Nothing Is at Stake

My eyes open, and I’m scared.

In two hours, I will be speaking at a Sunday morning service. I’ve come to love speaking, but this time, I’ll be speaking to a thousand people. In the round. I’m a clinical psychologist. I’m trained to speak to one person at a time. And the only thing I’ve ever done in the round is roast marshmallows on a camp fire. My eyes open and I worry about whether or not the technology will work, I worry about a hundred other things that might go wrong, but mostly I worry about this:

I worry that I won’t be good enough.

performance anxiety

Photo Credit: Dean Drobot (Bigstock)

I worry about blanking out and freezing up and goofing up, but mostly I worry that my performance simply won’t measure up. In other words, I worry because my sense of worthiness is too often rooted in what I do, rather than in who I am.

This is normal.

As a psychologist, I talk with teenagers about their identity all the time. They tell me their peers base their value in the stuff they have: iPhone Xs, cool cars, and name brand clothes, to name a few. But even more so, they base their value in the stuff they do and how well they do it, and they’ve got all sorts of ways to measure their worthiness in this regard: GPAs and college admissions, awards and rewards, SnapChat streaks and Instagram followers. These young people grow into adult people, and what is true of them remains true of us:

We base our sense of worthiness on our performance rather than our person.

And so here I am. I’m about to give a talk about our inherent worthiness—rooted in who we are, not in what we do—and yet I’m worried about how I’m going to do. So, I take a deep breath, ask myself if I really believe what I profess to believe, and I get silent.

In the silence, I listen for the voice of grace within me.

I listen for the voice that can be heard within each of us, when we become still enough and silent enough for long enough to hear its gentle whisper. I listen. And I listen. And I listen. Some days I can hear the voice of grace; others, I can’t. On this day, I hear it, and I hear the words I need to hear the most, the words Jesus heard more than two thousand years ago while being baptized in a river:

“You are my beloved, in whom I am well pleased.”

On this particular morning, as I worry about my upcoming performance, these words are important, but the timing of them is even more important. In the Jesus story, he received this blessing of his identity and his worthiness at the beginning of his ministry. Not after he resisted temptation in the desert. Not after he spread the good news. Not after he did miracles.

Before.

With these words, the voice of grace reminds me: the verdict is already in. The game is already over. Nothing is at stake. We are worthy. We are lovable. We are beloved. Now. Regardless of what we do. All of our worthiness projects are all for naught.

Two hours later, standing in the round, I feel at peace.

We need not live in search of our worthiness, rather, we can live as an expression of our worthiness.

And knowing we are worthy, we can live with less worry.

I don’t know about you, but I want to resist temptation, I want to spread good news, and I hope to do miracles—not the kind that bend the physical laws of the universe, but the kind which create thin places in the world, where heaven and earth meet, where love breaks through, and where we can know everything is already okay because we are okay.

You are loveable and beloved.

Rest into the truth of this good news.

And then go forth, in peace.

Spread the good news in the way you’ve been given to spread it.

Create thin places, where love breaks through.

And leave a little more of your worry behind.

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Loveable is available in paperback, digital, and audio and can be purchased wherever books are sold, so you can also purchase it at your favorite bookseller.

Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.