To the Staff:

This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to write because I literally can’t see through the tears. And I very rarely cry. This summer has been one of the most phenomenal experiences I’ve ever had. The kids I’ve had the opportunity to love on have definitely contributed to the great memories that have come from my time at Camp Gilmont (and, at times, the horrifying moments that turn into the best stories), but by far, the biggest blessing that I’ve had this summer has been the staff I’ve had the privilege to serve with. They have made me laugh and, particularly today, made me cry like a seven-year-old girl who is missing home on her first Sunday night at camp. They have taught me much about life, about loving unconditionally, about listening, and about leading. They have taken a place that I already loved, and made me love it so much more. So, to Gilmont’s Summer Camp Staff of 2016, thank you.

To James: You are the reason I came to Gilmont in the first place, and the reason I’ve stuck around so much. Thanks for supporting me, making me laugh, poking me in the face, and yelling “Good morning!!!” at me. Your leadership and vision for Gilmont make it the success that it is, and your friendship has helped shape me into the person I am. Thank you so much investing in me and in this place that I treasure so much.

To Aubob: First of all, thanks for hiring me. And also thanks for being our Camp Director. And for putting up with us singing “Aubobob, Auboborain” every time you walked through the door.

To Liz: Thanks for all your silly quirkiness, but also for being the logical voice of reason and making camp run so well logistically. And for reading to my kids when I really didn’t want to.

 To Mary: Thanks for being there for us whenever we needed you, even if that meant mopping up vomit with me at 1:00 in the morning, and for putting up with all our Adventure Camp shenanigans. You’re also a pretty great wasp killer. I really appreciate all the support you gave the staff and the effort you spent getting to know us.

To Mike: Thanks for talking to me, and letting me share with you. I really enjoyed our mutual bond of being jerks to each other. You can also take some okay pictures.

To Maggie: I know I didn’t get to be around you much, but thanks for your enthusiastic spirit and kind heart. You’re the best silly song singer I know.

To Tim: Thanks for always being positive. I know that “no negativity” is kind of your catchphrase, but you really take that to heart, and your optimism never failed to make me feel better about whatever was going on.

 To Bekah: I need windshield wipers for my eyes. Even though our schools may hate each other, I love you. Thanks for having all the girl talks with me, for teaching me much more than I wanted to know about textiles, and for adding a good dose of sarcasm and sass to my life. You’re the coolest. I will even plan on venturing into the desolate wasteland known as Austin for you.

To Phyllis: Phyllis!!! Thanks for being such a kind and gentle spirit (unless there is a tickle or dunking war, in which case, you are a savage beast of whom I should be very, very wary). Your level head and calm manner of dealing with all the craziness that the rest of us have difficulty handling made all our lives much easier.

To Jake: Thanks for entertaining me by trying to make me uncomfortable (though you did fail in that endeavor). But on a serious note, thanks for bringing a fun, competitive spirit to our staff, for spiking on me in nine square, for picking my nose, and for ruining forever the song “Like I’m Gonna Lose You”. You’re going to do great things in life.

To Katelyn: I know it wasn’t your choice, but thanks for being in my cabin for three out of the four residential weeks. I really enjoyed getting to know you even more than I already did from CoF. You were always willing to be the bad cop, the shower timer, and the hair-braider when I just couldn’t. I really appreciate all you did for our cabin and to help me out.

To Matt: Oh Matthias. I don’t even know where to start. Thanks for running Adventure Camp when Kirby and I had no idea what to do. Thanks for telling great stories using poor grammar (which rubbed off on me for about a week). Thanks for calling me Adventure Mop and for switching word usages in sentences and for making me laugh with your facial expressions. You’re one of those people that I simply enjoy being around, which says a lot. Please don’t be a stranger.

To Kirby: You and Bekah were the first friends I had on staff, and two of the best. Thanks for crying with me around the fire at Adventure Camp, for not getting terribly frustrated at my lack of caring about anything, for having a fantastically varied and eclectic taste in music. Thanks for making awful puns and somehow being only three inches off the ground for the “Ooga-chakas” in our Hooked on a Feeling energizer. But most of all, thanks for opening up to me. I love you, the person who will just talk to me about anything and everything that comes to mind. Don’t ever change, and don’t ever apologize for who you are.

