(The following is a letter that I gave not long ago to my daughter, Emma. She read it alone, and then sat on my lap while we read through it together. Emma is as alien in this world as I am, and is not at all spared from its’ attempt to deceive her into thinking she is far less than what God has made of her. It throws mud at her, so to speak, and it happens a lot at school. For once, she did poorly on a test, and it really stunned her—she wept and cried, “I stink!” I share this with you in the hope it will assist you in your day-to-day life. This world is not worthy of you, but perhaps the image you have of yourself has been muddied. – Ralph)
To my Emma:
You had a difficult day yesterday, and I wanted to write you a note about it.
I have two thoughts: I was sad—I hurt with you. I know what it feels like to be measured or challenged, and to not do well. It feels like somebody just pointed out that you’re dumb or not talented enough or not as good as you should be, and that’s painful.
But it’s a lie. And it’s a really bad lie, too.
Emma, my Beauty, God has made you spot-on perfect—just right. He has made you exactly the way He has planned for the life He has planned for you—no mistakes. You match up perfectly. However, neither the tests at school, nor the tests of relationships, or of sports will always show you how perfectly designed and made you are. Sometimes they will, but sometimes they won’t. Yesterday they didn’t. But nothing has really changed—you’re still just right. Ask God—He’ll tell you.
The lie the devil works with and wants us to believe, Emma, is that how we do in life is how we are—even who we are. So, if most everyone likes us and we get good grades and we do well in sports, well, then, we must be good. How wonderful. But, if there are people who actually dislike us, if we occasionally get bad grades, and if we’re not good at every sport, well, then, we must be bad. But is that true? No. Neither example is true.
None of that stuff has anything to do with who we really are. But, if the devil is successful in getting us to believe the lie that how we do reveals who we are, then we will live and strive to be good and do good in the eyes of people as our highest goal. That will make us slaves to what people think, and we’ll have to always perform just right for them. And that will prevent us from ever knowing who we really are according to God, because we’ll be busy being somebody we think is good.
Satan’s lie will own us.
But not you. What God thinks about you is accurate. Remember what He thinks? You have become His daughter in the deepest sense—He has even made you like Himself. You feel His feelings, you have His thoughts, you know His desires. Incredible! You are a holy girl, a royal daughter of His—no one in this world is actually any better than you, Emma.
I know that you have confusing thoughts and experiences and feelings about who you are. Nuts! That happens a lot to me, too, and I don’t like it. But that’s why you and I go back to the Truth—and that’s Jesus. What He did for you and me on the cross, what He did for us in His resurrection, and what He did for you and me in choosing us(!) makes us incredible. No kidding!
So when we don’t do well in some sort of worldly test, it does not tell us who we are. We get who we are from God. Now, if you believe God made you to be a mathematician or a baseball player, there’s some work you can do. But you don’t do the work so you can become either of those things, you would do it because you believe that’s who you are and what you’re to do. If God convinces you that you’re going to be a rancher(!), then believe it and work at it with all your heart! And you can figure that baseball won’t be very important to a rancher. You might play at it, but you might not be the best at it. Would that matter? No. Not if God made you a rancher. Might people laugh at the way you throw a ball or swing a bat? Yeah, maybe. But that’s okay, since you’re not a baseball player. See? You know God, and He tells you who you are.
My second thought: I was very proud of you yesterday—even more today. Here’s why: you went through something like what Jesus went through, and you’re okay. When Jesus was nailed to the cross and then hung up for all to see, you know that He was dying for our sins. But something else was happening too, and it was awful—terrible. Jesus was being misidentified and rejected by a lot of people all around Him, people He really loved. Some of those people thought He was a deceiver, a liar, and others thought He was misguided or stupid to do what He was doing. “What an idiot!” they might have said. And yet He willingly did it for them, too.
Imagine the pressure Jesus must have faced from all those people. “Just tell us you’re not the Messiah, and we’ll let you go!” “We’ll stop hurting you if you’ll simply say you’re only a man, and not God!” “Think of your parents and the embarrassment and pain you’re putting them through—give up this foolishness!” But Jesus knew who He was. Because He did, He went willingly to the cross. He wanted to! He endured that pain because He knew who He was, and what would happen after the cross! Lots of people misidentified Him and pleaded with Him to be someone else, someone different, but He couldn’t do it because He knew.
He knew about you too, Emma.
Before either of us was born, He chose us, knowing that would mean that we would have incredible gifts and talents and thoughts and feelings and joys because we would be sons and daughters of God. And he knew that we would sometimes be terribly misidentified and mistreated. In fact, Jesus told us to figure that sometimes our life would be like being nailed to a cross and rejected, just as He was. Might as well expect it. If the world mistook and mistreated Jesus, it will do the same to us. Yesterday, it did it to you. I hope you can understand why—it’s not your fault—you’re being identified with Jesus.
I am your very pleased dad, Emma. I see you! I know who you are. It pains me, but sort of reassures me when I see the world misidentify and then mistreat you. Even in that way, you really are a lot like Jesus. It angers me when I see the devil throwing his lie at you, and I want to beat him up. The best way for me to do that is to pray for you (and I do), and to tell you who you really already are, so you can withstand the misidentification and mistreatment you will go through.
When I look at you, I am proud of God! He has made you brilliantly and brilliant. You’re obviously His, even while you’re mine.
I’m yours, too.