Sometimes, our lives don’t go the way we’ve planned, do they? “I had a dream my life would be so different from this hell I’m living….Now life has killed this dream I dreamed.” Some of us have lived through hell, haven’t we? My guess is some people reading this are going through their own personal hell right now.
In Luke 10, someone asks Jesus what must be done to experience eternal life. Part of Jesus’ answer is to love your neighbors. That same person then asks who his neighbor is. In answer, Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan which starts this way:
“This fellow was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho when some robbers mugged him. They took his clothes, beat him to a pulp, and left him naked and bleeding and in critical condition. By chance, a priest was going down that same road, and when he saw the wounded man, he crossed over to the other side and passed by. Then a Levite who was on his way to assist in the temple also came and saw the victim lying there, and he too kept his distance.”
There are times in our lives when we are like this traveler. We are just walking along; minding our own business; doing the things that necessary, ordinary, mundane, routine. But then something happens. For this guy it was a couple of robbers jumping out, stealing from him, beating him, and leaving him alone to die.
What can it be for us? Sometimes, it is a terrible, tragic event: sickness, death, rejection. These things come from nowhere, surprise us, beat us down, and leave us wondering what just happened.
However, sometimes, the problems in our lives are more insidious; they run even deeper than a tragic event. Sometimes we have been taught lessons from early in life that we find difficult to overcome.
You are worthless.
You are a failure.
You cannot cope by yourself—you need to drink something, smoke something, or shoot something up.
Your only value is what you can offer someone sexually.
And we believe these messages. We hear them over and over so much that we believe they are true.
And we feel like the guy lying on the side of the road: beaten, robbed, left for dead.
And unfortunately, the very people who should be helping us out, picking us up, helping us to recover do nothing more than add to the pain. Just like the priest and the Levite, too often the religious people—the Christian people—we know are too busy to help. Or they look at us, see our lives, and run to the other side of the street to avoid getting to close us.
So no one ever tells us anything different. All we hear is that we are worthless, hopeless, a mess, a wretch, nothing more than garbage to be cast aside.
In the stage production/movie Les Miserables, the character Fantine sings the song I Dreamed a Dream. In the song she pours out her soul as she laments the course her life has taken. At one point of the song she talks about how she had been mistreated:
He slept a summer by my side
He filled my days with endless wonder
He took my childhood in his stride
But he was gone when autumn came.
Fantine has been hurt, treated like garbage, and cast aside. Yet do you know what the next line she sings is? “But still I dream he’ll come to me.”
Wait a second, how could she want that? How could she want this terrible man to come back into her life? What sense does that make?
However, I think in our darkest, weakest moments, all of us know exactly why Fantine would do it.
Because we have done it, too. We have bought into the lies that we are worthless and unlovable and that if anyone will show us attention we better hang on to them. We have bought into the lies that we are not good enough to be treated any better.
And we have gone back to those things that have hurt us.
We have been on our knees with our heads in a toilet, retching our guts out in a drunken stupor proclaiming that we will never drink again; only to find ourselves in the same position 24 hours later.
We have looked at the needle in our veins and promised that we are never going to do this to ourselves again, yet we are taking that next hit before we can even get the words out of our mouths.
We have promised that we will never allow our bodies to be used as little more than a piece of meat for someone else’s entertainment only to wake up to the sound of door closing leaving us in the room all alone yet again.
We have continued to believe that we are robbed, beaten up, lying on the side of the road dying, while everyone in the world is just passing us by.
You. Are. Not. Cast. Aside.
You are not forgotten. You are not a piece of rubbish to be discarded.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, someone does show up to take care of the man on the side of the road. And just a few pages later, in Luke 15, there are three stories of things that are lost being found.
A man with 100 sheep sees that one is missing and he goes off to find the missing one. Because each sheep has value; each sheep has worth. The shepherd would never say, “That sheep means nothing to me.”
Then a woman with 10 coins loses one and tears her house apart looking for it. We think that’s crazy, right? Who would care that much? I mean, she still has nine coins, right? We ask those questions because we have bought into the lie that we have no value. We tell ourselves, “Who cares about us? We are just one person on a planet of 6 billion. So who cares?” This parable tells us that God does. God believes we have worth. We are worth the world to Him. We are worth His Son to Him.
Then we read the parable of the Prodigal Son. The son who found himself believing he had no worth. He planned to go back and tell his father, “Make me one of your servants.” But on his way home, the father was watching. And while he was still a long way off….
The father runs to him. Before the son can finish his rehearsed speech, the father basically says, “Shut up. We’re gonna throw a party!”
Because the Prodigal Son matters to the Father.
Because the man lying on the side of the road matters to God.
Because you are valuable. Because you have worth. Because you are a son or a daughter of God. And He loves you.
When we sing, like Fantine, “life has killed this dream I dreamed,” God weeps.
Because that is not what He wants for you. You matter to Him. You are valuable to Him. God loves you.
And that is the truth.