To Bailey: Thanks for being the level-headed voice of reason, for being calm and patient, for putting up with my terrible navigation on the way to get fingerprinted, and for having one of the most wonderfully dry senses of humor I’ve ever had the privilege of being around. Also, thank you for sharing your wonderful poetry with all of us. It takes a lot of courage to do that. Please don’t ever stop writing, and please don’t ever stop sharing your words.

To Avery: Thanks for talking about theology with me through the late hours of the night, and for keeping me sane. I don’t know what I would’ve done without you. Your patience and wisdom continually astound me and brought so much solidity to our staff.

To Jack: Thanks for always breaking my trance when I zone out, for throwing tennis balls with me during staff training, for being a good sport about me calling you Jack, for listening to me and not judging. You’re a tall, lanky vampire, but we love you.

To Ryan: Thanks for always making me laugh, for dealing with the stress of coordinating music, and for always saying what needed to be said. Your humor and frankness never failed to crack me up.

To Haley: Thanks for being the greatest at energizers, for ganging up to make Jack uncomfortable in conversation at PCHAS, and for always making me laugh.

To Alex: Thanks for always being there for me! I’ve loved getting to know you over the summer and listening to your commentary on everything that’s going on.

To Zach: Thanks for being the single nicest person I’ve ever met, for always asking me how I’m doing, for giving me the best hugs and for always being joyful. And also for bringing Lilly to see me today.

To Choice: I had to save you for last because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to write any more afterward because I’d be crying too much. Thanks for everything. For listening to my life story, for talking me through my issues, for giving me a hug when I got stressed, for going to Walmart with me, for buying milk, for paying for Chipotle because the workers randomly put me on your ticket, for singing High School Musical, for never following rule number one, for longboarding even though you didn’t want to and for jamming out with me in the Crain. But mostly, thanks for just being my friend, and being there when I needed you.

You guys are all the greatest, and I love and miss you all dearly.

“Missing someone is your heart’s way of reminding you that you love them.” – Allie the Camper

Beach Reach 2016

I’ve been struggling to describe the past week of my life. It seems as though I could talk about it for hours on end (and I have done exactly that), yet somehow all those words still fall short. I’m left racking my brain for something to adequately share how God has moved in my life. I suppose the best form is that of a simple story.

Last semester, I got involved with Rooted, a kids’ ministry program through the Aggie BSM, where I met Chandler Jackson. Over the course of our growing friendship, I shared with her that God was commanding me to take the words of the Great Commission to heart, to go and to make disciples. We prayed that God would give us the opportunities and (for me, anyway) some newfound conversational skills that were clearly lacking. Around mid-February, she mentioned that the BSM was taking a trip to South Padre and I immediately felt called to go. After a couple weeks of logistical chaos,  I officially became a member of Beach Reach 2016.

At 5:30 last Saturday morning, I left the comfort zone that is my Chevy Cruze and climbed into a fifteen passenger van with a group of complete strangers. Over the course of seven days which have now blurred together into one amazing experience, these twenty-one strangers have become some of the people I am most comfortable with. We have jammed to Beyonce, shaking van to the point of having people in other cars take videos of us. We have laughed over the silliest things after going entirely too long without sleep. We have proven to every other BSM that Texas A&M will win every yelling match. But most importantly, we have spent a week together with one mind and one purpose: to pour out our hearts to people who desperately need God. Every day, we worked together to drive and navigate vans, serve pancakes, and just hear the stories of some very broken people. At the end of that week, we waded into the ocean, individually surrounded by the same enormous entity, immersed together in God and in the water. We got to watch as new believers were baptized in that water and adopted into the family of our God, welcomed with shouts of joy and overwhelming applause.

I’ll probably never know how those van rides and conversations and free pancakes and prayers impacted many of the people we came across in South Padre. I’ll probably never see Greg or Raphael or Erin or McKenna or any of the other dozens of people I talked to again. But God’s timing is not bound by days or weeks. His work is not confined to Spring Break. I pray that he will continue to bring people into their lives, that he who began a good work in them will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Just as I am confident that he will work in their lives, I am sure that he will work in mine, equipping me to share the love of God and the gospel of Christ to people wherever I’m at.

Beach Reach 2016 has been the greatest spiritual revival I’ve had since I was a junior in high school. Thanks to everyone who played a role in that, but mostly, thanks and praise be to the God who works all things for our good and deemed it fit to work so greatly in my life this past week. Until next year, South Padre.

To Greg: I hope you found someone to talk to, to answer all your questions. I pray for you every day.

To Raphael: I pray that God will break your heart so that you may learn to love him.

