“What comes into our mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” A.W. Tozer
I grew up in a faith tradition that emphasized original sin. Original sin is the Christian doctrine that holds that humans, through the fact of birth, inherit a tainted nature in need of regeneration and a proclivity to sinful conduct. One of the most famous sermons in the history of our faith in America came from Jonathan Edwards called, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” It’s not a happy sermon.
One of the most popular hymns for centuries was written by Isaac Watts entitled, Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed. The very first verse describes how Isaac saw humanity.
Alas! and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sov’reign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?
I am a worm because I do wormy things. For many years—many—I up of myself as a recovering sinner. I have committed sins both large and small and that made me a sinner. My first thought when I considered the truth of who I am was a variation of the recovery saying found in Alcoholics Anonymous that said, “I am a recovering alcoholic.” I would think of myself as a “recovering sinner.” The recovery group encourages that self-identifier to remind the addict that they are one drink away from a relapse that can destroy their lives.
Is the most important truth about me the fact that I am a worm? Is being a sinner the first and most important truth about me? I have grown to believe that it is not.
I love what poet and writer the late Macrina Wiederkeher prayed in her book Season of Your Heart,
help me to believe
the truth about myself–
no matter how beautiful it is!
The truth is that I am a beloved son of the Most High God. When I entered a covenant relationship with Jesus at the age of seven years old, I was placed in Christ. The Apostle Paul uses that phrase some one hundred and fifty times to describe my position before God now that I have this faith-based covenant relationship with Jesus. I am in Christ. That is good news for a wormy guy like me.
Sometimes I hear celebrities asked if they have any regrets in their lives. Most, if not all, say, “I have no regrets in my life. If given an opportunity to live life again, I’d live it the exact same way.” What a stupid and banal thing to say. As a wormy guy, I have to tell you I have many regrets. Many.
But here is what I have come to believe to the core of my being. I now believe that my years of living in repentance have eclipsed my regrets. I’ve come to accept the reality of my life with joy because there is something truer about me than my worminess—I am the beloved of God.
My brother is the poet—not me—but I wrote this little piece a few days ago and it speaks to what I am trying to say…
Don’t you hope that is the truth about you, too? I posted the little poem on social media the other day and a man I have never met replied as follows:
I can’t describe to you how this blesses me. I am struggling so hard in this season. I’m almost 65 and I’ve never felt more unlike a son of God. I’m going to meditate on this some more and hopefully it sinks in deep!
Maybe that is you as well.
The Psalmist did not lie when he said,
I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. (Psalm 139:14)
Perhaps the Lord is saying this to you as much as to me today,
The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by him; and the Lord shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between his shoulders. (Deut. 33:12)
We are not worms, you and me. We are the beloved of God.
I’ll tell you what comes into my mind when I think about God. He says, “Joe before you were a sinner, you were a son.”