99 Rats and What They’ll Never Own

A friend shared an illustration with me years ago: where one rat is seen, ninety-nine more lurk.

I always sit heavy under the weight of criticism. When I was small and growing, one of my parents would say it was their gift, their critical eye. But it never felt like a gift to me. Still growing I could feel disappointment ten yards away, smell its stench when I walked in the door. Whip me if you must and I will take it like a man, but tell me you’re disappointed in me and I will crumble like day old cornbread.

When I was 19 or 20 I decided that the words of my mouth and meditations of my heart toward others would be encouraging ones. But to myself I never gave that luxury. I am still my own harshest critic. Ninety-nine rats lurk in my heart, all carrying the stench of disappointment and failure.

It wasn’t until I began to understand the gospel a few years ago, that I finally began to articulate that there is no direct correlation between my failure and another’s disappointment in me. The truth is that I fail because I am made of dust and dirt and all things of earth, to be disappointed that I am what I am does no good for anyone—including me.

But it was also around then that I began to understand that someone’s disappointment in me is simply their failure too. Their expectations and plans and perfect ideals are made of dirt and dust and all things earth too. So we are two failures going head to head and failing at that too.

This past weekend one of my pastors pulled a “Look right at me,” and all 800 of us did: Jesus likes you, he said, Jesus likes you.

And the tears pooled up, gathering and spilling, because I can’t imagine Jesus could like the likes of me if I can’t even like the likes of me 99% of the time. I am my own greatest disappointment and Jesus likes me?

Here’s what I know about lurking rats: they lurk, they slink, they stink, and they think they own the place.

But they don’t.

Because I’m a new creation and still wrought with the stuff of earth, yes, but filled, brimming over with the Holy Spirit and He makes all things new. And He has made me new too.

I will disappoint you time and time again, but He will not. So whether you struggle with feeling disappointed or feeling disappointed in—if you’re His, your hope and your righteousness comes from Him. He owns your humanity and your ideals.

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