To Chandler: Thanks for mentoring me and inviting me on such a phenomenal trip.

To Christa: Thanks for always watching out for all of us and attempting to curb the boys’ craziness.

To Chyla: Thanks for your constant heart of selfless service and love.

To Gazzia: Thanks for your sweet spirit and your gentle manner.

To Lauren: Thanks for your inspiring boldness and for teaching us new dance moves.

To Lindsey: Thanks for your incredible friendship and sharing your heart with me.

To Madi: Thanks for your gentle and kind heart and for always taking our side against Zach.

To Sabrina: Thanks for your heart of love and for having good bone structure.

To Victoria: Thanks for being the Questionable Leader and getting us where we needed to be, if not always on time.

To Chase: Thanks for making us all laugh and for being joyful in all circumstances.

To Colin: Thanks for all your enthusiasm and hype and for letting us watch your frisbee skills.

To Hossein: Thanks for giving me hugs and for your heart of service.

To Jeff: Thanks for your sense of humor and bold heart for the Lord.

To Jonathan: Thanks for your heart of service and pointing out the sketchiness of El Sol De Mexico.

To Mathew: Thanks for sharing your incredible conversations with me and for playing Slug Bug.

To Michael: Thanks for amusing us with your sleep habits and for always having a good attitude.

To Philip: Thanks for entertaining us with your crazy frisbee catches and for having awkward conversations with me at dinner. And also for hosting movie night.

To Rhett: Thanks for driving all our luggage and taping notes on to-go boxes. I hope your fingers feel better now.

To Rogelio: Thanks for being the subject of our memes and cracking me up with your stoicism.

To Trevor: Thanks for your sarcastic humor and volunteering to roll 1200 fork/napkin sets.

To Zach: Thanks for helping me with my professional seat training and for being my big brother.

I love you all.

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”

Philippians 1:3-11

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Consider the Following: An Open Letter to Bill Nye

Dear Bill Nye the Science Guy,

Yes, I remember your theme song. It still gets stuck in my head sometimes because I’m from a generation that thought you were the be all and end all of scientists just because you made some videos that we fell asleep watching during middle school science.

But today, I watched a video you did for the YouTube channel, Big Think. You asked, via the title, “Can we stop telling women what to do with their bodies?”

And I have a problem. With it, and with you.

Growing up, I was told to believe everything you said on that scripted, PBS Kids show. That it was sound science, that it was important to remember, that it would help me on my tests. You were the bulk of what I remember from elementary school science classes. I was led to believe you were infallible.

But let’s look at the facts: you went to Cornell (great job!) to get a degree in mechanical engineering. So I looked up the Cornell course requirements for mechanical engineering. And unless they were radically different in the 1970’s, you didn’t have to take a single biology course in college. And that degree is where you stopped your formal education. You don’t have a graduate degree in anything, let alone biology.

So what makes you qualified to tell me that I, someone against abortion, have a “deep lack of scientific understanding?” As far as biology, the very science of life, goes, I have the same level of education as you do: a high school diploma and all those Bill Nye: The Science Guy videos from back in the day.

So what makes you qualified to tell me that a fertilized egg attached to the uterine wall isn’t a person? That it is just a disposable part of a woman’s body?

What makes you qualified to determine exactly when some cells get their rights as an individual, not a part of a woman’s body? Can you give me that scientific definition, please?

Consider the following:

When you, I mean zygote you, were just a tiny group of cells clinging to that uterine wall, were you still Bill Nye? For the answer to that question, I turn to none other than, well, Bill Nye the Science Guy. In episode 83 of your trusted science show, you say to yourself: “Hey, nice genes!” To which you respond, “Thanks! I got them from my mom and dad! That’s what makes me (roll theme song) Bill Nye the Science Guy!”

So according to you, you’re Bill Nye because your genes say so. And since you had genes as a zygote, that means you were Bill Nye as a zygote. But if your mom had decided to abort little Bill Nye, the apparently not-yet-an-anything-guy, that would’ve been completely within her rights. Because killing a zygote, killing those few cells with definitive Bill Nye genes, totally wouldn’t be killing a person, wouldn’t have been killing you. Just looking at all those “facts” you say that anti-abortionists are so ignorant of.

So Bill, here’s the bottom line: I don’t have to listen to you. I know a bunch of people my age (and let’s face it, propaganda is targeted at young people because we’re easily influenced) will think you’re always right because that’s what grade school science taught us. But you’re not.

