Perfect in Weakness (2 Cor. 12:9)

I am inadequate. Praise God!

This beautiful truth came as such a relief to me as I was out in the garden, thinking (read: worrying) about the upcoming school year. As excited as I am to begin work as a library tech in a brand new school, I have been freaking out about beginning the school year amidst a global pandemic.

Face masks will be required– for which I am very grateful. Social distancing will be enforced– but what in the world does that look like when checking out books to students?

“Here. Step up to the desk while I step away. Okay, now I’ll grab your books (now breathing “your air” from two seconds ago) while you step away. ‘Kay. I’ll take another step back while you grab your stuff. And, next.” Shall we call it the COVID Tango? Or the COVID Shuffle, if you will. The COVID COVID Shuffle.

Photo Courtesy of Free Photo Library on WordPress

I have been freaking out about this. Not wanting to think about it, but also (with just a few weeks until school starts) feeling that I really need to think about it. If I just keep thinking (again, worrying) about it, I WILL FIGURE IT OUT. 

I’ve got this, right?

I mean, sure, I was convinced, when I first got hired, that the Lord had given me the job and would have to take over. But that was back when I thought that my biggest challenge would be working with high-schoolers. So, yeah, God had it, but also I kind of did.

But, of course, I didn’t.

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness .”
(Photo Courtesy of PxHere)

It’s funny how the greater challenge has increased my urgency, my need to “figure things out.” Because even though the crisis situation has strengthened my knowledge that I cannot do this job alone, somewhere, in the back of my mind, I have also felt that if I don’t “pull it together” on my own, there’s something wrong with me. Like, I can say that I am inadequate, but I have trouble actually believing it. I mean, I can feel it, but I also feel like I don’t really have permission to be inadequate.

As the Lord was speaking to me about this tonight, He showed me that the problem isn’t that I am inadequate. The problem is that I think I am addequate. In fact, I think that this false confidence (even when I don’t really feel confident) can be a major stumbling block.

When my feelings of indequacy come up against the lie that I should have it all together, I think that there is something terribly wrong with me when I don’t. So I waste a lot of time worrying and trying to “get it together.”

In fact, there is something terribly wrong when I think that I can “figure things out.” Because I wasn’t created to walk through life without God.

So, yes. I am inadequate. And I praise God for that, because, bearing this truth in mind, I am in a much better place to surrender to Him. His grace is sufficient. (And, as far as worrying goes, much more efficient.)

In-Flight Entertainment

Standing at 6’7, Jeff always made advanced travel arrangements for his trips. After all, for someone as tall as him, the seats on buses and trains could get pretty cramped. Today, Jeff was learning that planes, also, could be problematic. Stopping the stewardess, who was carting the in-flight meal down the aisle, Jeff inquired about the lack of space.

“I called ahead and was told there would be plenty of leg room,” Jeff pointed out. “But this space is not designed for a tall man.”

“Leg room?” The stewardess chuckled nervously. “No sir, I’m sorry,” she said, pointing to the evening entree, black-eyed peas. “There are plenty of legumes.

The Value Game (and other lies I’ve told myself)

I was scrolling through Instagram a few weeks ago when I saw that a friend of mine had just gotten engaged. I was so happy for her! This young man has been a huge blessing in her life, and now they’re going to get married. Yes, I was happy for her. But the truth is, a part of me felt a little more than a twinge of jealousy. She was now on her way to lifelong commitment, while I hadn’t dated anyone since my mutual breakup with the last guy I dated. That was over two years ago.

As I reflected on my response to my friend’s engagement, I realized that I see engagement as a status symbol. A prize. A “level-up.” In fact, I’ve established a mental hierarchy based on relationship status. In some part of my mind, I believe that, the deeper I go in a relationship, the more valuable I become. Like value is being incrementally poured into me when I find out someone likes me, wants to date me or be my boyfriend. Conversely, if I’m not dating anyone, it is because I am less valuable—less valuable than others who are dating people. Less valuable than I myself would be, if only I were in a relationship.

The Hierachy of Value: Each step is a “level up”

The lie that I’ve bought (and taught myself) is that I become more and more valuable based on how interested a guy is. If no one is interested in me, then I’m just on the sidelines. Worthless. Oh, sure, I can try to make up for the loss in other areas of my life. Succeed in school. Get a great job. Publish an article or two. But, at least in the area of relationships and physical attraction, I get a goose egg. (And, for the record, I do not like eggs.)

