“I have realized that there are four words that may hold more power than the most eloquent of greeting cards or all the length of Tennyson’s poetry: ‘I believe in you.’” –Bethany Haley Williams
The longer I live, the more I admire people who do remarkable things with their lives. As a kid, the sky is the limit and we are expected to dream big. However, somewhere along the way, dreams get shot down for the sake of reality and swimming upstream becomes more and more impossible. Before long, it’s not swimming upstream, but we’re jumping waterfalls. Our society in general does not encourage the one who might seek to make it better; and to the one who might challenge the status quo, even for noble reasons, must fight the masses to see positive change take place.
I think it is because we are all so self-focused, and I see it in myself as well. We don’t want to be inconvenienced, especially if we personally see no return for our efforts. And oh we complain when we see injustice – not injustice in the noble sense – but rather injustice when plans don’t go our way or someone put the bread in the wrong place. We will give of ourselves as long as it doesn’t hurt, and then pat ourselves on the back for having done something good.
We are called to live lives of love, but what does love look like? In Francesca Battistelli’s song “Worth It”, she says, “Love’s not a feeling, love’s not convenient, but I know love will change your life. Love takes sacrifice, love cuts like a knife, sometimes love will make you cry. Love’s not easy, but it’s worth it.” I wonder…how many of us have the courage to love the people around us with that kind of love? I wonder if I have the courage to love the people around me with that kind of love. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in my little world, my special pain, and my all-consuming challenges to overcome. And yet I find, try as I might to work out the situation, that I still have my pain and my challenges. It’s like running in place; I might burn a few calories, but I’m certainly not getting anywhere.
And what are we trying to accomplish? What are we trying to prove? I think it is the cry of the human heart to somehow earn a glance from someone else, to win the right to say, “I’m worth it. You can believe in me.” However, what happens to the kid who stumbles along the way, the one who was doing so well and then trips up? Perhaps it is not when he is doing well that he needs to hear it most; but rather when he falls. Perhaps it is not when he has proved himself worthy that these words hold power, but rather when his world has caved in and he is left staring at a wall; when he is left wondering if he even has it in him. Maybe it’s in the moment when the cost is greater than his stored-away strength; when the demand is greater than the supply that he needs someone to come in and say, “I believe in you.”
I think about people like Helen Keller and I am blown away. If there was ever someone with marks against her doing anything with her life, it was Helen. She was blind and deaf in a time when there was not much available to help her. However, someone came into her life who went above and beyond the duty of a teacher and who refused to allow Helen to live under the excuses of her situation. Anne Sullivan believed in Helen, and that belief changed her life and ultimately made a huge mark in history. I wonder if at the time when she took the job of teaching seven-year-old Helen, Anne even entertained the thought that this student would be her greatest legacy. And who are we to say that the minor investments we make in other peoples’ lives could not turn into our greatest legacy as well?
Perhaps we find the love we need the most when we give it away. Perhaps it is in stepping out of our own little world and into the world of someone else that we find the colors coming alive in our own life. Perhaps it is in looking someone in the eyes in the moment of their greatest struggle and saying, “I believe in you” that we find the strength to face our own challenges.
I have to believe that we can create the kind of community that builds people up rather than tearing them down; a society that reaches for the stars together. That’s how it should be, at least in the Church. So often it hasn’t been, but I haven’t given up hope that it could be that way. Why? Because that is the heart of Jesus. He stepped out of His perfect world only to be killed in ours…and that for love. If there is anyone who understands what it means to love until it hurts, it’s Jesus, who shouted from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” And in His death, He showed us the true heart of the matter.
Jesus believes in us, not for what we can do, but for who we are: in success and failure, in victory and in defeat. Through His death, He shouted, “You’re worth it.” If there was anything that humankind proved that day on Golgotha, it was its ability to be cruel and incredibly unwise. We killed the Son of God in the worst possible way, the very one who came to save us. We did not earn that glance from heaven; we did not win the right to say, “I’m worth it.” Rather we earned hell. Plain and simple. However, by grace we are given something so different.
It has been Heaven’s hand time and time again that has reached down and lifted up my head. In my lowest moments, He is there. In my greatest doubts, He is there. Amidst a million questions and just as many fears, He is always there. He speaks life into me through these simple words, “I believe in you”, and He shows me that belief, not by taking away the challenges, but by strengthening me through them. And we’re going to get through this.
Because my God believes in me, I can believe in others. I can believe for others when they struggle to believe in themselves. It’s God’s love that has touched my own life that gives me the courage to love others, even when it hurts, even when it’s inconvenient, even when I see no return for what I am giving. I pray that God would give me the grace to live that out every day, and I pray He would do the same for you.