You are Royalty!

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I can remember when I first realized that I was good at school. I knew the answers to questions the teacher asked and loved it when my name was called and I’d receive praise for responding correctly. In kindergarten, I had dreams of becoming a doctor like Doogie Howser, a TV show about a child prodigy who becomes a doctor as a teenager. (This dream quickly evaporated when I realized I was not going to be going to college by age 12.) I found affirmation in pleasing adults. It felt good to be known for being smart, being a good student, and for being “a good kid”.

But there was a problem. The grade on the paper didn’t continue to satisfy. Making sure I always earned “As” was stressful – I remember crying when I saw a “B” on my report card (as if a B was going to ruin my life somehow). Plus, my grade was often out of my control at some level. For example, once in 5th grade, I was given an F on an assignment because my teacher thought I had cheated (I hadn’t) and no amount of arguing could change her mind. Since I based my identity on being right, I felt threatened and insecure whenever I was wrong. I’d argue with anyone who challenged me, and frankly, no one likes a know-it-all. Adults didn’t always give me the affirmation I wanted or thought I needed. They couldn’t fill the emptiness I felt inside. And being known as the “goody-two-shoes” wasn’t always fun either. Sometimes I longed to know what it would be like to take on another reputation – just once. I could never do enough, have enough, or be esteemed enough to feel ok or secure or fill the emptiness inside. I don’t think I’m alone.

One of the biggest reasons we experience so much pain, insecurity, and loneliness in life is because we forget our true identity as God’s beloved. Our accomplishments, accumulation, and accolades describe us, but they should never define us. And there is another problem that chasing these things as a way to find identity causes – regret. And regret shouldn’t define you either. What defines you comes from the inside and radiates out. That which is outside of you is too untrustworthy, too likely to change, too uncontrollable. But frankly our insides can feel that way too. That is, until you join your heart to the One who made it. When you give your heart back over to Jesus, your insides become much more secure and stable. Through Jesus, you are adopted as God’s child. You become part of His family. He is the King of kings. He is the Lord of lords, and if you are His, then you are royalty. Living in that truth allows you to live with confidence, freedom and with a kind of security that no accomplishment, no amount of accumulation, and no accolade can ever provide.

Matthew West has a fabulous song that points to this truth. Perhaps you’ve heard it. If not, I hope you enjoy!

How have you tried to define yourself? Sports? Popularity? Name brand clothes? Being the class clown? Is it wrong to seek accomplishment, to accumulate things or titles, or to receive accolades? What would it look like if we lived as if we really are royalty, children of the One True King?

You are Beloved

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Henri Nouwen was a Catholic priest known for his intellect and his compassion. He shocked people when he gave up a prestigious career teaching at Harvard to live among a community of people with physical and intellectual disabilities. I’ve always admired the way he lived what he taught and so I took a class in graduate school that was exclusively about the life and writings of Nouwen. I’ll never forget the day my professor showed a video of one of Nouwen’s final sermons before his death. In his beautiful Dutch accent, Nouwen described how God views us as his beloved sons and daughters. And I’ve been enamored with the word beloved ever since.

Just look at some of the definitions of the word beloved: dearly loved, a much loved person, darling, favorite, sweetheart, esteemed, and worthy of love. It’s a word used to describe how a husband feels about his wife, a parent feels about their children, how God described His feelings about Jesus, and how God feels about us. 1 John 3:1 (The Voice), “Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us – He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children.”

Not every translation chooses this beautiful word, but for what it’s worth, I think it is the perfect choice to try to grasp the way God feels about us and more than that, relates to us. In the original Greek, the word translated as beloved is agapeous, unconditionally loved. God views us as being worthy of His love! What is love though? It is a word that our society has twisted and diminished. I once heard a well-known pastor define love as “to provide for and protect.” This definition didn’t sit well with me and I couldn’t figure out why. Then it dawned on me. His definition was void of emotion. I can provide and protect for someone out of selfish reasons – and that is not love. Love is when you sacrificially provide for and protect someone else. When you give for another at a cost to yourself. That’s love. And that’s what God does for us.

But how can God love me to the point of making me His child when I’m so broken and selfish and stubborn and sinful? It’s because the word “beloved” implies action on the part of the one doing the loving and requires little from the one being loved. Notice another amazing word in that verse, the word lavish. God lavishes love on us! Lavish means extravagant, giving to excess, abundant, and generous. God never holds back with his love. He’s never stingy. He never withholds. How often I’ve thanked God that my relationship with Him is built on His faithfulness to me and not on my faithfulness to Him! And so it is with love. God loves me with an active and a fiercely loyal love. He sees me as worthy of His love, even when I am not. Amazing.

So how do you define love? And what does being God’s beloved mean to you?

You are not what you do

When I was a little kid I loved to dress up like whatever I was watching on television. If it was a Western, I’d get out my Cowboy boots, plastic spurs, holster with the two silver cap guns. I’d find my Cowboy hat, tie a red bandana around my neck, and put on my little red felt vest with the yellow sheriff badge sewn on one side. I’d ride my rocking horse just like the lawmen in the show. During music shows, I’d find my toy microphone and do my best Michael Jackson impersonation. And each year during the World Series, you’d find me sitting in my jersey, holding a bat, or wearing my glove. I so badly wanted to be the people I saw on television. We all long to discover who we are. Whether we are playing dress up as a 4 year old, struggling to fit in as a 14 year old, or longing for worth as a 40 year old, we want to know who we are and that who we are matters.

So often we look for identity in places that never satisfy. We look for identity in our accomplishments – earning straight As, making the game winning shot, or getting the cutest girl in school to say yes to a date. We accumulate things or titles to feel good about who we are – the popularity that wearing the trendiest clothes or having the newest gadgets bring us or the influence titles we desire like “class president” or “homecoming queen” or “team captain” provide. Finally, we long for accolades from others to give us an ego boost. We look to what other people have to say about us to affirm our worth and give us identity. And all of these things fall short. They are all so temporary. They are all out of our control because they are outside of who we are. These things are meant to describe, but never define. Only the one who created you can define you. And He defines you as His beloved child – dearly love, His favorite. 1 John 3:1a says, “Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us – He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children (The Voice).”

Let’s call out all the ways we try to find identity that do not work and reclaim our one true identity as God’s beloved children. Let’s push back against the world’s definition of worth and value and claim the truth that lasting and fulfilling worth and value come from Jesus Christ alone. Let’s reject the lie that who you are must be earned and reclaim the truth that who you are is a gift given by God. Let’s begin to reject identity from the outside and begin to accept identity from the inside.

So how do you define yourself? Where do you find worth and value? How have those things left you feeling unsatisfying and wanting more?