"I am not worthy..." What a humiliating thought! This little phrase is degrading to self-esteem, the element so necessary for success to the natural man. Move on, self urges, you don't need that to stifle your potential.
But wait. Is there deeper potential in this thought? Is there something here that opens our spiritual eyes and strengthens our soul? When spoken in the original setting, this phrase marked a turn in a journey; a turn that sparked growth and security before the Creator. This phrase is found in Jacob's thoughts and prayers as he prepares to meet Esau as recorded in Genesis 32. Jacob has been a self sufficient and conniving schemer. He has figured out cunning ways to get what he wants, even to the detriment of relationships. But now, he feels the pending wrath of his brother and knows no way to protect himself.
In a newfound humility, he desperately throws himself upon the Almighty. From this belittling view of himself, he finds a truer picture of God.
"I am not worthy..." let's contemplate this seed thought. Strange as it may seem, this thought is a most powerful and liberating one! When this thought is chosen as a pattern, as an attitude to look at life through, it becomes a path to growth, to reliance upon God, to open relationships with one's brother, and to the pursuit of eternal life!
It is a given, we are called with a high calling. We are created in the image of God. Those who have repented at the cross are redeemed by the blood of Christ. In creation, we have been made a replica of our Creator. In redemption, we are bought out of slavery and set upon a course in life that has inestimable potential and unbounded horizons. We are promised that we may be partakers of the Divine nature, that we may be filled with all power by His mighty power which worketh in us.
But greatness carries with it a sense of expectancy. With all that has been invested in us it is right to expect greatness, or at the least, better than average performances. We entertain the thought that we must leave a lasting contribution. The thought of giftedness and privilege quickly becomes a burden. But it is not only a burden to ourselves, it becomes a burden to all who we live close to as our "greatness" must live around their humanity.
With honesty we must ponder our shortcomings of humanity and develop great internal turmoil as we see what we should be and how far short we fall. In fact, the closer one walks with Christ, the closer we understand the investment made by our Creator, the more our feeling of achievement plummets. We know all too well our impulsive and compulsive bent, and it is not toward serving God and others. In fact, our nature isn't all that different from what we see in Jacob, the Jacob we despise and loathe. We must stop meditating on our greatness (what we deserve), and rather admit and loathe our littleness (that by our lord we are unreasonably blessed).
As we ponder our unworthiness, we stop demanding rights. It dawns on us that we don't have them. In fact, instead of rights we have debts. We have unworthiness. Instead of telling ourselves what we deserve, we top our list with, "I deserve nothing."
Then we will look up to our Creator and to our Redeemer and say, "O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee:" (Ps 16:2).
A great enemy to this humility and worship is success. Whether it is success in finances or in popularity or in some achievement in art, success inflates our ego. We have achieved something worth notice, so we are worth notice. And success breeds more success. One well paying investment provides the footing for another. And two that pay soon feed a third. Applause and acclaim too easily convince us we have done these things by our own merit. If we have done them by our merit, then we deserve something. No, we don't deserve everything, just a little more than what we presently have. Something more than the brother beside us who obviously hasn't achieved as much as we.
So now we have two different persons with two different views. One keeps looking at what his Creator and Redeemer have designed for him and he says, "I am unworthy." The other looking around at his less successful brother, or his more successful brothers who he can see right through to find their flaws, and he says, "I deserve something."
The "I am unworthy" centered man encounters success and he is surprised. Delightedly he looks up to his Creator and says, "I don't deserve your goodness, you have been unreasonably good to me." His heart is filled with thanksgiving. He looks at his struggling brother, "May I serve you?" he asks either verbally or non-verbally, "I don't deserve all these blessings. My blessing is small, but its yours if you need it."
The "I deserve something" man encounters more success with expectedness. It's just as I thought... I wonder how I can turn this into more success?" His brother sees his success and comes and requests some helping hand. If giving happens to feed the ego of the successful man and makes his success more obvious to others, he will reach down and let some crumbs fall. If there is nothing to be gained, then he will figure ways to convince his brother that these supposed needs aren't needs at all. "you should learn to live with less" is his attitude. "I have made it and you should be able to also." It is easy to imagine the potential for resentments in this relationship.
He also is tempted to control. Since I manage well, I should manage you too. It is obvious your skills and talents are not what God has vested in me. you need to submit to the successful, and accept the insights we have.
But life isn't all success. let us ponder scenarios of suffering and loss. After all, bad things happen.
When a lowly person suffers he immediately takes full responsibility and ponders what good God may be hiding in the pain. He looks for areas where he has failed in order to make atonement, or looks suspecting at what snare God may be using pain to keep him from. Paul's inner thought of "lest I should be exalted above measure..." becomes his pattern. God is letting me have this thorn or else I likely would have failed my next spiritual test.
In these thought processes he releases both God and man from being his servant. He does not know abiding anger or self-pity and the accompanying depression. He does not ponder and scheme methods of escape and build a fantasy world. He embraces his suffering (even while maintaining his innocence of any sin Job 29:5) and determines to love God regardless of what may lie on his path.
The "I deserve something" man meets suffering with disbelief, with rebellion. "I didn't ask for this, and don't deserve it," he frets. He looks around for the cause and usually finds a culprit. "That person should suffer for making me suffer" he reasons. "I deserve justice." From these thinking patterns spring anger and bitterness. The dog around his house slinks, the lad cringes, the wife blinks back tears...
These two different attitudes surface everywhere. But especially with close relationships, like marriage. Any time there is conflict or disagreement between husband and wife, each should consider himself the primary cause. Each should inspect his actions and reactions. After inspection, if he finds no direct cause, his next thought should be, "what makes me think I deserve something better?" Then his thoughts should go on to, "I deserve this pain, because it can teach me lessons I will learn no other way." One brother I know will observe from time to time that as a born loser he is so fortunate to have been given his particular wife for his spouse. He sees her as a wonderful find, an undeserved treasure in life's journey. The rest of us suspect his esteem for her has helped make her the wise and gracious woman she is. Another acquaintance sees his wife as a project that needs to be fixed to be what he deserves. He has not yet discovered the amount of pain he will have in remaking her.
What is your outlook? Is an "I deserve more" attitude robbing you of what God wants to give you, but only gives to the truly humble?
- Myerstown, PA