The Freedom of Being A Nobody

Repeat after me: I am a beautiful snowflake. I am a unique individual. There is no one else like me. I am significant. I am important to the world. I have important things to offer the world.

This is kind thing we hear everyday, right? If you watch Sesame Street for more than three minutes you’ll hear some version of the above. An affirmation of self-worth. An affirmation of importance. An affirmation of uniqueness. We’re constantly being told how valuable we are, and how much we have to offer the world. And social media isn’t helping us either. Everyone, myself included, feels like they need to keep updating their status. It’s like we feel this constant compulsion to say, “Hey, hey! I’m still here, and I’m still really important!” It makes us feel good when people “like” or retweet our status updates.

To be honest, I’m getting kind of tired of trying to remind the world that I’m important. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer here. We are important in God’s eyes. He created us in his image, which gives us value in his eyes. My sense of self-worth should come from the fact that God made me, saved me, and adopted me.

But so often my sense of self-worth comes from what other people think about me. How many people liked my status update? How many people complimented me on my sermon? Do people think I’m doing the right thing by homeschooling my kids? Should I be eating more organic food and investigating various vaccinations? What did [insert person] think of my worship leading, or small group leading, or prayer meeting leading? It’s exhausting to keep feeding my need for the approval of others. It takes a lot of work to maintain a cool persona without looking like I’m trying too hard to be cool.

So what’s the alternative? To embrace the freedom of being a nobody.

As I read Psalm 90 this morning, I was reminded that, in the grand scheme of things, I’m a nobody. Psalm 90:3-4 says:

You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.

In the grand scheme of things, my life is dust. A vapor. A mist that quickly passes. A flicker of a blip on the radar of eternity. Billions of people have come and gone before me, most of them unknown by the rest of the world. Billions will probably come after me, going from birth to death in relative obscurity.

Compared the eternal God, I am a nobody. Compared to the great God who reigns over all the nations, I am insignificant. In fact, everyone is insignifcant. Everyone is a nobody. And that’s a wonderful thing! If everyone is a nobody, I can quit comparing myself to other people. I can quit trying to be the king of the nobodies. I don’t need the approval of others to feel good about myself.

My approval rating is rooted squarely in God. It’s not rooted in whether or not people notice me. It’s not determined by whether or not people will remember me. Embracing “nobodiness” is a really freeing thing. I’m free to simply serve the Lord, without caring if people approve of me. I’m free to embrace the lowly servant tasks that nobody notices. I’m free to parent according to my God-given convictions, and to homeschool/public school/private school/unschool. When I embrace the magnificent greatness of God, I’m free to quit caring about my standing with other people.

So let’s all be nobodies together. Let delight in the freedom that comes from not caring what others think. Let’s remember that we are dust, and that God is the only “somebody”.

What If You Got All The Smartest Men In The World Together…

Dude, this party is cuh-razy! Check out that corner over there. Must be nerd corner. That guy in the wheelchair, that’s Stephen Hawking. Apparently he has, like a four digit IQ. See that dude with the mustache? That’s Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City. Oh my goodness, is that…that’s Albert Einstein! Man his hair really is crazy. I wonder what those three geniuses are talking about. I probably wouldn’t even be able to follow along. Those guys are so smart, my brain would collapse if I listened to them for more than three minutes. Those are some greatly smart people (yeah, I know that’s an awkward sentence).

Woah, check out that huddle over there. That must be where the jocks hang out. There’s Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest athlete ever. Look at those diamond earrings he’s wearing! And there’s Stephen Strasburg, the pitching phenom for the Washington Nationals. If I’m not mistaken, that’s Cal Ripken. THE Cal Ripken. Iron Man himself. Oh, and wouldn’t you know, Michael Phelps. Boy, I’d like to hang out with those guys. There’s some serious athletic firepower in that group. Those are some greatly athletic people.

Now that’s odd. What’s that giant pile of books in the middle of room? It appears to be a massive pile of encyclopedias, in all sorts of different language. We’ve got Syrian encyclopedias, English encyclopedias, Medieval encyclopedias, religious encyclopedias, astronomy encyclopedias, and a whole lot more. There are also a bunch of famous, history-altering books. We’ve got Thomas Paine, Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, Sun Tzu, Chairman Mao, Karl Marx. It’s crazy! There is a lot of knowledge and ideas piled up here. A great amount of knowledge.

