The hardest thing to believe is not that God has simply been there for all eternity, before clocks and pelicans and stars winking from galaxies away.
The hardest thing in theology to believe is not the existence of heaven and hell, or predestination, or how that tiny Jewish boy nursing at Mary’s breast is simultaneously feeding the ravens when they cry.
The hardest thing to believe is that you are
--more than a cog in the vast machine of the universe.
--more than a nanosecond blip on the screen of time.
--more than a meaningless sack of blood and flesh and shriveled dreams.
“All men matter. You matter. I matter. It’s the hardest thing in theology to believe.”
G. K. Chesterton
Picking up the Pieces
A few weeks ago, while I was leading a men’s retreat in east Texas, a young man came up to me after I had been speaking. He told me about his time in prison. His years on the street. The untimely death of his father and the violent murder of his mother. What meth had done to his brain, to his life, and to the people around him. He had lost more than many of us will ever possess. He was in recovery now, trying his best to stay clean, and to pick up the pieces of the shattered life around him.
He thanked me for something I’d said. It was unplanned, one of those thoughts that drop into your head from heaven’s hand because he knows there’s someone listening who desperately needs to hear it.
I’d said this:
“You matter to God.
Every man here matters to him.
In fact, you matter so much that God was willing to die to make every one of you his own.”
It was just what this young man needed to hear because it is the hardest thing in life to believe.
The Unseen Masks of Parents on Halloween Night
Today happens to be Halloween. This evening my wife and I will sit on our front porch, passing out candy to boys and girls dressed up as Yoda, skeletons, and Batman. Behind them will stand their moms and dads, smiling, reminding their children to say, “Trick or treat,” and “thank you.”
Many of these parents will be wearing masks as well, the kind you can’t buy, but which cost everything.
The mask of happiness, behind which lurks a ballooning desperation to save their dying marriage. The mask of success, which conceals the chasm of emptiness in their souls. The mask of good moms and dads enjoying a night with their children, hiding the frantic busyness of their lives as they check their phones between houses, their bodies present but their minds everywhere but with their children.
They all have one thing in common, with each other and with us: they are trying to justify their existence. Be happy. Be successful. Be better than your coworkers. Look better than the woman your ex-husband married. Make more money than your high school classmates. Do whatever it takes to convince others, and yourself, that you deserve to exist. That your life and achievements are worth something. That you matter.
@@None of us are immune from the ongoing addiction to justify our existence.@@
An Ocean of Meaning in a Drop of Blood
All the while, hidden in the most unlikely of places, is proof positive that all our own efforts are in vain. We can never do enough, be enough, to prove to ourselves and others that we matter. The proof that we matter is found outside ourselves.
It’s hidden in a man, hanging from a cross, blood dripping from a thousand wounds, opening his mouth to say, “I’m here because you matter.”
You matter so much to God that he would rather die than lose you. You matter so much to Jesus that no suffering was too much, no deprivation too burdensome, no punishment too severe for him to endure to have you as his own.
The cross of the crucified God trumpets forth the truth that you matter. The CEO and the beggar, the homeschooling mom and the stripper, the meth addict and the preacher so sick of his job he gets drunk every Saturday night. All of you matter.
It’s the hardest thing in theology to believe. And it’s the sweetest message in all of creation to believe. @@Every drop of Christ’s blood contains an ocean of mercy and meaning for you.@@ It declares that the ruler of the universe, the very one who knit you together in your mother’s womb, has singled you out to say, “You I love. You I die for. You I adopt as my own child. You matter, now and always, because you are everything to me.”