You want me to look at the facts, and I will. But those facts will come from a source that I trust, from a source that doesn’t tell me, “You’re ignorant, believe everything I have to say instead.”

I just hope that the nearly 400,000 other people who have watched your video do the same, because facts are not exclusively yours, and are certainly not made facts solely because they are spoken from the mouth of a man who claims they are true.

But in response to your question: no, I can’t tell a woman what to do with her body. But I can dang well fight as hard as I can against people like you who would take away the right of the body that grows inside her to do anything.

“A person’s a person, no matter how small.” – Dr. Seuss

I’m an addict.

You wouldn’t think it from looking at me. I look like the person with the perfect life, the one who’s got it all together. I look like that because that’s how I want you to see me.

But on the inside, it eats me alive. I used to keep it locked up in this tiny compartment, all dark and hidden. I thought, “Oh, it’ll be fine. I’ve got it all under control.” But here’s the thing about addiction: it grows. Sure, it starts as one pill that one time, one drink every now and then, the occasional click on that pop-up in the browser when you’re alone. But it grows. You give it that tiny bit of space in your life, that tiny little piece of yourself that you strive to keep hidden, but soon, that space is no longer enough. It eats at you, gnawing the edges of the cage you built around it until it hurts so much that you let it loose a little.

It’s no longer something I can control.

That gnawing ends up consuming you until you’re a shell of a person. Because addictions come in pairs: one is that secret thing, the thing I keep hidden. The other is convincing everybody that I’m okay, that I don’t have a problem, that I’m perfect, because I don’t want anybody to know how truly rotten I am. So the time I’m not spending satisfying that addiction, I’m spending covering it up, polishing my outside presentation so there aren’t any cracks to let light in, so I can keep prying eyes out. It became the most exhausting thing in the world.

It doesn’t really matter what my addiction is, what yours is.

Drugs.
Alcohol.
Tobacco.
Pornography.
Sex.
Eating disorders.
Gambling.
Lying.
Social media.
Others’ approval.
Video games.
The internet.
Work.
School.
Shopping.

Anything can become an addiction. It’ll start small, but before you know it, it’ll consume your thoughts, your time, your life, as it’s consumed mine.

But here’s where the bigger problem lies: I never told anyone.

Why?

Because that facade I created, everyone else has too. I thought everyone was perfect, so they couldn’t possibly understand what I was going through. I thought that they would judge me if they only knew what was inside of me. But that girl who I thought was perfect, isn’t. That guy who I thought never struggled, does. So I stopped believing the lie that I had to be perfect.

I used to keep addiction in this dark place that no one could see. Yet in my struggle to keep everyone from seeing, I also kept any light from coming in. Now, I’m free. I let people see. I let them in. I let them know that I’m messed up, so that they understand that it’s okay to be messed up.

Christ didn’t come to find the perfect people, to give them a pat on the back and say “Welcome to the club!” He came to heal the sick and mend the broken. He came not to tell us how to be perfect and not sin, but to give us his perfection as a free gift and take away our sins. So I stopped trying to be perfect, because I can’t be. I stopped trying to make other people think I am perfect, because I’m not.

Christ loves broken people, and I am a broken person.

So if you’re a broken person, an addict like me, Christ loves you. You don’t have to hide anymore. You don’t have to feel shame anymore. You don’t have to project perfection anymore. Be broken, and let Christ fix you. Tell people your story, that you were broken and Christ fixed you, so that they can understand that it’s okay to be messed up and they can receive the healing grace that only Christ can give. Let people see, not that they may judge, but that they may see the greatness of our God.

“On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'” – Mark 2:17

Bigoted or Biblical?: The Actions of Mobberly Baptist Church and Johnny Griffith

Recently a man was put on hold as a musician for the praise band of a large church in my area. You can read about it here. The reason: the man officiated a homosexual marriage. The outcry was enormous.

I am not here to talk about the legality of homosexual marriage. That has been decided and I can do nothing to change it, whether I want to or not. But I do have something to say about the church and its right to decide upon and uphold its standards. First of all, the church is not a government institution. It is a place where people come to worship and be taught about God. It does not hold the same standards as the government; it holds the standards it believes are right as laid out by the Bible and that church’s interpretation of it.