When I base my self-worth on how guys feel about me, what I’m actually doing is objectifying them. I’m not talking about pornography, here. I’m talking about using guys to make myself feel more valuable… deriving my worth from them and operating under the all-too-common (but crazy) belief that I increase and decrease in value based on how guys feel about me. When I use another person as a means to feeling more valuable, I am treating the other person as nothing more than an object—something I use to meet my own needs.             

Objectifying

I have to admit, I did a ton of objectifying in my relationship with my first boyfriend. Let’s call him Lance. Lance was the first boy I dated and he was also the first guy to tell me he liked me. And when he did, I was ecstatic. Not only did someone actually like me, but I on my way to having my first real date! I was excited to date Lance, but the embarrassing truth is that I was also really excited to date anyone, at all.

I felt like I was finally on my way to being normal. (Take that, Goose Egg!) After sitting on the sidelines throughout most of my teenage years, I was so excited when Lance asked me out, during my sophomore year of college. After years of doubting myself, it turned out that I could be likable, after all. Someone was attracted to me!

Boom. Level up. For the first time, I was in the game and climbing the ladder of value. Lance and I had our first date on February 7th and date number two was Valentine’s Day—how romantic is that? By March 4th, we were boyfriend and girlfriend, or, as Lance called it, “going steady.” In May, he told me he loved me. Wow! Onto Level 4!                 

Lance and I continued to date throughout the next two years, riding a roller coaster of ups and downs in our relationship. As he stopped trying so hard to impress me, he also began to hint that I wasn’t attractive enough for him. He started dropping hints about my weight, hair color and clothing choices. It was weird because even though Lance had asked me out, he was now making it clear that I was not his ideal girl. And it hurt. A lot. So I tried to become what he wanted. Changed up my style. Exercised more than ever before. I looked fantastic, but I felt like I wasn’t measuring up.

Lance wasn’t measuring up to my expectations, either. And I had some pretty weird (and harmful) expectations. I had objectified him from the start of our relationship and I had it in my head that he was going to make me feel valuable. That meant he needed to prove his love for me by doing things like staying up late to talk, even if he was exhausted. Or let me win at board games. Or go along with my “joke” that I was always right.

  As it turned out, Lance struggled with objectification in a different way.

Objectified

I found out about Lance’s pornography addiction after almost two years of dating. We had been discussing the possibility of marriage for some time, but the Lord put it on my heart that, before I officially agreed, I needed to ask Lance whether he struggled with pornography. I asked as a formality—one last thing to check off the list before officially committing to the idea of marriage. I was confident that Lance would say no.

Instead, he confessed.

I was hurt. I was angry. And I was completely devastated.

Everything I had believed about our relationship was a lie, which meant that I wasn’t nearly as valuable as I had hoped. I wasn’t so special to Lance, after all. I was one of many women and—apparently, not pretty enough to stave off his desire for others.

Part of me knew that was a lie—Lance’s habit had nothing to do with me or my physical appearance– but I also kept feeding myself that lie, anyway. And with it, the conclusions followed. Even when you tried your very hardest, you weren’t enough. There’s no point in trying. You were right all along. Other girls are likable and attractive. But you are not enough. That’s why he wanted to change you.

Not only had I lost the value I thought I gained at the beginning of our relationship. I was worse off than before. At least, back then, I knew where I stood. Now, I had been deceived into believing that I was worth more.

The Truth

But the truth is—I was. I was worth much more than I had hoped at the highest pinnacle of my relationship. My value was—is—so much more than what a guy thinks of me. It doesn’t fluctuate based on the whims or preferences of the guys in my life.

My value is a value I didn’t acquire for myself and can’t change, regardless of what others thought of me.

It’s the value God placed in me, simply by making me.

I belong to Jesus and He gazes at me with such strong, beautiful desire. He knows the very best of me so much more than I am able to acknowledge, and knows the worst things about me that I can’t bring myself to admit.

The truth is, Jesus considers me to be His valuable treasure, His beloved one worth fighting for and waiting for. I am His treasure.

The truth is, my value is not subjective. I do not become more valuable when someone likes me or approves of me. My value doesn’t magically float away when I disappoint someone, fail to meet their standards, or earn their approval.

Does that diminish my value? Nope.

What about my zits? NO.

What about the fact that NO ONE ever tags me on those fun little Instagram bingos? (Okay, I know this sounds ridiculous, but it gets to me.) But still, no, this does NOT change the value that God has already placed in me.

