April 19, 1994
At eighty-five years young, my father has a sharp mind but his body is slowing down. During a recent visit, I noticed how many times he talked about old people who feel useless. He never mentioned he personally felt useless but it seemed he might be thinking that way.
After two days together, our conversation turned to teenagers and how they often lack a sense of self-worth. I mentioned that many people, both young and old, struggle with self-esteem. So easily, we try to get it from either our possessions, our popularity, or our achievements. The downside of using those things to give us a sense of worth is that do not last. When they go, so does our self-esteem.
My dad totally agreed. After eight and a half decades, he knows first hand how quickly money and material goods come and go. At one time his Scottish heritage made him a thrifty person. Now he is not concerned if he spends his money because having it means much less than it once did.
We talked about the times I taught seminars on self-esteem. In them, I shared how it is possible to develop a solid sense of worth on something that can never fade or be taken away from us. In contrast, if money is the foundation for our value, we will never have enough. If we make popularity the thing to give us worth, then how many friends will we need to be satisfied? Further, no matter what anyone achieves, someone always comes along to out-do their achievement.
As we chatted, I said our worth is far more secure when it is based on Christ who does not change. By dying for our sins, He proved He loves us. Further, He died for us when we were still sinners, so He accepts us no matter what we have done. Knowing His perfect love is very important to a healthy self-worth.
Then I told my dad a true story about an old sweater.
A certain popular author had a pullover hanging in the back of his closet. It no longer fit him and was worn full of holes. He never wore it anymore. Logic told him he should throw it away. It was so shabby.
But his heart would not let him get rid of the sweater. Even though it was not useful, attractive, nor able to keep him warm, he considered it precious. He even loved it. The pullover was valuable in his sight because of who made it. Years ago, it was knit for him by his beloved mother.
I told my dad this is like the love of God. He cares for us regardless of our usefulness or beauty. Sometimes we forget that. Our logic says that when we are old and faded, worn and useless, there is nothing left for anyone to care about.
But the love of God is not based on those qualities or on who we are. His love is based on who He is and it does not change because He does not change. Hebrews 1 says, “In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.”
The earth will perish, never mind the stuff that we collect or achieve, but the love of God is a constant thing. Those who rest in that love can be assured they are like an old sweater. God has no intention of cleaning out His closet because those He has made and redeemed are precious to Him.
The day I talked with dad, I also vacuumed his room. His closet door was open and I noticed hanging in the back were a few worn-out old pullovers and cardigans. Maybe that is why his eyes filled with tears when I reminded him he is loved just like an old sweater.