Being Stressed = Having Value, an Erroneous Equation
Updated: Aug 23, 2022
How to Break Up with Your Anxious Life
Meeting the Need for Value
When I was 28 years old, God spoke a word to me about my value that completely changed my life.
I was married, the mother of a beautiful 2-year-old daughter, and working my dream job as the Editor in Chief of a local parenting magazine that didn’t pay very well. So I was doing that 20-hour-a-week job with only eight hours a week of childcare, working during nap times, and living on a diet of coffee, Oreos, Diet Coke, my daughter’s lunch crusts, and whatever homemade meal I cooked at night to impress my husband. I went to the optometrist because I thought I needed new glasses. The doctor, suppressing a smile, said there was nothing wrong with my eyes. I was seeing spots and having blurred vision because I was exhausted.
At that time, my husband had graphed our major life expenses and his projected income over the next seven years. The goal of the spread sheet was to determine when and if I could quit working, and when and if we could afford to have another child. We agreed that I wouldn’t quit until I was three months pregnant, when it was absolutely necessary and I had earned a little bit longer.
One day, after leaving my daughter at home with Grandma, I was driving my little white Volkswagen to work. I was thinking about ordinary things, and a thought rang out in my head:
“You don’t have to be stressed out to be valuable.”
It was so clear and so outside of my current train of thought that I actually turned my head to see where it came from. I believed almost immediately that it was God speaking, because this simple statement penetrated to the very marrow of my life’s present crises, as God’s powerful voice always does.
I had lots of rational reasons to be working, but at that particular time in my life, what was actually driving me was not rationality, but fear. And not financial fear: the fear that I would be worthless if I stopped pushing myself so hard. I was in bondage to an identity based totally on proving that I could do it all. I remember thinking thoughts like, “If I can’t make this work, I am just a big, fat baby.”
One thing I’ve learned about Jesus is that he gives me names (see previous blogs in this series) but he never calls me names. The enemy calls me “fool,” “loser,” and “big baby.” But God, my Comforter and good Father, has purposeful names for me: Beloved and Bridgebuilder. And also pet names for me: “sweetheart,” “daughter,” and sometimes – firmly but kindly – “babe.” His voice sounds like something between a wise, affectionate grandpa who protects me, and a kind husband who has to soothe the nerves of his neurotic-but-lovable bride.
When he spoke in my Volkswagen, it settled my nerves, which had long been frayed. I heard the ten words almost audibly, but in my Spirit I heard more: “Sweetie, I love you so much. You’re worth so much to me. It’s okay to stop running so hard.”
My friend Kelly had a similar come-to-Jesus moment years ago, when she realized that God would love her no less if all she did for the rest of her life was sit on the couch. She was comforted by that. And I think that’s probably true. But the trick is, my friend didn’t decide to just sit on the couch being loved and listening to Jesus; she also had to live out her purpose, as we all do. Likewise, though, I did quit my job as a result of what God spoke in my car a week later, I still had to balance as a wife, mom, and eventually church leader. I didn’t just go lay down in a corner, feeling loved.
Some simple definitions that might help make the distinction between living out our purpose and hustling for worthiness, a phrase coined by Brene Brown that I adore:
Value is what you are worth, and who you are made for.
Purpose is what you were made to do.
As they say in the antiques market, something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. In your case and mine, you are worth the life and death of Christ. God was willing to pay for you with the death of his son, to make you his legitimate child with an eternal inheritance; likewise, Jesus was willing to pay for you with his own death and suffering, to make you his own brother/sister/friend. God proved his love for you in this, while you were still a sinner (spiritually, sitting on the couch at best, but more likely doing something worse, like hurting yourself and others), Christ died for you. (Romans 5:8). That kind of love and ascribed value cannot be lost.
Purpose, on the other hand, is what gets you off the couch and into the game of life. We are multi-purpose people. All of us share the common purpose to love God, ourselves and others; we are Lover by name. We are also made to bear the fruit of the Spirit (lots more on this next week). Our talents can point us to some things we are made to do, in the way I might say about my leggy daughter that she was “born to run.” Our purposes are also evidenced by what brings us joy. Purpose is also often born out of pain: from our own wounds, we work to heal the wounds of the world.
At 44, I now know both my value and my purpose, but like Kelly, I have to remember which one serves the other. I have to believe in how much God loves me so that I can pause my purpose-driven activities in order to, yes, go back to sitting on my couch. Because of God’s message to me, I can be still and hear, “Hello, Beloved. Rest up. Enjoy ‘Downton Abby’ and a cuddle with your kids,” rather than listen to the enemy say, “Hey, you big loser. Go back to your laptop and try to book another speaking engagement.” If the enemy tries the later, I tell him to stuff it.
So. What about you?
Do you know that you don’t have to be stressed out to be valuable?
Culture has a way of measuring our worth by how long we can endure a punishing schedule, and the result is an anxious life. But God meets your need for a name, eternal and infinite value, and purpose. This week, I offer a two-part exercise:
1. Write down some of your multiple purposes. What were you “made to do”?
2. Pay attention to what makes you feel worthy, and what makes you feel weak, worthless, foolish or not-enough this week. What unconscious expectations do you hold for yourself?
I hope you’ll stick with me, because I want you to get free, friends, and there’s lots more to say on this subject! Be you bravely this week, and we’ll talk again soon.