My mother recently told me about a moving moment from the T.V. show “America’s Got Talent.” She told me about this eleven-year-old girl, small in stature and unassuming, who blew the celebrity judges away with her amazing performance and won their highest praise. Backstage, she was asked why this was such an exciting and emotional moment for her.
She replied, “Well, it’s that these amazing people think I’m good, too.”
To be highly regarded by somebody important to you: it’s heady and humbling at the same time. For a moment at least, it silences the voice of fear that is always making a case for our unworthiness. You feel seen. It can make a difference.
Today marks the release of the first radio single from my upcoming record, A Way To See In The Dark. The song is called “Remind Me Who I Am” and has an origin story that might interest Rabbit Roomers.
For the last few years my journey has circled around the idea of identity, where we find it, and why it matters. Our resident expert on the issue of identity here in the Rabbit Room is Ron Block, whose posts and comments are fragrant with the hope of the new creation alive and available to each of us. He knew something that I want to know, and so I wanted to talk with him.
It had been on my mind to give him a call for several months already when, sitting on a plane in Seattle one night in January, I watched him board. Not only is Ron a really kind and intelligent guy, but he also happens to be in one of the most accomplished bands in the world, Alison Krauss’s Union Station. Heck, he even made an appearance in one of my favorite movies: “Oh Brother Where Art Thou”. So when he spotted me, smiled, and said “I’m sitting by you!” I guess I felt a little like the girl from America’s Got Talent – “Ron Block wants to sit by me?” I thought to myself.
It all had the whiff of a divine appointment, and thanks to Southwest Airline’s open seating policy, Ron was soon seated next to me and for the next three hours I got an education that brought some clarity to my understanding of myself and the way the human heart works. Much of what inspired this song grew from that conversation.
The idea I absorbed in my formative years was that I sin because of my willful disobedience. And while that may be true in part, another truth is that most, if not all, of the time I really don’t want to sin, so that I do so seemingly against my own will. Or as the apostle Paul famously said, “I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway…” ( The Message)
So sin begins to look more like addiction than anything else, as though there is a ravenous hunger deep inside of me that demands to be fed. What is that hunger, I wonder?
Genesis chapter three tells us that one of the first consequences of sin entering the world is that the ground would be cursed, that we would eat by the sweat of our brow and the soil would produce weeds and thistles. This carries in it the idea of futility: that our efforts are frustrated, that no matter what we do, we feel it’s never enough – that perhaps we are never enough.
The constant, nagging fear that we don’t and never will measure up is like a pebble in our shoe that troubles every step of our journey. Surely this is the curse.
We can’t live under the oppression of inadequacy long before we start looking for ways to escape the shame and loneliness of it, and things go from bad to worse as we flee from the curse by running to things we hope will make us feel loved, desirable, and worthy.
We run to affairs. We surround ourselves with symbols of status that we hope will convince us of our worth. We escape into the fantasy world of pornography where for a moment we can imagine ourselves desired and wanted with no risk of rejection. We flee to workaholism determined to prove our value – our life and vocation shaped by a fear of failing. We hide in the bottle. We turn inward and refuse to risk disappointing those we love by withholding ourselves from them.
But of course all of these desperate grabs for significance leave us worse off than we were before — more empty, more ashamed, and with more regret.
If only we could learn to run to Christ, the one who calls us his beloved, his bride, the child that he chose to welcome into his family. We would hear him tell us that we are enough because he says so. We would hear him call us his treasure, and we would come alive.
There is that parable where Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God being like a man who, having found a treasure in a field, sold everything he had in order to buy the field and gain the treasure. I was always taught that I was the man in the story who needed to give up everything in order to “gain” the Kingdom of God. But our own Andrew Peterson pointed out to me years ago that in the other parables surrounding this one, the “man” in the story was always God. What if God cast himself as the man in this parable, too? Is he the one who gave everything he had in Jesus in order to recover us? Could it be that we are God’s treasure?
When I’m tempted by sin these days, I can feel beneath it a desire to feel worthy and loved. This desire tells me that I’ve forgotten who I am and need reminding. I’m learning to run to the only one who can tell me, the One who carved my name in the palm of his hand and gave everything he had so I could be his.
It is heady and humbling at the same time to be so highly regarded by one so worthy. It makes a difference.
Get “Remind Me Who I Am” instantly for free when you pre-order the full new record, A Way To See In The Dark, at www.jasongraymusic.com – available in standard and a deluxe edition with 8 bonus songs and a 32 page devotional booklet
“Remind Me Who I Am” is also available on iTunes! Here’s the link
Listen to the song here: