A seventeen-year-old girl in my life is a committed vegetarian. She’s a yogurt in the morning, veggie burger for lunch, and salad for dinner kind of girl. If she kept a food diary she would put us all to shame with her sensible portions and 6-servings per day of fruits and vegetables.
However, she’s a vegetarian because she’s secretly scared. Scared of gaining weight. Scared of losing her reputation. Scared of losing power over her life. And scared of hurting herself through anorexia. As she told me, “If I’m a vegetarian, I don’t have to control all the food. I just have to control the meat.” In other words, she’s choosing to eliminate meat so she doesn’t eliminate food altogether.
We spend so much energy trying to feel secure. We make compromises that let us feel better about ourselves, without truly overcoming our struggles.
“I’ll only drink on weekends, and I’ll never drink and drive when I’ve had too much.” “Making out with my boyfriend keeps him happy—at least we’re not having sex.” “My faith is personal—I don’t have to embarrass myself talking about Jesus at school.” “I get paid this week—I can put money back in mom’s wallet and she’ll never know I ‘borrowed’ it.” “I spent too much on clothes, but it will be worth it when I look amazing.” “It was just flirting for a little attention—my friend should know I’d never steal her boyfriend.” “It’s not my fault I had to cheat on the test…my schedule was too busy for studying.”
My vegetarian friend is still afraid. She’s found a way to keep from starving, but she’s afraid.
Are you afraid, too? Are you depending on money, popularity, a boyfriend, clothes, talent, or good grades to define who you are? How much are you giving, or giving up, to feel wanted and loved?
Jesus doesn’t look at any of that. He loves you because he made you—you were his idea before the world was even created. Even though people focus on the externals, he is looking at your heart. You don’t have to perform to get his attention. He sees right through the games you play with others and yourself to feel like you matter. He invites you to bring your insecurities to him. He offers a perfect love that gets rid of fear. (1 John 4:18)
Jesus loves you. When you bring him your fears and mistakes and self-destruction, he gives peace and forgiveness and life. You can run to him when life gets hard instead of the world’s disappointing substitutes for love. You can find rest from working and running and trying to feel accepted. Because in Jesus, you are.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
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