Worthy

“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”

-Isaiah 30:18

Justice begins when we realize we don’t deserve it.

I think a lot about words like “worth” and “value” and “deserve” because I struggled with them a while back and then found inspiring organizations and people like So Worth Loving, Hannah Brencher, and Eryn Eddy who use them. A lot. And I think I have concluded that to be worth something and to deserve something are two completely different things.

You deserve something based on what you do. You do your chores, you deserve your allowance. You work really hard, you deserve a break. But being worth something has to do with who you are, in your core, in your very bones.

That’s why I can say I deserve hell but am worth heaven; I deserve death but am worth life; I deserve hate but am worthy of love; I deserve shame but am worthy of forgiveness. What I do, and therefore what I deserve, sucks in comparison to holy, perfect standards. I fall short all the time and deserve the death that sin causes. For a while, that was also my identity. Sin was this unshakeable, unbreakable piece of me.

But then, Jesus. He came along and fixed it. Sin was taken out of my identity and replaced with words like “loved” and “pure” and “blameless.” In mercy, He took what I deserved. In grace, He made me worthy of better.

God decides who I am. Not me, or anything I do, or anything I say or think. “Loved by Him” is written at the top of the list of things about Haley in big, bold letters, and it trumps everything else. He calls me worthy, and I believe He calls everyone worthy. His death started the worthy crew. He paid the ultimate price to determine our value; His life given on a cross is a much more solid foundation for self-image than any inward or outward beauty or strength.

Praise be to the One who called us worthy when we definitely didn’t deserve it and continues to call us worthy today. He is so crazy in love with us, and that’s the greatest love story the world will ever see: a love so powerful that it took people who were broken and deserved death and made them worthy of more.

Whale Sharks

I stood in front of the big tank at the Georgia Aquarium on Thursday afternoon and thought to myself, “God is so big.” A whale shark swam by, followed by a manta ray, followed by this green fish that I remember calling “broccoli fish” when I was little. Every time I saw one of the whale sharks, I thought, “God is so big.” I hated to walk away from that big tank. Even though it makes me seem like a loser, I was there by myself, which meant that I had the freedom to sit in front of that tank for as long as I wanted to.

And every time I saw those whale sharks, I thought, “God is so big.” But surprisingly enough, it wasn’t the most natural thing in the world.

Naturally, I want to make God mine. We sing a lot of songs at church about God being mine (“Oceans” and “Arms Open Wide” are two that instantly come to mind), and I’m all for God becoming that personal. Some of our craziest moments of connection are when we realize how ridiculous it is that God offers Himself to us for a relationship that will last into eternity.

But I’ve been learning a lot about letting go recently and I don’t think we can march through life clenching our fists too tightly around anything, even God. We cannot box Him up inside our hearts or our rows of chairs on Sunday or our small group circles filled with encouragement and chocolate. He is in all of those things, but He’s in so much more.

He’s in the whale sharks. He’s in the stars that we can’t see and never will. He’s in the galaxies a million lightyears away. He’s in the teeny tiny plant cells with their teeny tiny cell walls. (I’m ready for A.P. Biology, y’all.) He’s in darkness and death, and by that I don’t mean that He causes those things or enjoys them, but that He can be found working in them. He’s in India and Haiti and England and Malaysia and New York City and Uganda and Australia. He is in the history of Bible times and the promises of the future. He is in everything, so why do we try to confine Him to just “mine”?

He is so much bigger than our big city churches with our food drives and electric guitars on Sunday. He is so much bigger than my journal time every night. He is so much bigger than the songs I sing with hands lifted high, than the coffeeshop conversations I have with my small group leaders, than the tears we shed on our latest church retreat.

I don’t think you can know God until you realize He’s yours, but I don’t think you can know God fully until you realize He’s not only that. He’s everyone’s, everywhere, in everything, everyday. It’s my prayer that God would allow me to see Him that way. I want to see Him in all the world so that He can use me in His plan to love and change it.

The next time I see those whale sharks, I don’t want to have to force myself to see them as His creation. That’s sort of what it felt like on Thursday: oh, right, this is His, He’s not just in my bubble of a sheltered life. I am in training now to see God in whale sharks, and flowers, and letters, and cancer, and college, and finances, and people. I want my view of God to expand and expand and expand until I see everything as the tiny piece of heaven that it already is or that it will become. God is so much bigger than a church. He’s even bigger than the whale sharks. It’s time we started trying to see Him that way.