Tony and Stacey Wheeler
Directors of Pastoral and Church Health
Based on actual events, in the 1995 movie “Apollo 13,” astronaut Jack Swigert gave disturbing news to the NASA Mission Control Center, saying, “Houston, we have a problem” after an oxygen tank exploded. By working together, the astronauts and Mission Control were able to safely bring Apollo 13 back to earth. As the command module sped through space, the astronauts could look through a window and see earth. Arriving safely back home had now become their main objective, abandoning their original plan to go to the moon.
Raymond Loewy, the famous designer known for his work with brands like Coca-Cola, Studebaker, and Shell, also worked with NASA. Loewy is the one who convinced NASA to add a porthole window for the astronauts to be able to view the outside world around them, eventually allowing them to see earth when they didn’t know if they would survive the trip home on Apollo 13. Sometimes, through collaboration with others, we can find solutions to problems we didn’t even know we had!
Recently, Stacey and I were asked to speak in a chapel service at Barclay College. The topic given to us was “Relationships,” a broad and important subject. We frequently teach on the top six elements in a strong marriage based on my work from Kansas State, elements that also impact any close relationship between friends or family. As time was limited, we focused on one part of one of the six elements: Worth.
“Worth” is partially defined in Dictionary.com as “Excellence of character or quality as commanding esteem: women of worth.” And “Usefulness or importance, as to the world, to a person, or for a purpose: Your worth to the world is inestimable.” We could say that “worth” might typically be defined as “thinking well of yourself.”
Some people have an easier time thinking well of themselves. Some people were born into situations where they always knew they were loved. Others had to perform to feel loved or to earn love. Others might have a low sense of self-worth if they’ve faced significant rejection, struggled to achieve goals in life, experienced emotional and mental seasons of struggle with depression, fear, anxiety, or shame, or, even, been abused.
Typically, there are two parts to understanding Worth within a relationship: Feeling Worth and Giving Worth. While speaking at Barclay, we focused on the first part, Feeling Worth. When a person feels confident that they have value and they feel worthy as a person, he or she interacts within a relationship able to GIVE Worth on a deeper level, having more energy to see the other person and not needing to be in the relationship just for their own gain.
When we become believers in Christ, our ability to have self-worth should skyrocket! Why? Because now we can discover our true worth as a son or daughter of the King of Kings and find our true identity in having a Father who not only created us in our mother’s womb but who loves us unconditionally and gives us grace and compassion. We can begin a daily journey of reading scripture and internalizing the truth about God’s beautiful plan for our lives. We can know Jesus Christ, as our Savior, our Great Physician, and our Good Shepherd who is able and willing to help us overcome our pain, rejection, and emotional pitfalls.
It matters greatly if you understand what Christ did when he died and rose again through the resurrection power of God. He took all of your shame, fear, pain—all of your transgressions—upon himself and by his stripes we are healed.
Do you feel worthy because of what you do? How you are currently performing? Or because of the truth? We are worthy because God made us, gave us unique gifts, calls us to a holy purpose, and brings love, joy, peace, and hope into our lives. We are worthy because we are children of God. You have great worth in his sight!
In the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32, the son spent all of his inheritance in wild living and then “came to his senses,” realizing that even his father’s hired servants had food to eat. He returned to his father and told him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Twice, in verses 19 and 21 the son declares “I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” It’s safe to say he was not feeling worthy in that moment.
What was the father’s response? Did he agree with the son? Was he angry, as he could have been? No, his response came from the heart of a compassionate father who loves his son unconditionally. Nothing the son had done would ever change the son’s identity: he would always remain a son, one who had high value and worth in his father’s eyes.
The father called for a robe, a ring, and sandals to be placed on the son. If someone is worthless, do you give them gifts like these? No. He killed the fatted calf and held a big party! Do you have a celebration in honor of a person with little worth? No. The father loved his son and had waited and longed for his return.
The son had a major identity crisis. He did not realize the great worth he held in his father’s eyes. He did not realize who he really was. In his state of desperation, he was willing to exchange his status as a son to become a hired servant. But in his lowest moment, hungry and weary, he humbled himself, surrendered his present pain and past rebellion, and came home to his father. As his father treated him like a son, we can assume he felt grateful and loved and a little more aware of his true identity. You are worthy to be called God’s son or daughter.
To return to the true story about Apollo 13, if the astronauts had not communicated with the engineers at Mission Control, they would not have been able to fix the problem and figure out how to safely land and return home. Some of us have a mistaken belief that we must solve all of our problems on our own, unable to receive help from others. Many of us are NOT good collaborators.
When the designer Loewy first suggested NASA should have a window in their space shuttles, they didn’t like the idea, but after considering it, they realized it was actually a great thought. Looking through the window, the astronauts could keep Earth and home within their sights. As we seek God, and we feel his love and recognize our worth to him, keeping our focus on him, the things that can take us off track fade away. And through some community and collaboration, we affirm each other’s worth in God’s sight.
Working together, humbling ourselves, finding help, and accepting love: Aren’t these all a beautiful part of serving God together and being a part of the body of Christ? May you know you are a son or daughter of the King today. Nothing can ever change that identity. You are chosen, holy, and dearly loved. Your home is with Christ, both now and for eternity.
Scriptures for Reflection on Feeling Worth:
Psalm 139:13-16; Romans 6:23; John 3:14-15; Isaiah 52:2; Luke 15: 11-32; Proverbs 16:9; Isaiah 53:5; Psalm 120:1; Psalm 18:6; Isaiah 56:8; Psalm 139:16; Colossians 3:12; Jeremiah 17:7; Proverbs 3:25-26; Isaiah 32:17; Isaiah 40:31; Philippians 1:6; Ephesians 3:12; Romans 5:8