“That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for, those who are simply and honestly themselves before Him.” John 4:23 (MSG)
I’m a part of a group of women who are going through the gospel of John and sharing our thoughts in a Facebook group. I’ve been doing my Scripture reading out of The Message for the past couple of months and so it’s that translation I’m reading through this time. Sometimes reading out of a different translation than I’m used to is just interesting rather than profound, but today was one of those days when it reached right out and grabbed me
The story of the Samaritan Woman at the well in chapter 4 is probably a familiar one to just about anybody who has studied Jesus or attended church for any length of time. In it, Jesus meets a woman at a well and asks her for a drink. She learns that he knows all about her difficult and sin-filled past (and present), he tells her about the LIVING water, and she goes off and tells the people in her village about Jesus and many come to believe because of her witness.
As is the case with EXACTLY ALL of the stories about Jesus’s words and deeds, there are layers and layers of good things to unpack and digest and be fed by. I could take just that story and write a month’s worth of posts on it. And then come back in a couple of years and see it with new eyes and do the same all over again.
What stuck out at me this time, though, didn’t have as much to do with the content of the story itself as it did with something Jesus said about the nature of God and of worship and of what we are called to- something that Eugene H. Peterson, writer of The Message, thought about in a way I had never had.
Here’s the text from the New International Version, what I’m used to reading and hearing”
23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.
And here is The Message’s version of this verse:
“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”
Being ourselves before the Father. Being MYSELF.
Worshipping out of our true selves. MY true self.
Wow. My true self. Who is that even some days?
This fallen world is full to bursting with messages about who and what we SHOULD be. As a woman, as a mom, as a CHRISTIAN, I live constantly in the middle of a veritable “should-storm” of ways of being, looking, thinking, feeling, dressing- sometimes who *I* actually am, how I was created, gets lost in the shuffle. And if I’m perfectly honest, some of the messages I hear seem to tell me that who *I* actually am is wrong. The world has very different standards from The Maker.
This verse is a reminder of the value of my true self to the One who made me. Our Father very intentionally made us each as we are, and He did so with greater purpose and intentionality than any of us can muster in our own processes of creation. And He did this because how we are pleases Him, delights Him- and furthers His kingdom. He made us just right, y’all. Just EXACTLY right. Down the number of hairs. on. our. very. head. He KNIT US TOGETHER HIMSELF, just as He planned for us to be and when we come before Him in worship, He wants to
But in a world that tells us plenty about who we SHOULD be, that divine invitation to come as we are can actually feel quite problematic. If it comes right down to it, do I even really know HOW to come as I am, just as He made me? I mean, what is OF ME, THE WAY I WAS MADE BY GOD and what is OF THE WORLD and is part of what has landed on me from the “should-storm” that constantly rages around me? Do I even know the Truth of me that God wants to see well enough to bring it before Him? It almost feels like yet another SHOULD being thrown at me.
But God’s requests and invitations stand in stark contrast to the demands of the world. Just like everything Jesus put out there for us, I know that if I run after it, it will be good. The “shoulds” of the world are a fire that consumes and destroys, the divine biddings of God are a fire that refines and purifies. If I seek to worship Him out of my very being, then my very being, the one HE created just as He intended, is what I will find.
This challenge, to come as I am before God, is one I’m going to take seriously and really lean into. I mean, God knows WAY better than I do and I’m quite certain His version of who and what I am and should be is FAR superior to whatever notion I’ve concocted in my head. And what better, safer, more loving place to do the work of letting down the guards I’ve put up for the world and slipping back into my truest self than in His presence?
Will you join me? Will you work with me in this season on worshiping God out of your TRUEST self, the way He made you to worship Him? The things He calls us to are holy, sisters, and I’m glad to be doing them with you.