Undeserving of Connection
“Just because people throw it out and don’t have any use for it, doesn’t mean it’s garbage.” -Andy Warhol
“I’m not good enough.”
I hear this phrase almost every day. I hear it from clients fearing they won’t ever feel better...I hear it from patients at the hospital who have experienced years of abuse...I hear it in my own head as I struggle to find my identity.
It’s a cancer that spreads slowly, taking over our thoughts and beliefs. When you don’t feel like you meet some expectation...any expectation...it’s hard to imagine continuing. Some of you have heard this message externally you whole life - a critical parent, bullies at school - and it is hard to fight its veracity. You can internalize this message to the point that voices stop sounding like bullies and critical parents and more like your own.
As believers, there is a tension that makes this statement difficult. We know and believe that because of sin and the requirements of a holy God - we aren’t good enough. We can never be good enough to meet the holiness of God on our own. Never.
But if we sink too deeply into this message, we can begin to internalize it in ways that become dangerous. We can begin to think we are unloveable. We can begin to think the very thing we need - connection - is impossible to have because we will never measure up.
Dr. Larry Crabb talks about the foundational aspects of connecting to another individual that we often overlook. They are all based on the person of Christ and how he connected with people. One of the first things Dr. Crabb mentions is that Christ was drawn to the very people undeserving of His attention.
I have always been a little confused by the way Christ asks people “What do you want?” To the man sitting at the pool who had been lame for 38 years waiting to be healed, Jesus says “Do you want to be healed?” It seems out of place - a little too direct and confrontational almost. But the word for “want” in these instances implies more of a desire and wish than a burdensome request - it’s as if Jesus is asking “What’s the greatest thing you wish you could have/be?” It’s anticipatory. It’s hopeful. It’s believing in future promises.
We don’t deserve his attention and that is precisely when he draws near to us. It’s a paradox that I have struggled with my entire life. You mean I can’t do something that will make me more deserving of your attention? I can with my friends...my spouse...my family. If I do nice things for them they seem to want me around more! But at the moment when we realize how undeserving we are of connecting with the God of the universe - it is the very moment when he says “What do you want?”
When we begin seeing people with the eyes of Christ - we are drawn to people who are undeserving of our attention, our time, and our focus. We are drawn to people who are not good enough. It removes our sense of entitlement because we ourselves realize we are not good enough.
But something else happens: we begin to view others with the anticipatory hope Christ has for us. Someone who has been told their whole life they are not good enough by a critical family member needs the hope of future promises. The internal messages that have so devalued their soul can be challenged. It is not that they suddenly become good enough - they were worthy before simply by being an image bearer of God.
The reality of the cross and grace makes no sense if we do not understand the filth of our hearts. This is true. But we also know that Jesus is drawn to us at the very moment we are at our filthiest (Romans 5:8). This is also true. When we interact with broken people around us, we can see the filth of their lives and know that it is real, inexcusable in the sight of a holy God, undeserving of His love...but know that with curious eyes, a willingness to consider the future hope of redemption - even the worst sinner before us becomes a fellow traveler. We can draw near to who they are, meet them in their need and work against the filth that consumes both them and us.
And in doing this - we begin to reverse the unhealthy ways we have internalized the messages of being worthless - instead seeing the eyes of Christ look at us with compassion, drawing near to us when we are least deserving.
What ways have you internalized messages of being worthless that can be challenged by how Christ sees you? How can you then view others with the eyes of Christ?