As a photographer, I think about the world in word pictures. And as an artist, the lyrics and writing of musicians and authors have tremendous impact on me. So when the lyrics of a song resonate with me and evoke a word picture, I try to get that out of me inside of just hanging in my own rafters. The words of a Mutemath song called Remain reflect a struggle that I can relate to. And I’ll share the word picture after that.
I’ve been breaking
And repairing everything that I make.
Just to feel important
And worth the little space that I take.
We all want to feel important, known and loved. We want a sense of worth. We battle loneliness and isolation and the pain they leave us with. If you have struggled with anxiety and depression like me, you are well acquainted with feeling worthless and hopeless. But those feelings aren’t only for the depressed. We all have a slightly more controlled version of neurotic compulsion for trying to get what we need to feel important. The “breaking and repairing” and hoping to be noticed speaks to me about my craving to legitimize my existence. Not to merely justify my existence, but that I have worth.
I know that I have worth. The Message translates Isaiah 43:1-3 this way:
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior.”
The Father calls me by name and goes to extreme measures to rescue me. I know I have worth because He tells me. My struggle is remembering that I have worth. Not just remembering but knowing it deep inside so that it affects me and I live out of that truth. It gets beyond a feeling to a core understanding. When it goes beyond a feeling, it is no longer something I have to crave like air when while under water, and work to pursue.
The pursuit of worth is the pursuit of a feeling. That I am worth the space that I take. That I belong here in this space. And that I can feel OK, with myself and with others. Our pursuit of the OK is the pursuit of a elusive feeling. Feelings just don’t last, they sway. The need to constantly do something in order to feel OK about yourself is a rough existence. But we do it nonetheless? Maybe not at a neurotic compulsion, like my word picture below. Thinking if I just try harder, if I do better next time, if I avoid mistakes, if what I accomplish can finally be noticed…then I can feel good about myself. We can follow the same pattern of tear down, rebuild, and repeat, hoping that some day we’ll find satisfaction. That our demons will some how be quelled. That is the difficulty of pursuing the elusive feeling of worth, you never know when you have it. Unless it is bestowed on you from something or someone not based on what you do. Now my word picture.
The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California is perhaps the quirkiest residence in the world. The house is said “to be haunted by the ghosts of those killed with Winchester rifles. Under Winchester’s day-to-day guidance, its ‘from-the-ground-up’ construction proceeded around the clock, by some accounts, without interruption…”¹ Sarah Winchester, the widow of gun magnate William Winchester, was so consumed by guilt she felt she needed to do something to appease those spirits. A section of stairs and banisters were torn down and rebuilt continually as a part of her pursuit of worth, freedom from guilt, and being OK with herself. Tear down, rebuild, repeat! A tortured soul she must have been.
But we don’t need to be, if we remember our bestowed worth from our Father. We are known and loved. There is no need to tear down and rebuild in order to feel important. No need to impress people. No need to be perfect. We are loved regardless of our performance. That is truly freeing.
What about you?
In what ways are you trying to prove your worth?
How have you seen pursuing the feeling of importance to be elusive?
The photo of stairs in Palm Springs, CA speaks to me our insatiable need to want to know everything ahead. We don’t like living in the tension of not knowing. But accepting that tension as a part of a rich life that include mystery and surprise is embracing the abundant life that the Father loves to give His children.
¹ Wikipedia reference on the Winchester Mystery House