What about my very own sin? Maybe just a little?

No. Here’s the kicker. Romans 8 says that even our own sin cannot separate us from the love of God. (And that’s also where our value comes from.)

Isn’t that amazing? The love of God has nothing to do with what we’re doing right and everything to do with what Jesus Christ already did right. We can no more diminish our value than we can increase it.

The Challenge

I think, for me, the question isn’t whether my value is variable. The question is whether I am going to choose to continue believing the lies that I’ve taught myself.

One of these lies is that I am not worth taking care of. Basic tasks—showering, washing my face, brushing my teeth, often feel like hurdles to me. Wastes of time. Meaningless.

Part of that is because I chose not to prioritize these tasks, from a young age. Part of it has been because my efforts have felt meaningless. I tried, when I was dating Lance. I wasn’t good enough.

So, do I value myself enough to take care of myself? Whether I do or do not absolutely doesn’t change my real and inherent value, but it certainly can help to cloud my vision.

Do I consider myself important enough to take ten minutes away from my “busy” schedule (which involves a lot of wasted time, anyway) to wash my face a couple times a day? Brush and floss my teeth? Put on chapstick?

Clean my room?

I have neglected myself in so many ways. But, the Lord is teaching me to say no to the lie that I do not matter.

Yes, I do.

Yes, I am valuable.

Today, I prioritized brushing and flossing—twice. Oil pulling. Twice. Washing my face, twice. Getting in a full workout. Cleaning my room (including making my bed). Doing a load of laundry. Drying my hands after washing them. Putting on deodorant. Changing my clothes. Putting on chapstick. Rubbing on some lotion.

And the Lord is showing me how. He’s showing me to reward myself for doing these “small” things. Even if it seems silly. I’ve found that the rewards really help give me the incentive to keep doing the things I need to do to take care of myself. They help me to reframe my attitude so that, rather than being angry with myself when I “fail” to perform (because even here, expectation creeps in), I can applaud myself and celebrate when I do the things the Lord is calling me to.

Because, simple as these tasks are, I know the Lord is calling me to them. And as He leads me to obedience, I am learning to value myself, to believe the truth that He has made me valuable.

He has made you valuable. You are worth so much to Him, not because you reached your target weight. Not because you are in a relationship. Not because you are single, but because of who He is. As Creator and Savior, He has the credentials to determine just how much we mean to Him. We meant enough for Him to come down and beat death on our behalf.

Sounds pretty valuable to me.

Why not spend some time with the Lord and ask Him about your identity?

From Korea to California: Erin and Luke’s Story

After tying the knot in front of Erin’s family and friends in Korea, Erin and Luke Durain enjoyed their first year of married life, during which they planned a second wedding ceremony for their loved ones in America. On July 18th, 2019, the newlyweds, together with friends and family, gathered at the historic Orcutt Ranch in Los Angeles, as Erin and Luke vowed their lifelong commitment to one another.

The Procession

As Erin prepared to stun the guests and groom in her wedding gown, Luke put the finishing touches on the reception area and directed guests to the outdoor wedding area. 

Greetings abounded as longtime friends became reacquainted and strangers introduced themselves to one another. Then the wedding party began its procession. 

In addition to the traditional bride’s maid and groomsmen, Erin and Luke also introduced “groom’s-women” to the ceremony. While Erin’s bridesmaids styled in flowy lavender dresses, Luke’s groomswomen wore buttery yellow gowns, complementing Luke’s cheerful bowtie and suspenders.

Then it was Erin’s turn to make her memorable journey down the aisle. The guests rose to their feet in anticipation as the bride made her way to her beloved. Elegant and radiant, Erin dazzled in a floor-length ensemble with a sweetheart neckline, delicate lace sleeves and bodice. Atop her head, she wore an embroidered gauze veil attached to a beautifully-crafted tiara. She styled her long locks in simple curls, embracing a lovely, natural hairstyle, as befitting her verdant surroundings.

Erin joined Luke before the altar, a simple archway interwoven with white floral arrangements, as the officiant began the ceremony. First, he described the famous “study date” that lasted thirteen hours and led to Luke and Erin’s first official date. Then, he reflected on the Durains’ strengths as a couple, describing their ability to love each other, while also leaving space for individual growth. Moreover, he noted, Erin and Luke recognize that “Love shared is not diminished.” Rather than falling into the trap of excluding others in their relationship, the two willingly continue to cultivate friendships outside of the partnership.

