“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121).
Our God wants us to fix our eyes on Him, but there is so much in this world that draws our gaze downward. One of those things is shame. Shame lies to us. It tells us that our worth, or lack thereof, is tied up in things we have done—or things that have been done to us—in the past. For our young men who spent time on the streets, shame is something they have to deal with as they pursue freedom through the Micah Project.
You would think that shame would be a motivator to keep moving forward and to avoid the things that scarred us so badly in the past. But often, shame has the opposite effect. It convinces us that we are not worthy of the love that our Heavenly Father so graciously lavishes on us. More often than not, shame drives us back into the arms of those things that kept us in chains.
There is a scene from my favorite show, The Chosen, in which Jesus is comforting Mary Magdalene. She is wracked with the shame of her past and with the fact that the trauma of her past tricked her into thinking that she was not worthy of her Savior’s love. Jesus wraps her in His arms and says two simple words to her: “look up.” At first her shame keeps her from doing so, but she finally looks up into His face. What she finds there is not condemnation over past sin, but perfect love.
I have had countless conversations with young men who feel that the streets are all they deserve. Even this past week, I hugged a kid who had left Micah for the 15th (20th?) time to go back to the streets. Shame keeps him there, keeps him from seeing a love that went all the way to the cross to save him. So we don’t heap more shame on him for having crashed and burned again. We put our arms around him and tell him, “look up.”
I have a mug from The Chosen that has those two simple words on it. “Look up”. I see those words every time I take a sip of my morning coffee. Here at Micah, we deal with a world full of shame. But my morning routine reminds me that our task is to help our kids to look up. To look into the face of the One who loves them and who frees them from the bondage of shame. John’s gospel reminds us that, if the Son sets us free, we are free indeed.
One thought on “Look Up”
Keep writing Michael! Your words are life-giving and so inspiring. I love to photo with this too. What a great image to illustrate the joy and freedom that comes when we remember to “look up”!