How is the church supposed to function according to its standards if it is not allowed to uphold them? Condoning actions within the leadership that are clearly against the standards of the church destroys its ministry. How can a church claim that it is following Christ if it is led by people who are clearly not complying with what the church believes are Biblical standards? If churches no longer have the right to act according to Biblical standards, then the right to freedom of religion has been compromised.

So for those of you who think Mobberly Baptist Church’s actions concerning Johnny Griffith are unjust, who think that any church’s refusal to exalt same-sex marriage is intolerant and bigoted, remember that the church has the right to follow God as it sees best whether you like it or not, whether the government approves of it or not, just as you have the right to enter into or participate in a same-sex marriage whether the church likes it or not.

The Word of God is clear: homosexuality, among many other things, is a sin. And just as the church expects all of its leaders not to participate in sins such as drunkenness, sexual immorality, and divorce, the church expects its leaders not to participate in same-sex marriage. The church is called to love, yes; the church is NOT called to tolerate blatant acts of rebellion against God in its leadership. This is not bigoted; it is Biblical.

The church should love homosexuals, but it should never exalt homosexuality. Griffith’s actions in a celebration of homosexuality were clearly not in line with the Bible, so he was removed from a position of leadership in the church.

No, the church does not hate him.

No, the church does not hate gay people.

No, the church does not hate anyone.

But no, the church cannot put someone in a position of worship leadership when that person is clearly not being obedient to God and is not repentant of their sin.

Same-sex marriage is officially legal, yes. But the church’s moral stance against it is not illegal. It is just as bigoted for someone to say that the church cannot function according to its statutes as it is for the church not to tolerate same-sex marriage. Don’t take away the church’s right to the freedom of religion in an attempt to impose your own moral standards (or lack thereof) on everyone else.

And for goodness’s sake, if you don’t like what the church is standing for or against, don’t attend it. No one is forcing anyone else to go to Mobberly or keeping anyone else out. Mobberly Baptist Church is just doing its best to uphold its Biblical standards. It may lose some members, but numbers and the approval of man have never been the mission of any truly Christian church.

“Now the overseer must be above reproach.” – 1 Timothy 3:2

EDIT: Mr. Griffith has posted a comment that I believe everyone who reads this article should read, as it answers some questions and adds his perspective.

Also, all future comments will have to be approved first, so they will not appear immediately. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t post.

The Mandate of Christians

There’s a reason people hate Christians. They think the religion is a to-don’t list: don’t curse, don’t drink, don’t have sex, don’t associate with the heathens. And maybe the religion, the system, is. But the faith is another thing entirely. It is a belief in a God that loves and shows us how to love. That is his mandate: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

So what is love?

Love is a very convoluted thing. Most people don’t have a very clear definition. Nicholas Sparks, possibly one of the most influential people in how young women perceive love, writes in A Walk to Remember that “Love is like the wind, you can’t see it but you can feel it.” Social media says love is a change in Facebook status, a “#mcm” and a name in an Instagram bio, a picture of you and “bae”. The movies say love is a kiss in the rain. Culture says love is something that you give in order to get. Society says that it lasts for awhile, but if you’re not happy you should just get a divorce.

None of these things are love. Love is a choice.

It is a choice to put someone else above yourself, to consider someone else’s needs above your own. It is a lifestyle of selflessness, not selfishness. In a world that socially exhibits Darwin’s concept of survival of the fittest at the expense of the weak, this is not a natural concept. Self-gratification is the end goal. Marriage exists to make you happy, and when it doesn’t, then a divorce lawyer makes his paycheck. Your needs, wants, desires, and even whims come before anyone else’s. And who can blame you? Take care of Number One first, right?

Wrong. Love means you come last.

Last. Not a very popular position nowadays. And last doesn’t mean second. It doesn’t mean only after your family. It means after everyone. That means your neighbor. That means the poor girl at Starbucks who put whipped cream on your NO WHIP Low-fat Double Chocolaty Chip Creme Frappuccino. That means that boy who broke up with you. That means that girl who talked bad about you in middle school. That means criminals. That means the sinners. That means, heaven forbid among the church, gay people.

Love doesn’t count the cost.

Cost isn’t just money. It’s time. It’s pride. It’s effort. It’s giving of yourself. Love requires a sacrifice. It requires you intentionally forfeiting your comfort, your best interests, your selfish desires, and putting someone else’s needs first. And yeah, it costs. So what value do you put on people? Are they worth what you have to give up? Hmmm. Is that girl’s morning at Starbucks worth the 30 seconds it’ll take you to scrape some whipped cream off? Is that prisoner’s life worth letting go of your anger at his crimes? Is that gay person’s soul worth giving up your condescension?

