Some of the best pranks are those that happen between former dating partners. Angst-ridden exes have a great capacity to do stupid things and claim it was a non-hostile “prank”. The best one I ever heard of occurred right after a messy break up between two college students. The girl still had a key to his apartment. When the guy left town for Christmas break, she came over to his place, sprinkled grass seed in his carpet, watered it and turned up the heater. When he came back to school three weeks later, he was surprised to find a fully grown lawn in his living room. It was horrible for the guy, but worse for the landlord who had to have the flooring completely ripped out of the apartment. Turns out you can’t just mow grass in a home. You have to kill it at the roots.
For years I’ve hoped that I could cover up or mow down the insecurities in me that refuse to go away. I’d rather spend resources and effort on hiding or faking or helping people see what I want them to see in me. But my life won’t be livable till the insecurities and sin are ripped out at a foundational level. Mowing might help it look nice, but it never gets to the heart of the problem. Plus, mowing the grass in a living room isn’t going to convince anyone that it’s ok to have grass in your living room. Eventually, it will become too much for us to maintain—too much effort to cover and hide.
I know the New Year often brings delusions of grandeur: I can run 20 miles a day after a decade of a sedentary lifestyle and chain smoking. I’ll never eat processed sugar again, just as soon as I finish this life-sized chocolate Santa.
And most of our New Year’s resolutions are often attempts to mow down the symptoms of insecurity instead of getting to the root of the problem, anyway.
But what if this year was different. What if we finally allowed the flooring to be ripped out? What if this was the time we replaced the feeble attempts to hide our anxiety and fear with something stable and life-altering?
What would be different if we pulled ourselves together and finally learned who we are?
We’re so driven by identity. We allow so many opinions, past mistakes or successes, jobs or relationships to label us. All of our hobbies and talents and failures are given a stupidly prestigious place not just to describe us, but to define us.
Despite the prodigal son’s attempts to leave home (Luke 15), he remained the beloved of the father. He took his father’s gifts, wasted them on instant gratification, and came back to live as a servant. But he had never stopped being the loved son. No amount of wild living or begging could alter his identity. He was the beloved of his father, whether he was recklessly leaving home or repentantly coming back.
You are one who belongs to God. You are (as Henri Nouwen would say) the beloved of God. This is the unchanging identity given to you as a part of creation. We can’t make it more or less true. Refusing to believe we are loved daughters and sons sits at the heart of every insecurity we will face.
What would it be like to act, speak and love out of an established understanding of how loved I am? Belonging to God, being loved by God is the core out of which our entire lives can be lived. We will still face our trials and pain, but we will do it as the beloved of God.
Until we can live out of this knowledge, we’ll keep trying to manage our lives—mow down anxiety, make futile fights against recurring sin, stick pretty bandaids on our brokenness. But we’re in such a state that the floor has to be ripped up. We need a deeper foundation—one that can carry us through struggles from the past and the unknown of the future.
If we’ll let it, the truth of who we are as those loved by God will frame our entire lives. It will affect what we do, where we go, how we listen, give and take. We will be freed to be ourselves without the opiate of people’s fleeting approval and attention. Maybe this is the time we stop exhausting ourselves with making good impressions and competing and comparing. It's painful to have the floor ripped out, but it's easier than mowing down our brokenness. And it's the only way we'll finally learn to be loved.