And then there’s that corner over there. There’s nothing in it. Wait, there’s slip of paper with something written on it. On it is written Psalm 145:3

Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. (Psalm 145:3 ESV)

Turns out that if you put all the smart guys in the world together, you’ll come to the end of their greatness. You can search it out. If you collect all the athletes of the world, you’ll come to the end of their strength. If you take every book ever written, including all the encyclopedias and dictionaries, you’ll come to an end of their great knowledge.

But you’ll never come to the end of God’s greatness. It is unsearchable, inscrutable, and unfathomable. Our God is great. All knowledge is his. All power is his. All strength is his. The nations? A drop in a bucket. The A-list celebrities? Dust in the wind. The people of power? A vapor.

Our God is unsearchable in his greatness.

Can You Outgrow God?

When I was a boy, I loved to climb trees. There was one particular tree in my yard that was a favorite for aerial acrobatics. With dazzling originality, we called it “The Climbing Tree.” It was perfect. There were branches just the right size for boyish hands to wrap around and perches that looked like they’d been made to cradle an eight year old boy. The limbs started low to the ground, so it was easy to access for even short legs. And there were a few spots just the right height so an adventurous soul could swing out into space and drop nimbly to the ground without harm. The Climbing Tree was a boy’s best friend.

It was only in my teenager years that I discovered my climbing tree was a bush. A largish bush, but a bush nonetheless. I could see my boyhood “perches” at eye level. The branches were smaller than my wrists. With a modest vertical leap of two or three inches, a chap could touch even the limbs that had once seemed so dizzyingly high. What had once seemed enchanting and so much bigger than me now seemed sad, small, and slightly pathetic. I had outgrown my boyhood entertainment.

It’s impossible to go through life without similar experiences – but thankfully not in relationship to God! No matter how much you change, no matter what you accomplish or experience in life, you will never outgrow God.

He will never be smaller than you once remembered. He will never be left behind by the speed at which your seasons of life change. No matter how deep your knowledge of God, he will always be more grand, more glorious, more awe-inspiring than you have even begun to fathom.  Though he is not unknowable, he is certainly indescribable. And no matter how much your life changes – another child, a new job, increasing strains on the budget, relocation to a new home – you will never surpass God’s ability to care and provide for you.

Christian, you will never outgrow your God.


How To Overcome Grasshopper Syndrome

Have you ever experienced “Grasshopper Syndrome”?  I have.  The Israelites did too:

“And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”  Numbers 13:33

God told Moses to send 12 spies to spy out the promised land before the Israelites entered.  Except for Caleb and Joshua the spies came back shaking in their boots. Caleb believed Israel could take the land. But the 10 spies gave a negative report. They looked at the Nephilim and then they looked at themselves. The Nephilim were bad boys. Warriors. And when the Israelites compared themselves to them they felt like grasshoppers about to get squashed.

Their problem wasn’t the Nephilim.  Their problem was they forgot to look at God. God had promised to give them the land. But instead of focusing on God, they looked at the size of their problem and their own smallness and weakness.

We can do the same thing. We can look at our gargantuan sins and feel like grasshoppers facing King Kong.  Our circumstances can look like Nephilim to us.  Marriage problems, challenges with our children, an unsaved teen, a difficult coworker, financial needs – when we fix our gaze on these things and compare them to our own pitiful resources, we can feel like grasshoppers.

The way to overcome our “grasshopper syndrome” is to lift our gaze above our challenges to our great God on his throne.

Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.  On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.  They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness.  Psalm 145:3-6

God is so much greater than our sins and problems – his greatness is infinite – “unsearchable.”  He does “mighty acts”, “wondrous works”and “awesome deeds.”  These are what we should declare and meditate on.

Imagine a child who suddenly bumps into the neighborhood bully on the street. The child trembles as he looks up at the bully’s massive hulk and snarling face. But suddenly the child sees his father walking up behind the bully. Now he’s no longer intimidated by the bully, because he’s shifted his gaze from the bully to his dad.

What are you focused on today? Your sin? Your circumstances? Or your God?

If you are feeling like a grasshopper today, say with David:

For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall.  Psalm 18:29

By our God we can run against troops, jump over walls, drive out Nephilim and conquer our grasshopper syndrome.  Lift up your eyes to see the greatness, majesty, power and glory of Jesus today.  He’s reigning over all.