Monday, June 1, 2015

For those Days We feel Invisible, Insignificant, and Inferior

Most of us who've attended church as children are familiar with the children's song ,"Zacchaeus the Wee Little Man." It is easy to understand why children like this Bible story (Luke 19:1-10). They can identify with being small in a world designed for big people. we felt frustrated because we didn't feel seen or because we couldn't see everything we wanted to see. Climbing a tree is something we could envision us doing to to see more. But this story isn't just for children, it is for us adults as well. It tells us a whole lot about our great God and it tells us a whole lot about ourselves.
Zacchaeus was a Jewish man who lived in the town of Jericho. He was of tiny stature and in his culture that meant he was often overlooked and looked down upon. In addition he had become a chief tax collector for the Roman government. His peers believed he was doing "dirty work" for the Roman government and treated him as if he were an enemy. In addition, most tax collectors became rich by taking extra taxes from people to keep for themselves. So, it was likely his peers believed he had been personally robbing them. For all of these reasons, it was likely that he was very unpopular in the Jewish community.
Zacchaeus had heard of Jesus, but he didn't know him personally. But, what he had heard about Him had piqued his curiosity, causing him to join the crowd when Jesus came to Jericho. But because of his stature, He couldn't see Him and no one in the crowd was willing to make room for him. So, he ran ahead of Jesus and climbed up in a tree and waited for Jesus to come to get a glimpse of Him. When Jesus came, He paused beneath Zacchaeus and he looked up and called him by name! It amazed Zacchaeus that Jesus knew his name and where he was perched before He had even looked up. Jesus invited Himself to Zacchaeus' home and he responded by coming down from the tree. 
Zacchaeus found in Christ a love and an acceptance that he was hungry for as a person well acquainted with rejection. In light of his reputation, few people would have made eye contact with him, fewer would have acknowledged his presence, and even fewer would have spent time in deep fellowship with him. They couldn't trust him. His quest for money left him very much alone. 
As he began to experience Christ's pure love, Zacchaeus realized all the wealth he had accumulated couldn't satisfy his heart hunger like Jesus could. As a result, he was changed from being a "thief" to being a "giver." He told Christ he would restore what he took fourfold! The crowd had criticized Jesus for spending time with Zacchaeus, but Christ did not respond to the criticism directly. Instead He told Zacchaeus, "This day salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."
What can we learn from this story about Zacchaeus? 

I think we can all relate  to him if we are really honest with ourselves. We feel small, insignificant, and overlooked. For many, that feeling began in childhood. Perhaps when Mom was busy, when she got on the phone, or when she was in a conversation and wasn't connecting to us, we clamored for her attention by interrupting, doing things we weren't supposed to do, starting fights with siblings, or anything else we could do to get her attention back on us.  
I came across a Michael Card song a few years ago called Underneath the Door. In the song he describes himself as little guy with stubbly little fingers who wanted so badly to get his Dad's attention. But his dad often closed himself off, hiding behind his office door. He would draw his dad pictures and push them under the door. Sometimes he simply would stick his fingers beneath the door as if to say, "This is me, its who I am."  He shared his story with someone and they pointed out to him that as an adult he was still that little boy wanting to be seen.*
We, too, often feel small and overlooked. We may smile at what we did as children to get attention, but we really are just grown up children doing similar more acceptable things. We may not be tax collectors, but I bet we have all sorts of other ways of dealing with those feelings of insignificance, insecurity, and inferiority. I bet we even have ways we deal with feeling unseen, ignored, unheard, overlooked, and any other feeling we felt when we were small. Some of us became hyper critical, shouting the faults of others. Some of us turn those feelings inward, beating ourselves up emotionally and sometimes physically. Some of us became perfectionists, never stopping to rest or to enjoy life, people, or His presence. Some of us  pursued wealth, fame, or popularity to find it is never enough to make us feel seen and heard. Some of became so independent that we denied the need of being seen, heard, or loved even though those are legitimate needs written carefully on our hearts by the Creator Himself. Some of us may have even stepped on others as we tried to climb to the top, only to find that we feel even smaller still.    
We can learn that God is a God who seeks the smallest. We don't have to climb trees, corporate ladders, become the favorite child, perform perfectly, or scale the tallest mountain. Christ sees us where we are, even in our sin, even while we were still enemies with Him. He even sees us even when others crowd us and over look us and despise us. 
Just as Jesus knew the wee little man by name, He knows us by name! He was the one who  ascribed significance to us because He chose to create us, to call us from the womb by name, to love us, to die for us, to reveal Himself to us, and to call us down from our self made trees we believe will give us the advantage. His great love looks past the visible sins as well as the ones we keep hidden. When He calls our name and invites us to know Him, we can either reject Him or we can embrace Him and His payment for sin. If we choose to embrace Him, He comes home to our hearts, radically changing our lives.  It is when we feel the most lost, the most unseen, the most unheard, and the most unredeemable, that Jesus calls our name. Those feelings were given to us to let us know we have needs--the need to be seen, the need to be known, and the need to be loved. Those needs and every other need we have were designed to drive us to Him who can meet them. 
Our significance is found in Christ and in the gifting He gives us to serve others. We want to be sure our own biases don't get in the way of our seeking and offering the love of Christ to sinners in need of a loving, life changing God who sees and knows names. The "tax collectors"--those we might view as enemies, those we might avoid seeing because we are angry, those we might overlook because their sin makes us uncomfortable, those we think beneath us are the very ones Christ may use us to be His voice calling another's name. As His skin representatives He desires for us to reach out to the lost, to fellowship with the invisible, and to disciple baby believers, looking past their pasts, envisioning what they can become in the hands of a holy, powerful God. We don't want to lose those trying to catch a glimpse of God because they remain invisible and unheard by us. We don't want to lose people because we have never given them the opportunity to live down a past because we prejudged them. In the light of the bigness of our God aren't we all  Zacchaeus's?
I praise God for the change in Zacchaeus. and I can't help but think Zacchaeus, the wee little man, walked a bit taller the day Jesus invited Himself to dinner. When those old feelings return and lies from my past cause me to shrink in shame, I can cling to that the truth that the Jesus who knew Zacchaeus' name also knows mine. Just like He sought Zacchaeus out, He is continually seeking me. Because He knows me, and has called me by name, I can square my shoulders, lift my head, and walk out the truth that I, too, have been changed from one who was seeking to see and to one who is seen to  and whose heart is full enough to give.  

Underneath the Door performed by Michael Card in the album Scribbling in the Sand: The Best of Michael Card

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!