A middle-aged man, hair slightly thinner than a few years before, turns to yell at his young son, “C’mon! I told you to run faster. What’s wrong with you?” Anger followed by disgust, a shrug of disappointment for all to see. Head lowered, the boy moves slowly before slumping down on the bench where his teammates sit. Each of them fully aware it could easily have been them. It was a close call. They wouldn’t have made it to the base before the ball did, either. No one could have. Now wounded and shamed, the boy doesn’t even look up when his name is next called.
A little girl carefully cradles the enormous cereal box in her arms. It’s her favorite, the kind she likes to pretend are cookies when she hosts tea parties for her animals. Too big for her little hands, she quickly loses her grip and the box tumbles to the floor. Cereal spills out into a messy pile on the newly cleaned tile. Immediately she begins to pick up handfuls, tiny handfuls that match the size of her tiny hands clasped together. Scoop by scoop she tries her best to clean up the mess she’s made. “What are you doing?” the woman’s voice shrieks, as she rounds the corner. “I told you. You are not to touch. Look at what you’ve done. You’re always making a mess.” The voice grows louder and louder. Every word hissed tears, like a ravenous animal, stripping away piece by piece, a part of the little girl’s soul.
“Dad.” The word is choked out through falling tears. The young woman walks hesitantly towards her father, buried beneath newsprint spelling out the important things of the day. Only his hands are visible, but she knows he’s there, behind that paper sitting in his chair.
Heart broken, devastated by a young man who claims to care for her. His actions don’t match his claims. Time after time, she’s questioned in her heart, is he the one. Love shouldn’t hurt this bad. Does he really care or is he just playing an easy game with her heart, her very being? Months have gone by and she needs answers, she needs perspective. She approaches the only man she can, to ask for advice. The choice to step into potentially hostile, foreign territory is never easy, but she’s desperate. So she approaches slowly, tears streaming down cheeks. “Dad,” she says again quietly. “I need to ask you something.” Embarrassed at even having to talk of such things with a man who’d never before cared, but there is no one else to ask.
“There’s this guy,” she begins. “He seems like he cares for me. We’ve been close for awhile now. He acts like he cares, but then he….” “Can’t you see I’m busy!” the voice roars from behind the newsprint. “I don’t have time for this,” he says rustling the inky paper in his anger. I don’t have time for you, she hears. Stunned, the young woman is shaken. Baring her soul through tears, she’d allowed herself to be vulnerable. A mistake. One she won’t make again. Broken, she quietly walks away, tears dropping like crumbs on a path. Waiting for someone to care, someone to notice.…………………………………………………………………..
Angry voices that take up residence in our heads. Voices from the past that cut us off at the knees, immobilizing us. Making it almost impossible to take one step further. We all have them. From childhood, maybe the voices belonged to our parents. People set upon this earth to pour life into us, who rather than encourage, strip away the substance of our tender souls. Maybe the voices are classmates, kids on the playground who for one reason or another, found easy prey to mock, in an effort to make themselves look bigger and better. Husband. Wife. Boss. Co-worker. The voices are there. Voices that morph into an angry crowd shouting relentlessly that you are not worth ___. Fill in the blank. You’re not valuable. Who’d ever want you? You’ll never amount to anything. Why try? You’ll just fail…again. Like always. Voices that when listened to, are powerful deterrents in our lives, keeping us from the life we were created to live.
I find it interesting that movies that seem to become wildly popular often feature a hero that stands strong in the face of injustice, battling to make things right either for the love of his life or the greater good, sometimes both. Often the hero willingly gives the ultimate sacrifice, leading to death. Something in us draws us to a hero that rises above the status quo and stands strong in the face of evil, risking all for freedom, for love. A sacrifice of love that screams, you are precious to me. You are worth everything. I would die for you.
Does such a hero exist today? In our modern cynicism, most of us choose to believe heroes like that only exist in fairy tales and movies. Yet in our struggling lives, we long for one that is real. We ask is there one who could love so profoundly, one to whose voice is worth listening? Is there anyone who longs to speak life into us?
Overwhelmingly the Bible tells us that there is one. His name is Jesus. He is that hero. He is that voice. He invites us into a life he paid dearly for, sacrificing his own, that we might experience a life fully redeemed. Life to the full, he calls it. A voice of truth crying out for all to hear, inviting us to experience life with him. The cost has already been paid, on a cross two thousand years ago. When we accept him into our lives, we begin life anew.
Jesus invites us into a relationship with God, not just as acquaintances, but as sought out, dearly loved, adopted children. He lovingly calls us his Beloved. Chosen for his good pleasure; the apple of his eye; and heirs to his kingdom. We are more than conquerors in him; with a royal heritage; we are a royal priesthood; and when he looks upon us he sees the pure, unblemished, beautiful bride of Christ.
The question we’re left to ask is, “Whose voice are we listening to?” Are we giving ear to those voices in our heads bent on destruction. Why give ear to voices that seek only to tear us down?
The Voice – Jesus’ voice – is speaking love to us today. Perfect, unending, unconditional, unfailing love. We are of infinite worth to him. God proved his love to us by giving his life for us. You were worth dying for. I was worth dying for. Give ear this Lent to the life-giving voice of truth. The Voice that leads us into the abundant life we were created to live.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
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