One of my very favorite phrases in the Bible is ‘genealogical record.’ When I am reading and come across a section that begins, ‘Here is the list…’ I am overcome with emotion, just like everyone else, because to read pages and pages of names I can’t pronounce of people I’ve never heard of is sheer joy.
Ok, that’s not true, but I’ve come quite a distance with those passages. I no longer roll my eyes and skip the entire chapter. I’ve made peace with genealogies, and Nehemiah 7:6-73 is a good example as to why.
A bit of history:
In verse 73, (I’m condensing a larger work from Robert Bryce here:) “This register calls the people ‘the people of Israel’ instead of ‘the people of Judah’… God gave Jacob the name Israel when he promised to make Jacob’s descendants God’s special people. Many years later, the nation divided into two parts. The northern part was Israel/the inhabitants Israelites. The Southern part was Judah/the inhabitants Jews. The Assyrians defeated the Israelites took them into exile. The Israelites never returned from their exile. In the end, a small number of their families would return to join the people in Judah… So, at the time of this register, only the people in Judah remained, but they were still God’s special people. And sometimes they called themselves ‘the people of Israel’.”
This slight, seemingly insignificant change was monumental in the heads and hearts of those people, and opens a wide door for us. ‘The people of Israel’ was their way of regaining their identity, of saying ‘we are God’s people!’ That is who ‘we’ are, we are no longer on the outside, no longer exiles, no longer people without a land, without a home, without a name. We are the people of Israel, God’s people.
Now. What do we see when we look in the mirror? When we are asked the incredibly profound question, ‘who are you,’ what is the answer? Is it our family name, a job, a diagnosis, a sentence, an accomplishment, an addiction, a relationship? The question, Who are you, has haunted me for so much of my life. I had no idea, honestly, evidenced by the fact that I was forever trying on different personalities, different masks, depending on the season or the company. Most often, I just felt like if I had a caption to the yearbook picture of my life, it would read “Chad Slabach – Not Enough.”
Not smart enough. Not funny enough. Not kind enough. Not handsome enough. Not awesome enough. Not a good enough husband. Not a good enough daddy. Just Not Good Enough. That is who I have been.
And it informed so many of my decisions, so many of my actions, so much of my behavior. That answer stole so much of my peace, filling me with an unholy mixture of anxiety and rage, at having to pretend so much of the time.
Who was I?
Now, if you would be so gracious as to read John 13:23, 19:26, and 21:7. I’ll wait…
In these verses, we see that someone is referred to as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” What a cool caption to a yearbook picture, right?
I bet that guy, this ‘disciple whom Jesus loved’ was pretty special. Just awesome and well respected by everyone. Clearly, John thought he was The Man, to refer to him like that. So, who was he talking about?
Right!!! He was talking about himself!!! He was ‘the disciple Jesus loved!!!!’ This became his identity, this was who he was, way down, in the deepest parts of his soul. He was the disciple who the Savior of the World loved, that’s just who he was. Imagine the peace in the mirror, to be loved so well, so thoroughly, by God that being loved by Him was the most important part of you.
Not your title, your haircut, not that thing you did 3 years ago that you can’t escape.
You are loved. That’s who you are.
Not your bad habits. Not your jeans. Not your street address. Not even your family.
You are loved.
Now what? Now what nothing, that was John, he was loved by Jesus, what does that have to do with me, with you, with any of us?
What does that have to do with us? Well, I could show you verse after verse, all day, that will show you, without a doubt, that we, that each of us, are the ‘disciple Jesus loves.’
Here’s just one: Romans 8:38-39 “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I still might not be handsome enough (whatever that means), smart enough (whatever that means), or anything. But I am a new thing. I am loved, because I am ‘the disciple Jesus loves,’ and that is enough.