Our granddaughter Abigail loves to run and jump and play and talk. She says “Look at me!” as she is running around on the playground or making faces at herself in the mirror. Of course, we love looking at Abigail, and we love being part of her joy.
“Look at me!” is a delightful phrase when Abigail says it. It’s delightful when students seem to say these words as they succeed in the classroom, on stage, or in an athletic venue. It’s delightful when we see evidence of the words as someone steps out in faith, accomplishes something that seemed out of reach, or discovers the treasure hidden within. In each of those moments, we look, sharing in the joy.
Sometimes people say, “Look at me!” because they feel that no one will notice them unless they call attention to what they have done. They need the affirmation, but looking at them usually doesn’t give anyone joy.
In the last few weeks, I’ve realized that my attitude is a hodgepodge of both of those extremes. Recently I’ve reconnected with many people who have been praying for me since February. In our conversations there is joy because I have come through a difficult diagnosis and treatment and because I am resuming regular parts of my life.
On the other hand, I am also the junky person who wants to complain about the continuing physical struggles, to say “I may look okay but I don’t feel okay,” to direct the conversation to a gripe session rather than a moment of joy, to forget all of the true joy that these last eight months have brought into my life. How quickly I forget all that God has done, and I’m not referring only to the “good” things but to the things I have learned about Him and about myself through this experience.
Why am I not like Abigail—running and jumping and playing and talking? Why am I focusing on to the clouds and the misery and the pain especially now that those things aren’t as prevalent as the sunlight and the health and the progress? Why can’t I stop feeling, “Yeah, but…”?
I guess that’s because I can’t. I can’t help myself or save myself. I have to make the choice of faith every moment, to believe that my circumstances aren’t what matters, and to trust that I don’t have to remind myself and others of what I still need before I am willing to be joyful.
I love the promise in Isaiah 43: 1-2
But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.”
The Lord knows about the junky side of me because He has redeemed me and because He calls me by name. All of me is His. If the rivers will not sweep me away, then neither will the stream I think is so deep. If I will not be burned and set ablaze by the fire, then neither will I become overheated if the air conditioning is stuck on 78˚.
Once again, in my life it all comes down to fear, specifically my fear that my life will disqualify me from belonging to Him. Then I notice that Isaiah also records these words (v. 18-19) from the Lord:
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”
Abigail treats everything in her life as new, and she is joyful. She is joyful even when she is saying, “No,” because she’s two and finds it fun to say “No.” I’m many years older than two, and I want to find joy in perceiving the new things He is doing, not in saying “No.” I want to see a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert.
I want to say, “Look at me,” and have my life and my words speak of the mercy and love of God.