Just Tiffany. After a nice introduction by the Community Renewal team, I took the microphone in front of a room of brave and courageous young women. Gathered for a two-day event, junior high and senior high girls braved vulnerability and wore courage as they took a deep dive into self-worth and the strength we have as women together.
I greeted my young sisters and introduced myself as “Just Tiffany.” My bio included a lot of titles, from Dr. to Pastor to wife to mom. Yet when all of those titles are taken away, when I’m in my most raw and authentic form, I’m just Tiffany. This is the person God created and God created me worth it.
Each of these young girls were empowered to know how worth it they were and are, and that witness needed to be seen in me. Not for all the things I am, but for who I am and whose I am. That is what God created. That is what God celebrates in each of us. Not what we produce for the world, but how we live into the fullness of God’s grace in us.
This week I was at a jurisdictional gathering in Austin, TX with a cohort of phenomenal clergy colleagues. These colleagues are the best of the best at what they do. They lead ground breaking ministries from the center and from the edge of society. They create space for the worship of Jesus at the border and they expand the work of the local church in urban areas. One colleague has even started an urban farming project next to his inner city church that now feeds people.
Aside from being sold out for Jesus, there was one other thing we all had in common. Heaviness. The work of ministry is often challenging because we are working in some of the most difficult situations, urban and rural war zones, seeking to bring peace to broken and grieving people. The weight of empathy is heavy. And when you add the sometimes overwhelming dysfunction of institutions, it’s flat exhausting.
During our final morning worship together, we were all singing and praising God. As we released burdens and gratitude in the same direction, the Spirit moved. In fact, we were so robust in our praising that an attorney from the next conference room over asked us to stop singing because they were engaged in a tenuous arbitration meeting. The irony was not lost on us. We didn’t stop signing, but we softened our music and sent prayers to the room next door.
One of my colleagues began to give a message about the way Jesus chose his disciples, the ones he entrusted with the Gospel and what would become the church. Before he chose his leaders, he prayed. A lot. He wasn’t just picking a dodge ball team. He was picking the ones who would carry out transformation for the world.
Jesus didn’t select the pharisees. He didn’t single out the best qualified or the richest land owners. Jesus prayerfully chose: Peter, James, John (the sons of Zebedee), Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddeus, Simon, and Judas. JESUS CHOSE JUDAS! Not by mistake. Not by accident. Jesus saw Judas and saw him as worth it.
Did Judas disappoint Jesus? Yes. Did Judas make a mess of things? Yes. Did Judas turn his back on everything Jesus taught him? Yes. And Judas had a front row seat to Jesus’ ministry. How could he get it so wrong? Did Jesus get it wrong in choosing Judas?
A long time ago a friend of mine was speaking at a youth camp and said these words: “God made you and God doesn’t make junk.” God doesn’t make junk and God doesn’t get it wrong. Jesus chose Judas to learn from him. And even when Judas forgot his own worth, Jesus never did. Jesus LOVED Judas. Not a little bit, not conditionally, but completely. And I believe that when Jesus died on that cross for our sins, he died for Judas too.
I wonder what would have been different if Judas had only believed how much Jesus loved him. What would have changed if Judas accepted how much he was worth? What if Judas counted the cost of his discipleship over everything else? What if he worried less and sat and listened to Jesus more?
Then my colleague spoke to each and every clergy heart. “God chose you.” God put each of us right where we are for such a time as this to serve in exactly the ministry we have. I gave thanks to God for putting me in Shawnee and giving me the chance to sit at the feet of Jesus to be reminded of his role in all things.
It made me think of you. Each of you. I thought of the witness and discipleship of Ruth Horn in her 98 years on this planet, and little Lucy who will be baptized into new life in Christ tomorrow as barely 1. I wondered what wisdom Ruth would share with Lucy. And then I cried.
I pray that each of us can embrace the truth that God doesn’t make junk. God made you and you are worth it…you were and are worth that cross. God chooses you over and over no matter how many times you turn your back on God or break God’s heart. Jesus chooses you to be a disciple. To go and transform the world. But what if we let him down? Oh, brothers and sisters. What if we don’t? What if we make him proud? What if we saved lives in his name? What if we feed the hungry, befriended the lonely, cared for the sick? What if we came up with creative ways to share his love with the world? What if we stood up against injustice and evil and oppression?What if we loved likes Jesus loves? What if we believed in things we cannot see? What if we put our whole faith and trust in Jesus Christ and never doubted him? What if we let go of all that heaviness, the overworked bones in our bodies, the burdens of over-functioning, and just melted into Jesus? What if we accepted how worth it we are?
During my speech with the girls conference, I asked each of them to close their eyes and picture themselves. To look at themselves when they are full of joy and happiness. Then I asked them to tell that girl they were looking at “love yourself.” Then, I told them to repeat after me, “because, BABY, YOU’RE WORTH IT!” After some giggles and a few quivering chins, I knew I hit the nail on the head. They needed to hear themselves speak words of love over their own souls. Then they turned to their neighbors and said again, “Love yourself! Because baby, you’re worth it!”
Worthy now. Not if. Not when. We are worthy of belonging now. Right this minute. As is.Brene’ Brown
God chose you. Just as you are, no titles or achievements needed. You are not now nor have you ever been junk. You are on purpose. You are chosen. You are needed. You are loved. Come on disciple. Pick yourself up and keep moving. God has glory work for you to do. Now go…love yourself. Because baby, you’re worth it. Period! Right now. As you are in this very moment.