I was talking to a friend last night about what it means to surrender our lives to God -- and how that surrendered life doesn't always look like we might expect. To give our lives to God may mean our life becomes this crazy, unpredictable thing that may seem a mess to ourselves or to others walking by. We may be sent to the "valley of the shadow of death." Our lives may not look like "victory" but like incredible defeat. Life may be filled with loss or confusion or pain, or a whole lot of doubt.
And as I was thinking about the surrendered life as a gift to God, I remembered a story I shared before, a story about pictures on the frig. And it reminded me that no matter how ugly our lives (our "pictures") may seem to us, God values them so highly. We are not expendable. We are not "throw away" ... even when He doesn't come in and make our pictures look pretty from the outside. In the mess, He counts us as precious, and makes us His own. We are His, and that changes everything.
Anyway, here's the story of pictures on the frig. I hope it will encourage you as it encouraged me, to remember how God sees you, how he values you and your life surrendered to him ... even in the darkest, messiest, most painful times:
I’d heard it a dozen times before. “Give your life to God! Surrender!” And that Sunday, the message our pastor proclaimed was no different. I leaned back and thought about how glad I was that I had given myself to God and how I wanted to make my life a gift to him every day. But then, something new struck me, something I hadn’t dwelt on before.
I thought about the songs we’d sung earlier – songs about the grandness of the God of the universe, about His majesty, His holiness, the wonder of His presence. And as I thought about the glory of God, the value of my one, puny, rather unimpressive life seemed like a poor gift indeed. After all, I was no Billy Graham, no President of the United States, no great mover-and-shaker of the world around me. I was just plain ol’ me, with no extraordinary accomplishments, no fancy resume, nothing to make my life seem a worthy gift to so great a God. Did God really care if I gave my life to him? Did it really matter after all?
My thoughts troubled me as the service ended and I slipped out to pick up my nearly-three-year-old daughter from Sunday School. A dozen small bodies wiggled from the classroom and darted down the hall toward me. Among them was Bethany. As soon as she saw me, she let out a squeal and waved a piece of yellow construction paper over her head.
“Mommy, mommy, look!” she cried as she hurled herself toward me.
The other kids rushed past like a river at flood-stage. Bethany crashed into my legs, then hugged me around the knees. A moment later, she giggled and shoved the construction paper into my hands. “For you, Mommy. My make picture for you.”
She smiled up at me with wide eyes framed by curly, wheat-colored hair, and my heart melted. I knelt beside her. “For me?”
“It’s a present.”
I held her close and looked down at the construction paper. Red and blue crayon marks formed lopsided circles that listed off to the right bottom corner of the page. A black smear marred the upper corner, and in the middle a rough outline of Bethany’s handprint started off well, then dropped off to a long squiggle at the pinkie finger.
I pulled Bethany closer and kissed her on the forehead. “I love it!” I proclaimed. And I did. I really did. It was no Monet (Picasso maybe), but to me, it was every bit as precious.
Later that day, I put the picture in the center of the refrigerator door where I could see it every day. I stood back, smiled, then stepped forward to adjust it just right.
I knew, of course, that if someone else were to find the picture lying on the ground, they would think it was just trash. They wouldn’t see it like I did. They would see a piece of cheap paper with crayon scribbles and pen marks. But to me, it was a treasure. I loved the squiggled outline of her little hand. I adored the awkward circles. And one day, when a new picture came to replace the yellow construction paper on the frig, I knew I would put this one away in my “special things” box, with a tiny date written on the back. Then, in years to come, I’d pull it out, and look at it, and remember.
My life may never be a Monet, but God still loves to hang my picture on the frig.