When we lived in Aberdeen, South Dakota, almost 20 years ago now, we were members of a United Methodist Church. Shannon taught 4th grade Sunday School with our good friend Cathy, and I taught 1st graders. In the room where I taught, a large bulletin board hung on the back wall. One of my responsibilities as a teacher was to cover the bulletin board with fun and inviting backgrounds for the kids to see. I do not remember the backgrounds I pinned to the board during those years— except for one. I distinctly remember the day I hung the design.
Protruding from the board, alongside a large paper apple, I stapled red pre-cut bulletin board letters with the words of Psalm 17:8…
It is curious why this memory keeps rising in my mind with this week’s why question, “Why am I so serious all the time?” As a mom and a Sunday school teacher, I felt the need to be serious all the time. I wanted my children and the kids I taught in Sunday School to know they were the apple of God’s eye. I wanted them to know they were dearly loved and special, but I thought I needed to be serious for them to understand.
I confess, I saw God’s great love for them but did not see it for myself. I remember standing at the bulletin board, staring at the words, wishing with all my heart that I could be the apple of God’s eye too. At the time, I didn’t think it was possible. I mistakenly thought God expected perfection from me, and I knew I was far from living a life void of mistakes. I was trying my best, but in my heart, I knew I was failing. Sadly, the love I believed was readily available for each child; I did not believe stood readily available for me. I think I was serious with the kids because, at the time, I mistakenly believed if they didn’t grasp God’s love as a child, they would end up feeling unloved and distant from God like me.
“Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here, while I go over there and pray.’ And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.’ And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.’”
The Garden of Gethsemane is serious.
John 19: 17-18
“So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.”
The Crucifixion is serious.
The seriousness of Jesus giving His life on our behalf can create a belief we must live seriously. But the cross is good news, not just for eternity, but for our life here and now. God does not simply tolerate us; He deeply loves us. He gave the gift of His Son.
In what Jesus did for us on the cross, God displays His great love. We do not have to stand before a bulletin board, facing the words of Psalm 17:8, wishing for God’s love, feeling desperate for Him to care for us. We do not need to live a life of perfection in our own strength, hoping we will win His heart if we are serious enough. We are not simply tolerated and put up with. In Jesus, we are His child, the apple of His eye.
Recognizing this truth allows us to live loved. Living loved changes everything. It does not mean life is perfect. It does not mean we are saved from difficulties and struggles. We are loved. No matter what happens, we can trust God, not because everything we experience is just the way we planned, but because we know we are loved and not alone.
Life has serious seasons, but living solemn and somber every moment causes us to miss the joy of family and friends. I know I missed laughing with my kids as they grew up. I was way too serious. If I could go back in time, I would spend more time having fun and enjoying life-especially with them.
When we realize the gift we have in Jesus, we have the ability to come alive in Him. Coming alive in Him means shedding the lies we believe through the study of His Word. We let the truth of His love permeate our hearts, mind, and soul.
- Living loved leads to laughing when we mess up because our worth does not depend on what we do.
- Living loved allows us to be honest with God. If we know we are loved, we will open up and share our fears, anxieties, and struggles.
- Living loved reminds us we are not a disappointment when we disappoint others.
- Living loved reminds us we are secure in Him when life gets hard, and we don’t have a clear picture of the future.
- Living loved results in our coming to God in prayer and His Word because we look forward to spending time with Him, learning more of His character and love.
The seriousness of the cross reminds us of God’s amazing love. We do not need to live seriously but live loved. Sadly, we can live the lies we believe rather than learning the truth of who God is and who we are in Him. Living loved comes from shedding the lies.
What lies do you need to start shedding today? How can you begin the journey of living loved?