“Sometimes ordinary miracles happen, and Cheddar is one of them.” This is how Mario Roque, a manager at a Florida Red Lobster restaurant, explained the story you’re about to read.
The team at a Hollywood, Florida, Red Lobster received a shipment of live lobsters recently in which they found one with a bright orange hue. Most lobsters have a dark exterior, with hues of mainly browns, grays, and some undertones of red. This enables them to hide from ocean predators.
This lobster, however, had a vibrant shell caused by a one-in-thirty-million genetic mutation that produces more of a particular protein than other lobsters. Such coloring makes a lobster more visible and attractive to predators, so these unique lobsters rarely survive in the wild.
But this one did. The Red Lobster staff saved her from a culinary death, naming her Cheddar (after their famous biscuits) and transferring her to the staff of Ripley’s Marine Science Research Center in Myrtle Beach. After Cheddar becomes acclimated, she will be moved to Ripley’s Aquarium of Myrtle Beach as her new home.
Cheddar is a rare lobster, but she is not entirely unique. Lobsters live in each of the world’s oceans; there are 250 million of them just in the Gulf of Maine. This means there are eight more Cheddars waiting for Maine lobstermen to find and many more around the world.
How I became a driven person
By contrast, you are entirely and completely unique. No other human in all of human history has possessed your specific genome. No one else has experienced exactly what you have experienced. No one ever will.
You are “fearfully and wonderfully made” by your Maker (Psalm 139:14). He did not create you because our planet needed another human to add to the 7.753 billion of us who are already here. Rather, he made you because he wanted to make you. He wanted you to “glorify God and enjoy him forever,” as the Westminster Shorter Catechism states.
The fact that we are each wanted and loved by God through no merit of our own is a truth I need to remember each day.
Our family did not go to church, so I had no biblical worldview by which to define success. As a result, I came to believe at an early age that the more I could accomplish, the more valuable a person I would become. I learned to measure myself by grades and accomplishments at school and popularity with friends.
In addition, my father was a heart patient all the years I knew him. He had his first heart attack when I was two years old and died of another when I was a senior in college. He lived nineteen years on “borrowed time,” as the doctors said. We knew that every day could be his last day.
Consequently, I grew up not trusting the future. I had a deep sense that tomorrow could be taken from my father and our family. This added enormous urgency to my drivenness to succeed, to become all I could become as rapidly and fully as possible.
When I became a Christian at the age of fifteen, I transferred this drivenness to my new faith. Now I would try harder to do more for God. The more I did, the better a Christian I would be.
Or so I thought.
The best advice I’ve ever received
When I was a senior in high school, our youth minister gave me a word of wisdom that changed everything. After asking how I was doing and listening to my description of my overbusy days, he smiled and said, “Jim, always remember the source of your personal worth.”
This is the best advice I’ve ever received.
As I thought and studied, I came eventually to understand the truth I am discussing with you today: we are loved by God because “God is love” (1 John 4:8). He loves us because he loves us. There is nothing we can do to make God love us any more or any less than he already does.
Our work as Christians is our response to his grace, not a means of earning it. We serve because he loves us, not so he will. We read the Scriptures, pray, worship, and engage in other spiritual disciplines to position ourselves to experience what his Spirit offers us by grace. The Christian life is one of “grace through faith” (Ephesians 2:8).
As St. Augustine noted, “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”
“In all that matters most we are equal”
So, let me ask you: What motivates your service to Christ today?
Are you reading this blog, engaged in spiritual disciplines, and working in the kingdom so he will love you or because he loves you? Are you trying to earn what only he can give?
If so, I encourage you to take my youth minister’s wisdom to heart. Know that you are uniquely made and uniquely loved. Love your Lord and your neighbor in grateful response to such grace.
And extend such grace to others, remembering that they are loved by God as fully as you are loved by God. The Anglican priest William Temple was right: “My worth is what I am worth to God; and that is a marvelous great deal, for Christ died for me. Thus, incidentally, what gives to each of us his highest worth gives the same worth to everyone; in all that matters most we are equal.”
Will you remember the source of your personal worth today?