Jesus thought my soul was. He thought everybody else’s was, too.

I was a sinner. I messed up. I, in all my filth, my undeserving wretchedness, was a screw-up. And he saw fit to die for me. The cost was his life, and he paid it. He thought I was worth it. He loved me that much. He chose to ignore his physical needs and sacrifice himself for me. So how is it that I think I can choose who is worth my love? I can’t. Jesus died for everyone. He died for every single person I have ever met, ever come into contact with. He loved them, and he calls me to love them too. Every. Single. Person. Now that’s a revolutionary Christianity.

Christianity is a call to love people, not a reason to judge them.

This is our mandate: to show people the love of Christ, not to tell them they need to clean up their act. Judging lost people for their sins, telling them they need to fix themselves, is contradicting the entire message of the Gospel. This teaches people that they need to become righteous to be accepted by God and that they have to obtain right standing by themselves. It teaches them that they have to be deserving of his love, when instead we should be loving them no matter what they do, what they look like, what their sexual orientation is, or how they choose to respond to that love. This is love: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Though they are still sinners (just like us), we need to demonstrate our love for them.

Christ was willing to die on the cross for you. How far are you willing to go to show love to someone else?

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35

Value Beyond Numbers

On Tuesday, I went to Aggie Muster because I received a scholarship from the Deep East Texas A&M Club. One table down from me, there was this girl. She was from Pine Tree, a school that my school not only rivals, but constantly tries to quantitatively be better than. She got a $4000 scholarship, quadrupling my measly $1000 one. So I did a mental stack-up: I’m a National Merit Scholar and the valedictorian of my class; all she’s got is drum major of the Pine Tree band, which is pathetic according to my school’s band directors. I was snooty and bitter because I thought I had been slighted, so I made up my mind to prove that I was better than this girl, this girl who had done nothing to me other than submit an application and be selected.

The way I compared myself to that girl is not an isolated incident. I am guilty of these types of judgments on a daily basis, just like I believe many other people are. The human race is a competitive one – survival of the fittest is a culture, a way of life. People will do whatever it takes, not to reach a certain standard, but to beat the guy next to them. Ours is a society based on quantification – we want more money, more cars, more square feet in our house, more Facebook friends, more Instagram likes. I’m guilty of it: I check my viewer stats on this blog on a daily basis. I’m looking to see how many people are reading, how many people are watching me, looking for a number that will somehow bring worth to what I’ve written.

I feel that this is a fundamental problem. The crux of the matter is this: I look to the approval of others, usually represented by a number, to find value in my work and my life. I don’t look at something I’ve written and think “I like that. I think I’ll post it.” I wonder how many people will read it and like it. I don’t post a picture on Instagram because I think it’s a cool picture; I post it because I think people will “double tap”. I’m not satisfied when somebody hands me a thousand dollars because they handed somebody else four times that. I wonder what was wrong with me, why they chose her instead of me. All my numbers seem to be perpetually less than somebody else’s, which translates into a perpetual state of disappointment and a feeling of worthlessness.

These comparisons, this reliance on the quantification of other people’s approval, is my biggest waste of time and drain of happiness and, I believe, is a source of dissatisfaction for many other people as well. I will never be the most popular person on social media. This will never be the most-read blog on the internet. My SAT score will never be perfect. My scholarship application won’t always be ranked highest. But I will not let these facts define my value because my worth is not defined by numbers.

There are two people whose opinions really matter, whose approval I should strive to seek: my God and myself. For a long time, I made people my god. I worked for good standing in the eyes of the world, for the title of “the best”, which by definition means better than everyone else. But I have chosen now to put God in his rightful place. His is the ultimate authority to put a value on my life, and He sees me as His infinitely valuable creation.

I am a person. The girl a table over me at Muster is a person. You are a person. Behind every Instagram picture, every Tweet, every blog, every Facebook account, there is a person, not defined or assigned value by a number, but loved by a Creator. When I fully realized this, I stopped making comparisons. I stopped feeling like crap about myself because my numbers were less than somebody else’s. I stopped judging people and being prideful because my numbers were greater than theirs. Getting out of that mindset is an ongoing struggle, yes, but it is a worthwhile one. Learning to find worth in the love of God is infinitely more rewarding than any value this world and its people can give me.

“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” – Galatians 1:10