Family Portraits: Emily Mason
by Emily Mason
What has the power to ruin your day? For me, it’s the tiniest details of social interactions. It could be an email I wasn’t expecting, asking for a favour or informing me of a mistake I’ve made in a project for work. It could be a text message whose punctuation and cryptic choice of words send me into a tailspin, or the fact that I haven’t spoken to a friend for several months. It’s more than mere over-thinking. Racing thoughts and stomach-twisting worry are unwelcome but familiar visitors in my daily life.
So, what does Jesus being baptised have to do with any of that?
Let’s start with Mark 1:9-11.
“In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.”
Lately, I feel like God has given me two things to think about.
The first thing I’ve needed to hear is the simple truthful statement:
“No one is disappointed in you.”
That statement means so much to me. Disappointment has a lot of power over Emily. The thought of being told that I’m a disappointment to anyone makes me want to crawl into a hole. I can probably remember every instance of someone being unhappy with me in the past 10 years. Maybe you’re the same. The feeling of being a disappointment closely relates to a feeling of shame, the fear that something about Emily makes me unworthy of love and unworthy of doing well and being happy.
There are a lot of people I could disappoint. I often think,
- “Are my parents disappointed that I moved so far away when I turned 18 and haven’t come back?”
- “Are my friends from uni disappointed that we don’t talk anymore?”
- “Are people at church disappointed that I chose one ministry over another?”
When I lay it out so plainly, I know that’s far too much potential disappointment for one person to handle. It’s no way to live, looking over my shoulder for a disappointed person all the time.
I don’t want to read too much into the verses about Jesus’ baptism, but I find them incredibly comforting. Those few short sentences represent his commissioning and God affirming his authority, but it’s also worth noting that this happens at the very start of Jesus’ ministry, before he had ‘done’ or ‘achieved’ anything, before a single miracle or sage teaching had been recorded.
God proclaims, so everyone can hear, “you are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.” And, because of what Jesus went on to do—because of the perfect way he joins heaven & earth and because I belong to him—when God looks at me, he is well-pleased with me. He is not disappointed in me. And, in a sense, because of that, no one is disappointed in me.
Of course, I do disappoint my parents and my friends. Maybe I’ve even disappointed you somehow since I’ve joined the BRBC family. If that’s the case, I need to make things right, but that disappointment does not have the power to morph into full-blown shame and crush me. The astounding good news of grace tells me, “no one is disappointed in you.”
Here’s the second thing, which follows on from the first. God is reminding me that I’m not a disappointment, but he’s also asking me a question, a question that I really dislike.
“What are you doing? What’s your plan?”
Sometimes I think to myself, “Gosh Emily, you’re so annoyingly agreeable that you’re just skating through life. Too scared to take a risk, say what you think, set a goal and conquer it, have any ambitions really.”
Perhaps I’m being too harsh on myself, but I do think it’s a valid question for God to ask me. For someone like me, it’s an area of life where I need a strong push. I’m not particularly ambitious, I don’t want to be a millionaire or invent a new product or rise to the top of a specific field of study. I’m happy when things go reasonably smoothly on the whole. That’s Emily.
But I also know that a disciple of Jesus makes the most of her time on earth and tries new and different things to discern what the best thing is in any season of life—whether that’s to do with work, studying, discipling others or serving. And I haven’t been very faithful in doing that recently. I have been hanging back, too scared to take a risk, too scared to disappoint someone, wasting lots of precious hours.
God’s approval, his never-ending love for me and the security I have in belonging to Jesus are all the motivation I need to take a risk! Because of that love, I can be a better steward of my time, invest more into other people, and have less fear of disappointing people.
The same way that the approval and pleasure of the Father at his baptism was a commissioning for Jesus, it’s my commissioning too, to go and proclaim that the kingdom of God is here and faithfully steward the Gospel. I just need to figure out what that means in my life right now. Please pray that I will, and I will continue praying that we seek the same as a church family together.
February 14, 2019
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