course corrected, and kept the focus on God.
A few years ago, I would have spent the afternoon berating myself over my ineptness-turning the focus on myself-rather than rejoicing in the ability to learn a lesson in humility and glory.
God doesn’t want to embarrass me, but if I’m prideful in an area, I will be humbled. My confidence should never be placed in my abilities because my abilities are not because of me, but in spite of me. My abilities are gifts from God to be used for him for his people. They have nothing to do with me. They are for his glory.
My confidence is directly related to how well I accept that God accepts me. When I don’t feel accepted, when I feel I’ve disappointed God, either over something little or that thing, like perfect, that keeps cropping up in my life, I reject myself, assuming that God rejects me as well.
I couldn’t be more wrong. He doesn’t reject. He accepts.
Our confidence for living this God-life is directly related to our embracing God’s acceptance of us.
If we embraced this truth, we would confidently leave our old lives behind and embrace the new. We would truly understand amazing grace that’s set our hearts free. We would love without strings. We would confidently walk in the forgiveness God offers rather than in the condemnation we offer ourselves.
Could you imagine the effect you would have in your life if you walked confidently into every situation confident not in your ability to perform, but confident that no matter what others think of you or what you think of yourself that God calls you accepted?
There just might be a revolution.
There would be a revolution in our churches because it wouldn’t be about us, but it would be about following the Holy Spirit wherever he leads.
Our homes and society would revolutionize themselves because our love for each other would flow from the belief that we’re accepted fully and completely by God. We would give our best knowing that God is pleased when we accept and love each other.
“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13-14 ESV
“For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” Colossians 2:9-10 ESV
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16
Confidence is directly related to our belief in God’s acceptance of us. We might struggle with accepting ourselves with all our flaws and mistakes, but God doesn’t. He offers us rescue, redemption, forgiveness, completeness, and access to the throne of God because he accepts us. This is who you are in Christ: accepted beloved one.
Anyone who has played volleyball with me would agree: I spend more time ducking than I do spiking. They know I do not belong on any court involving a flying ball. I also don’t belong on a debate room floor as I stumble over my words and respond emotionally rather than logically. This is a type of belonging based on our strengths and interests and giftings, but there is another type of belonging. This other type of belonging resides in the heart of every man and woman and is the most difficult one to fulfill in our own strength and understanding.
I know what the unfulfilled yearning to belong feels like. It feels like I’m gazing through a window at a party of people who belong, while I shiver, not just from the cold rain, but from a longing deep within to belong to something or someone where the warmth and love is evident.
In my vision, I see a smiling someone motioning me to come to the door and I see myself taking a few tentative steps towards the door, thinking ‘Could it be?’ ‘Is this the place for me?’ As I reach for the handle, I see my tattered sleeve and I halt. I’m ashamed of my state, the state that comes from the wear and tear of living life. I gaze into the window again and the welcoming glance turns into a questioning glance as I slowly back away, fighting tears, with heart breaking over the awareness that once again, I perceive I don’t belong.
This sense of not belonging haunts and taunts and I am not alone in experiencing this feeling. One mis-perception leads to another and so it is with the mis-perception of ‘I’m not good enough.’ Our faulty beliefs of ‘not enough’ feed the sense of ‘not belonging.’
This longing to belong is birthed by God in our spirit so that we will long to belong to him. This gift, left untended or rejected, produces an unhealthy search to find our sense of belonging in people, performance, and professions.
The longing to be is a gift and the gift received is to belong.
“But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” 1 Corinthians 6:17
When you respond to his call upon your hearts and say, ‘yes’ to his Lordship in your life you become unified with him. When all else falls apart and you are facing division in your personal life, you can know that your spirit is one with the Lord and be at peace. You belong to him.
“Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you have been bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (emphasis mine)
You were bought at a price. God demonstrates the value he places on you through the cost of his Son’s sacrifice. You could argue that you are not worth a life, especially the life of God’s son, but your arguments have no bearing on the simple, profound, life-altering truth that you are treasured beyond measure. You are valuable. You belong.
“You are the body of Christ, and each one of you is part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27
There will be a place at the table, on the other side of the rain-splattered window, for you if you will say yes to the invitation and come in from the rain. As a member of the body of Christ, you are gifted with a purpose and this purpose is to encourage, love, serve, and pray for each other. It doesn’t take an extra-ordinary person to offer a smile, a hand, and a heart. It takes the extra-ordinary God whom you serve to work through you to fulfill his purpose in the body of Christ. You belong to the body of Christ and have a place in it.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:3-8
A longing to be loved is fulfilled when we read these words from Ephesians. In love he chooses us. In love he keeps us. In love he freely bestows the title of ‘Child.’ Adoption is the heart of God and just like any adoption there will be an adjustment period. Because many of us have little experience with the depth and strength of a love so pure, a questioning about the truth of this kind of love wells up within us and we ask: “Will God still love me if I disappoint him? Will God stick by me when I’m at my worst? Will God be safe enough to reveal my deep, deep hurts to him?” You belong to God because he says you do.
These verses assure us we are one with Christ in the Holy Spirit, we are valuable and priceless, we have purpose in the body of Christ, and we’re chosen in love by God.
The gift of longing to be is fulfilled when we find our unity, our value, our purpose, and our love in God who says we belong at his table of grace. He flings wide the door and pulls you in despite your worn and tattered coat and he takes that worn garment from you and gives you new clothes. Clothes that signify you belong to him.
Last week I wrote a letter to all the worshipers of the Lord everywhere. This week I write a letter to all my fellow worship leaders who are leading God’s people in worship week after week.
Dear Worship Leader,
You are leading so you must serve.
God has placed you in a place of leadership and you must serve your people. You must love them. You must care more about their experience than your musical ability.
You must take charge and then you must let go and let the Holy Spirit lead you and guide you. It’s not about you. It’s not about your music or your riffs. It’s about God and his people meeting and you must, you must get out of the way. I know. Because I am a worship leader and I have screwed up and missed God’s message by getting in the way of what he wants to do.
The temptations are great. We are tempted by pride. We are tempted by whether people are engaged. We are tempted by compliments or the lack thereof. We are tempted by our musicality or the musicality of the people on our teams.
But when we are humble and hungry for the new work of God in each moment of each Sunday or Saturday or whatever day you stand before your church and lead, we can touch the presence of God. Then we need to step back and let God touch the people you are serving.
It’s not about how many new songs you can write or sing or introduce. It is about letting a song get into the fiber of your church and let them own it. It’s about letting it become their cry to the Lord. It’s about letting the song become their heart’s anthem. It’s also knowing when to retire a song so it doesn’t become words sung by rote memory. It’s about knowing the musical ability of your church so that you pick songs that are singable so that more people can be bold enough to engage. It’s about their experience with the Holy Spirit moving in your midst. We as worship leaders can help or hinder that.
If I may?
It’s not about us. As much as we are in the spotlight, we must aim the spotlight to the One who we are worshiping. So we must stay aware of our own weaknesses and tendencies and counter them with humility and hunger. There are times that I write ‘S.H–S.H’ on my hand before I hit the stage on a Sunday morning, especially if I have been in battle with my pride and insecurity that week. Stay humble. Stay hungry.