The Promises

The officiant, after making his introductory remarks, invited the bride and groom to proclaim their covenant before God, with the vows they had written. Luke and Erin each mingled poetry with concrete examples in their promises to one another.

Luke described Erin as “the woman of [his] dreams,” and went on to identify tangible ways in which he would model Christ’s love in their married life. Luke promised to “rely on God to give love,” and to love Erin delicately, like a flower. He stated that he would not “use his imperfections as an excuse for hurting [her].” Luke also committed himself to love and value Erin, for all of her– not just because of her lovely appearance. (“By the way,” he remarked in a tender aside, “you are very beautiful.”)

In her soft, sweet voice, Erin opened her heart to Luke in the presence of the guests. She told about her life before meeting Luke, about the ways that painful parts of her past threatened to quench her hope of a healthy, loving relationship. But, she explained, things changed when she met Luke. She felt at peace, and even hopeful, about sharing herself with another person. Incredibly, she found that reality “was far better than any of [her] dreams combined.” Erin committed to “see through the lens of the Creator,” and “walk with [Luke] from winter to spring.” Powerfully, she concluded with a promise to “choose love over fear each and every day.”

The two concluded their vows with promises of exclusivity and choice—from that day forth. After their kiss as (American) husband and wife, Luke and Erin boogied down the aisle hand-in-hand, beneath showers 0f rose petals.

Following the ceremony, the guests meandered over to the reception area while the joyful couple hurried away to take wedding photos.

The Tacos

Attendees were invited to sign the guestbook and enjoy appetizers as they awaited the return of the bride and groom. Anticipation grew (as did the mouthwatering scent of the wedding feast: endless tacos with a scrumptious array of toppings) as the guests made their way to the reception area. 

The guests feasted on tacos and company as the bride and groom made their way around the tables, extending heartfelt greetings to their family and friends. Then they slipped away for more photographs with the bridal party, before returning a bit later for their “official” entrance.

The Toasts

Lydia emceed the evening’s festivities, welcoming Erin and Luke as husband and wife. As the dregs of daylight slipped away, friends and family raised glasses of sparkling cider in honor of the bride and groom.

On the groom’s side, toasts resounded with gratitude, ruminating on the joy that Erin brings to Luke’s life. As the groom’s older sister noted, his characteristic smile has only grown since he met Erin. Similarly, Erin’s younger sister, Michelle, thanked Luke. “Now I don’t worry anymore,” she said. “You are the perfect match for Erin.”

Warm memories flowed throughout the toasts, from the story of how Sara met Erin at a Deck the Haven event, to how Luke slipped into Erin’s circle at Fuller Theological. Lydia, with heartwarming humor, told about how she helped Erin tie her shoes, the first time they met. “Now,” Lydia said, “she has somebody in her life to tie her shoes for her.”

Luke, following-up Lydia’s remarks, wittily identified himself as “the shoe tie-er.” He went on to thank the Choi family and the Durain family, as well as the local friends of the bride and groom (“the California family”). Then Luke’s uncle rose to honor Luke’s mother, who single-handedly raised her six children! Although she was unable to attend the ceremony, she is an amazing mom who raised Luke to be the wonderful young man that he is. 

In the midst of the toasts, dessert was served. Guests could choose between red velvet and chocolate cupcakes, as well as berry-topped vanilla wedding cake. 

The Tango

Then it was time for the time-honored “first dance.” Under the warm moonlight, Erin and Luke spun, twirled and swayed to Sinatra’s crooning of “The Way You Look Tonight.” To the onlooker, the dance appeared perfectly choreographed—each step and lift perfectly timed and executed. For Erin and Luke, the motions were fluid improvisation: a metaphor, perhaps, of their relationship, which Erin describes as “a dance that leans into the dark and negative spaces of our stories, as well as stepping back out into a space of hope together.”

As the music played, the guests joined the newlyweds on the dance floor, grooving to hits like “What Makes You Beautiful,” by One Direction, and “Treasure,” by Bruno Mars. As the sweet evening melted to an end, Luke and Erin bid their adieus to their “California family,” preparing to set off for a new life together in Chicago. 

Complimentary Conundrum

For her birthday, Tina decided to avail herself of her free meal coupon at the local steakhouse. 

After enjoying a delicious prime rib meal and presenting the waiter with her coupon, Tina was shocked to receive a bill for $23.95.

Calling the waiter over, she reminded him of her coupon for a complimentary meal.

“Oh, you’re right,” he said. “Nice shirt.”