It is good that you exist.
“Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness…God created mankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them…God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good.” (Genesis 1:26-31)
It is good that you exist.
Has anyone ever told you that? My guess is that they haven’t. But whether you’ve heard it before, or are hearing it now for the first time, I wonder: do you believe it? Do you believe that you, by your very existence, are good?
I don’t know that I could answer “yes” to that question. Not all the time, anyhow. Well, I know how I’d answer to earn points on a test, but in my heart of hearts? Well, let’s see, how often do I feel the need to earn the love of God? To work for approval from my parents, my peers? How many times have I compared myself to those around me, have I wished away my imperfections, have I mulled over bad decisions and wallowed in self-pity and dreamed of being somehow different? If only this, if only that. Then I would be good. Then I’d be worthy of love.
It’s funny. This post’s beginning comes from a talk I gave to a few hundred teenagers a few different times on my mission trip. In the midst of late nights after our daily debriefing, of early mornings around our host mother’s breakfast table, of back-to-back classes spent desperately trying to teach rowdy groups about the beauty and profundity of the Eucharist, I felt I had little to give. On top of which, even standing silently in front of 180 English teenagers beside my 11 fellow missionaries made my mouth go dry and my heart skip a beat. But for whatever reason (read: the Holy Spirit), when it came time in our group meeting to volunteer to give the “inspiration” talk at the afternoon assembly, my hand went up.
Some people are naturally gifted at speaking. Some people are just born to inspire. Some people can hold a crowd’s attention, guiding them dramatically by every eloquent, perfectly-timed word that comes out of their perfectly-formed mouth. Not me. All the more reason to give my “yes,” I thought, to throw caution to the wind and hope that God just might give me a word or two to boost their weary souls. As long as I have time to prepare, of course. I love a good outline. I make lists for fun. Give me enough instruction and time to practice and I’d like to think I could perform perfectly adequately in just about any area.
So when I raised my timid hand to volunteer, I did so under the assumption that I’d miraculously find a nice long stretch of time when I was feeling particularly well-rested and inspired to let my talk-writing juices flow. Not so, Emma. Not so. (My optimistic tendencies have gotten me into many a bind.)
No, there was no time. Not unless I was willing to sacrifice sleep, and I draw the line there. I’m no good to anyone without it. As the day of my first talk wore on, I’d been grasping at straws trying to think of grand inspirational ideas or tear-jerking personal stories or something, anything, to spout off when my time came.
The time did indeed come, as it always does, and I left my measly three bullet points of a list behind. I approached the podium with a Bible verse to read and a gaping hole in mind. That’s a great way to come, I soon discovered. Ample room for the Holy Spirit to work wonders. All I needed to do was get out of the way.
So He inspired me and, I dearly hope, those words inspired them. It’s tough to tell, for as soon as I was finished, I thought, “What did I just say?” But judging from the kind affirmation from my team and the looks on some of the faces in the audience, God did work wonders. I walked away invigorated, feeling fully alive in a way unique to those rare moments when I humble myself enough to let God lead in a radical way.
But back to the beginning: “It is good that you exist,” I told them. Well, it is good that they exist. They, the dear teenagers we taught and served who may have been tough to instruct but soon came to occupy a newly-created space in my growing heart. They, with low self-esteem and wild hormones and, I admit, curious minds and a desire to learn, however masked by false bravado and bad behavior meant to impress and win popularity points.
But, in my talk on Wednesday afternoon, a sweet girl in the front row during a noisy exercise (“Tell your neighbor, ‘It is good that you exist!’” I said to them) posed the same truth to me: “It is good that you exist, Emma!” she exclaimed as she stood up with a smile and looked me in the eye. Well, hold on. That’s my message for you. I’m not supposed to hear it. You’re the ones who need it. But—what? I don’t feel like I need it, so it’s not true for me?
These are the moments when God swoops in. Those bumps in the road, the hiccups in my plan, the times when my heart catches in my throat and I cannot proceed until I deeply examine what’s just happened.
It is good that you exist, Emma.
No. It is good that you exist.
Somehow the lies feel safer. How often I prefer the darkness to the light. How I’ve loved assuming the role of missionary, teacher, inspirer, source of wisdom and advice. But, oh. How very much I need to be told, “It is good that you exist.” How much I need to be taught, inspired, led, saved. I am nothing without Him, without the One Who saves. My very existence—which is good; I concede!—would cease if He weren’t holding me together at every moment.
So, it is good that you exist. And it is good that I exist. Our existence is good, despite being tainted by sin. We didn’t earn the salvation we desperately need; Jesus freely gave it. And how He desires us to say “yes” to Him, to accept His love, the love which drove Him to death and restored us to life.
We are worthy of that love. And it is good that we exist.