Two terms that were new to me were in the weekend news. Each is a window into our cultural soul.
The first is “sleep tourism,” which is trending since sleep deprivation is such a problem for so many Americans. For example, hotels in New York City and London now feature rooms with sleep-enhancing amenities and soundproofing. One hotel offers a sleep-inducing meditation recording, a pillow menu with options that cater to guests who prefer to sleep on their side or back, the option of a weighted blanket, a special bedtime tea, and a scented pillow mist.
And no wonder: In a recent study, 40 percent of participants reported a reduction in their sleep quality since the start of the pandemic.
The second is “hang-xiety,” which the New York Times describes as “the emotional plunge [people] feel after drinking that doesn’t quite constitute a proper hangover.” The article notes that one effect of drinking alcohol is sleep disruption due to elevated blood sugar and excess glutamate.
So, it turns out, the second term exacerbates the first.
Amazon accused of selling suicide kits to teenagers
Human technology is advancing by the day, but human nature is not.
After an explosion Saturday on a bridge linking Russia with Crimea, Russia apparently sought revenge by striking major Ukrainian cities this morning. A series of blasts rocked Kyiv, with some strikes landing in the heart of the Ukrainian capital’s downtown during rush hour. At least five people were killed and at least a dozen were injured, according to the Kyiv police department.
The previous day, a Russian missile attack struck an apartment building, according to Ukrainian officials. At least thirteen people were killed and eighty-seven others were injured. According to the Associated Press, Ukrainian officials further allege that the Russian invasion of their nation is “being accompanied by the destruction and pillaging of historical sites and treasures on an industrial scale.” And North Korea fired two ballistic missiles yesterday, the latest in a recent barrage of weapons tests.
Closer to home, a parents’ lawsuit accuses Amazon of selling suicide kits to teenagers. The lawsuit is being brought by the families of two teenagers who bought a deadly chemical on the company’s website and later used it to take their own lives. And the mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana, is apologizing after he was arrested Saturday evening for allegedly driving while intoxicated and causing an accident.
However, one more news story illustrates the hope we can claim today: A bargain hunter went to an estate sale in Maine, where he found a framed document with elaborate Latin script on sale for seventy-five dollars. He bought it, then discovered it was used about seven hundred years ago in Roman Catholic worship and could be worth as much as ten thousand dollars.
What no Jew had done before
The best single piece of advice I’ve ever received is one I’ve shared often: My high school youth minister told me, “Always remember the source of your personal worth.” You possess a value far transcending what our secularized culture may have assigned to you. In fact, your true worth is beyond all human estimation.
Let’s discover your worth by remembering a familiar story with an astounding element.
When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, Matthew reports: “Immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him” (3:16). This was visual evidence of Jesus’ calling to be Messiah (Isaiah 42:1), an office which was familiar to the Jews and a deliverer for whom they had prayed for centuries.
But then something happened that was truly unprecedented: “And behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:17). God has a “Son”! This was a radical thought to the Jews, whose focus on the oneness and singularity of God was central to their faith (cf. Deuteronomy 6:4).
If God has a Son, this Son must be as divine as his Father. And so he was and is.
The Jewish people thought of God as the “Father” of the nation, but none had ever dared claim him as their personal father. Not only did the Son of God frequently make this assertion, he also called him “Abba,” Aramaic for “Daddy” (cf. Mark 14:36). As German theologian Joachim Jeremias noted in The Prayers of Jesus, “There is not a single example of the use of Abba . . . as an address to God in the whole of Jewish literature.”
Not, that is, until Jesus.
Claiming the truth about yourself
Here’s my point: Because Jesus is the Son of God, you can be the child of God: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1; cf. John 1:12; 2 Corinthians 6:18; Galatians 3:26). In the moment you make Christ your Savior and Lord, you are “born again” into a new family—the family of God (John 3:3).
What does this mean in practical terms?
You can love and serve people whether they love and serve you or not because you are already loved absolutely and unconditionally by your Father. And you can pay any price in this world to glorify God because this world is no longer your home and your inheritance with your eternal family is secure (John 14:1–3).
In Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World, Henri Nouwen makes this point better than I can: “The world tells you many lies about who you are, and you simply have to be realistic enough to remind yourself of this. Every time you feel hurt, offended, or rejected, you have to dare to say to yourself: ‘These feelings, strong as they may be, are not telling me the truth about myself. The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity, and held safe in an everlasting belief.’”
Will you remember today the source of your personal worth?
NOTE: Has America left God? Or is he being patient with us? I answer that question and more in the updated edition of How Does God See America? And as we’re heading into another politically charged voting cycle, we’re also including an ebook edition of Respectfully, I Disagree for your donation of $50 or more. Please request the “Let’s be civil” book bundle today.