This past year I feel as though I have been stripped to my bones; completely raw, nothing left. Everything of value in my life has been taken away. I have lost it all and am left for dead. I am naked and totally exposed. Every veil, shield, deception or idol masking my true identity has disappeared.
I have no remnant of health remaining. I am a graduate school dropout. There is nothing on the career horizon. No money. No romantic conquests or suitors knocking at my door. Living at home with my parents. No claim to fame. No massive talents. No incredible social life. Just day after day of unproductiveness. No energy, no zip, no jazz. I’m just me: Heather Burgess, human, and that’s about it… at least from a worldly perspective.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got an amazing family, a cat and a nice smile … and I can fake being “well” from time to time. But other than that, I’m just me. No labels to hide behind, nothing really defines who I am unless you count being sick, which I’d prefer not to. I’ve got no walls up, no masks, no hidden secrets, no play-acting. What you see is what you get. No fakeness or insincerity here. Sorry society – I’ve broken all of your rules, preconceptions and plans – you’ve got no hold on me. And that’s what I’ve really noticed – that society has no idea how to react.
Shirking Societal Expectations
How do you talk to someone that doesn’t really do anything meaningful or productive? How can you have a conversation about what you’ve done that day, when the conversationalist hasn’t done anything? Can you really connect with someone when there are no common activities to connect you? To have a meaningful conversation, you have to get to know them for who they are and not just what they do. It requires more about thought and honestly than recounting hiking adventures and swapping bad boss anecdotes. In my own experience, some people have stopped asking me anything about myself, perhaps too afraid of asking a question with an uncomfortable answer. Instead, they ramble on and on about a recent trip, a night out adventure or future plans. I’ve noticed that there’s a common theme to the ramblings: doing something. It’s usually about measurable accomplishments, status, connections, who you know and what you do.
The name of the game is catching the attention of our “breaking news” culture and “news flash” my life couldn’t grab an inch on the last page. I don’t really do anything… anything society values at least. Oh wait, do people care about sleeping in till 11 or binge watching The Office or Gilmore Girls for the hundredth time? Oops. No, I got that confused with buying a new car, going on an athletic adventure, traveling the world or the latest cute outfit Kate Middleton was wearing – my bad.
How can I feel of value in a world that sometimes only seems to value photographable moments? Trust me, I’ve got plenty of pasty, gaunt, glassy-eyed selfies in my pajamas, but does anyone really want to see those? Granted my PJs are cute and I could Instagram my 6th PJ day in a row but I’m not sure how well that would go over. Maybe I could get 10 pity likes and 8 unfollows? A lot of the time, it seems like this world doesn’t care about honesty and truth or stories that have a never ending middle and no happy ending.
The Truth isn’t always Picture Perfect
I’ve been sick for over 12 years with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and its not changing – who really wants to hear about that? Its not a feel good story, nor is it an of the moment, hot button topic. And that’s my point, who really are you and how well do you know the people in your life? What’s really going on behind the news feed and the upbeat status update? Does the perfect picture tell the whole story? No wonder there is a resurgence of asking what it means to be human when we seem to have forgotten who we really are. The only thing we really know anymore is what we do.
And maybe our value on actions rather than personhood is the reason people stop themselves from showing who they really are, forcing themselves to blend in. Why would you want to talk about your imperfect life with someone who looks like they have it all together? No wonder people feel so lonely despite being more connected than ever. No wonder work and success is everything to today’s generation; it is the reason consumerism is rampant and stress, anxiety and depression are at near pandemic proportions. We’ve been taught to expect a life as pretty as the pictures on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook and when it doesn’t happen we don’t know how to deal with it and start to play the blame game.
In our postmodern culture, we are taught that there is no ultimate truth and that truth is personal and relative. But there is an ultimate truth. An objective truth. An eternal, unchanging, morally upstanding truth. A truth that touches everyone. That when everything is stripped away – all utility, birth right, deeds, talents, recognition, social status, wealth, health and more – our ultimate human value remains. Not because anything we do, did or ever could do, but because we are made in the image of God and he chose to love us first. Every human life is of the utmost worth because of who God is. And nothing they or anyone else could do will change that.
This is what unifies humanity. This is what brings unity to the diversity of human life. This is why murder and genocide and racism are wrong. This is why black lives matter, why aboriginal lives matter, why the unborn matter, why women matter, why all lives matter regardless of nation, race, creed or sexuality. Because God’s image is marked on each one of us making every life of the most precious value. No matter what. This is the worldview that the Western world is built on. And this conviction of the equality of all mankind has completely changed the world. I make no apologies that this paradigm-shifting revolution that was and is only possible through the Judeo-Christian worldview and for the iconoclast who is Jesus.
Who is Truth
The world was utterly, completely and irreversibly altered when the disciples of Jesus Christ took this message wherever the Roman roads would take them. These disciples were eyewitnesses to the life and death of Jesus. They saw him perform miracles, fulfill ancient prophecy and live an entirely blameless life. They saw him die in the worst manner imaginable, suffer so deeply and ultimately rise again. He became the perfect sacrifice, taking on the sins of mankind. God is love only because he is also just, and God can only be just if he has been judge.
There is an ultimate cost for sin and it must be paid. And Jesus, who is God, paid that price once and for all, as he alone could do. In doing so, through faith, we can all become sons and daughters of God. We are co-heirs with Christ because his sacrifice covers all our sin. We are forgiven, redeemed and are made new in him. Still retaining our sinful human nature we are not perfect, nor sinless but the Holy Spirit lives in us, sanctifying us, enabling us to become more Christ-like. God has done it all, so we are not only equal with all humanity but we can become the “blessed man”.
We have ultimate value therefore, healthy or not, productive or not, wealthy or not, gorgeous or not. God has determined our value before time began, making us in his image and sacrificing his Son so we can live for eternity. This is the only reason why I can feel content after a year of doing nothing. My value and worth can never come from what I do (or could ever do) but they come from the one who first loved me and who has called me a beloved daughter.
As I experience on a daily basis, society doesn’t really understand this. Facebook doesn’t have a relationship status for “God first”. Twitter only wants to hear 140 characters. Instagram only wants a picture of perfection. Reddit only wants trolls. Snapchat only wants a snippet of something amusing. YouTube is only interested in cat and makeup videos. And sadly, even the church does not know how to see its congregants as human beings and not human doings 100 percent of the time. So while the world, and even the church, at times does not know what to make of me, knowing this eternal truth changes everything for me.
No more concealment, no more striving, no more self-doubt or pride, no more contests or competitions. No more comparing, no more worries, no more self-sufficiency. No more, no more, no more. God has called me and God has known me, all of me, from eternity past and knows all my steps and still choose me. He knows all my failures, my worst thoughts and deeds, my secrets, my fears, my heart’s innermost desires and yet he loves me still. Oh what a savior! Oh what a revolution to give worth to the slave all the way up to the king. Oh what freedom it is to live each day for God knowing I don’t have to do anything. I am not a human doing, but a human being.
Suffice it to say, that although its not the way I would’ve planned things, I’ve learned so much about God and myself during my times of trials. I’m not saying that I don’t feel down on some bad days (or even the good ones) and feel absolutely worthless on others, but I’m saying I know a truth to be universally know: that God loves me and the rest is just gravy. Bring on the PJ days, the unemployment and empty bank account because God has called me his.
P.S. Please don’t be afraid to ask me a question – just because I’m a societal-expectation-shirking rebel doesn’t mean that I bite.