Chasing Identity (Part 7 – I’m no Spiritual Headliner)

Maybe you’ve noticed that this whole identity discovery thing has been pretty self focused. It’s true. When we don’t know who we are or what makes us valuable, we feel compelled to prove to ourselves and to everyone else that we’re valid, and worth being noticed, liked, and loved. But even when I was at my most self-centered, it wasn’t so much that I wanted it to all be about me—I just sorta hoped it was about me at all.

Then I observed that humans are eternal beings, each with a unique identity, who have been specifically equipped with just the right capacities for relating to God. Before the fall, God made it his regular practice to hang out with Adam and Eve in the garden. This was a major catalyst for my healing and growth in the area of identity; people were intended to mirror God’s beauty and to be his companions!

Still, on its own, this really doesn’t demonstrate that God is deeply interested in each individual. Just because relational capacities are present in all humans doesn’t mean God wants to fully engage them in all humans. Maybe his desire for intimate friendship is reserved for only a select few. It’s true that his goodness and love are without exception or condition—but, can the same be said for his regard?

After all, I’m not an Abraham, a Moses, a David, or a Paul.

Preachers like to tell us that those guys were just regular guys—but they weren’t. They were regular guys who God handpicked for the purpose of guiding the overall course of human history—in preparation for the coming of Christ, and for the spread of the gospel. Of course they were pretty tight with God. If for no other reason, frequent communication was necessary.

These scriptural superstars do get an awful lot of attention. Makes sense. Redemption history is a major concern of the Bible. But if we get hung up on this, it is easy to make the hasty assumption that God is only interested in the headliners—that (aside from being the general beneficiaries of his goodness) us average folks don’t really catch God’s eye much.

Fortunately, the Bible is full of evidence that this is not the case. Among the more obvious examples are Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:29-31.

29 “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.
30 “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
31 “So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.

He pays attention to details in the lives of small birds and yet he assigns far greater value to humans. He notices the minutiae of  individual human lives down to the number of hairs on a person’s head. And these amazing truths are only illustrations of the overall point: God sees us and pays attention to the motives of our hearts. He cares if we care about him.

In the Bible, it isn’t uncommon to find God passing judgment on people groups or even on mankind as a whole. But this is always paralleled with an offer of personal relationship. Consider the contrast between the corporate and the individual in Jeremiah 29:13. This passage is part of a letter written by Jeremiah to those in captivity in Babylon. Judah, as a nation, has already been judged. They will be in exile for seventy years. No matter how much they pray, there will be no early return. Most of the recipients of the letter will be dead before the promised restoration to the land is fulfilled.  And yet, tucked in with this sober news is an appeal and a promise from God.

13 ‘You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

This is an open-ended invitation and it reveals the desires of God’s heart. In the midst of the irreversible consequences of the corporate sins of the nation, God offers himself to the individual. He wants to be found. He seeks intimacy with every human soul, not just those under his special protection and favor for a particular purpose or season. This is exemplified over and over in the word of God.

What was Enoch’s claim to fame? He walked with God. Apart from that, he doesn’t seem to be anyone of historical consequence.

Exodus 33 tells us that God spoke to Moses as a man speaks to his friend—but who stayed behind and hung out in the tent of meeting after Moses left? Joshua. At the time he was a nobody, a servant to Moses. But he wanted to be with God. It appears that the feeling was mutual. God must’ve met with him or he wouldn’t have been motivated to stay for more.

Achan is a negative example. Out of an estimated 2 million Israelites, God saw and was concerned with the greed and rebellion in one man’s heart (Joshua 7).

In Genesis 20, Abimelech, a pagan king, is spared the consequences of taking Sarah as his concubine. Why? Because God took notice of and responded to the honorable intentions of his heart.

6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this…”

Abimelech was just a guy—the ruler of a people who would later become the enemies of Israel. He was definitely not a spiritual superstar. But God was paying attention to him.

And who in the world is Asaph? Or the sons of Korah? Nobody knows. They weren’t king David, that’s for sure. But the psalms they wrote indicate real and vital relationships with God (Psalms 73 – 83; 44 – 49).

9 “For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.”    2 Chronicles 16:9a

Whether we find it horrifying or comforting to think that we might be in an insignificant little niche, off the radar of God’s intense interest,  it just isn’t true. He is paying attention. He offers relationship and intimacy. He watches and waits. And when we offer our hearts to him in return, he responds with enthusiasm—no matter who we are or how we think we measure up.

A scriptural view of God’s regard for the “average” person is anything but disinterested. God’s relational appeals show no particular favor toward the Biblical “headliners”. Rather, the hearts of individuals from all sorts of backgrounds and stations are lifted up as the objects of God’s keen interest and passionate pursuit. That’s you and that’s me.

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