Well, this has been a very busy week for me. I would have told you all about it before I went, but that didn’t work out. Well, I’m back and I’m so excited to share what happened!
A few months ago I was asked by my youth leader at church, along with the whole youth group, if I’d like to go to Urbana 15. I didn’t really know what it was besides it being a Christian conference. I decided to go. Then I found out about all the seminars I could choose from a week before I was to go. I didn’t get a good look at them, but at first it just looked like business stuff and things for if you were called to go to another country. Honestly I began to wonder if I’d made a mistake, that perhaps there wasn’t going to be anything there really for me.
And then we got there. There is no way that a Christian would have nothing to connect to there, I see that now. And yet also there is so much there to make everyone uncomfortable too—which I see is a good thing. One message that was taught there, mainly through the different forms of worship, was that the God of the Bible is not a god of only one culture. He is claimed by all and He claims all; therefore all cultures have significance.
There is so much that happened this week that I hardly know what to share. Perhaps the biggest lesson I took away from there was worth before my LORD.
I was walking around the book section when I came across a painting in the back. It was a large painting and honestly I didn’t pay it much attention. The artist was there, encouraging people to put stickers on different squares that described parts of their story. The words were ‘Lonely’, ‘Depression’, ‘Failure’, etc. I quickly did so. He asked me why I had chosen these words. I explained to him, or at least tried to, that I almost always feel like a failure in my life, that me and father struggle a lot with depression. He then shared his own story, of how his family had chained him down when he was a kid (figuratively), telling him he had no worth really in the world, that he was a terrible artist. That was why he related so much to the demon possessed man in Matthew. This is when he drew my attention to the painting and I saw it depicted the demon possessed man and the villagers—outwardly they were normal people, but inwardly they were twisted and ugly. It was a beautiful picture.
He then asked if he could pray for me. He started to do so and suddenly he stopped. “Carissa, do you like to journal?” I was so surprised and replied, “Yes.” He continued to pray, but this time it wasn’t so much a prayer to God but more like he was hearing words from God’s mouth and relating them to me. In his words, he told me about how much God valued me both as a writer and as a person. I felt overjoyed and so full of emotion when he was done. I wish I had thought to get his name, but alas I did not. But that encounter made me think about what chains me down, what keeps me from acting in the way I know I should, what keeps me afraid. Is it other people telling me I am worthless? Perhaps sometimes their attitudes or words I perceive that way, but I realized where my chains were really coming from: myself. It was my fear of what other people thought, my constant telling myself how worthless I am, that kept me chained down to earth, that kept me from doing what I ought to do.
I know that many people feel chained. And many of them are unaware of it. They are chained by fears and doubts, in a constant storm. Perhaps it is people telling you that you are worthless. Perhaps it is shame in how you reacted in circumstances. Perhaps you are tearing yourself up. But let me tell you that God is above all that. In His eyes you have worth. You are valuable. You are greatly loved. And He wants to use your greatest desires for His glory. Let His Story become your story.
“14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 17How precious to me are your thoughts,a God! How vast is the sum of them! 18Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.” ~Psalm 139
26“So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.b 30And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” ~Matthew 10
“28When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 29“What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”
30Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. 31The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”
32He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. 33Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region. ~Matthew 8