O it chases me down, fights til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine

When I was interviewing for a leadership team position, Luke and Roxy asked me why I am passionate about Merge. And sure, there are the people, the music, the prayer room, the free food, and the comfy couches, all of that is pretty great! But those aren’t what keep me coming back here, week after week.

The Wednesday before this interview, I had left class on the verge of tears because I was full of self-doubt. I was in my head, telling myself that I am a terrible teacher, that my CT hates me, that my lessons aren’t effective, over and over and over. And then I got myself to Merge, and we sang Reckless Love, and my whole world came back into focus.

The Sunday following, Luke preached at Hope and gave a sermon on the parable of the Prodigal Son. As he was preaching, he considered the perspective of the younger son. The son who had hit rock bottom, felt he deserved the title of “servant” and was more than willing to take it, just to have food to eat. This son who I so easily and immediately identified with. Luke framed this son as a personification of the voice in the back of our head reminding us that we are not worthy, that we can’t do the things we set out to do, and that we are not good enough. The voice that I and so many college students face on a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute basis.

Then Luke turned to the father’s perspective. The father welcomes the son with open arms, seeing all of the good in him immediately. He is well aware of the younger son’s flaws and loves him fiercely anyway. He has heard about the mistakes that he’s made and the hurt that he’s caused, and he still throws him a party. If the younger son is a personification of the “you are not worthy” voice, then the father is a personification of “you are perfect.” As Luke went through the story, the words that stuck to me were the charge “believe the father’s version.” When you feel unsure, believe the father’s version. When you feel inadequate, believe the father’s version. When you are riddled with self-doubt, believe the father’s version.

As a person who has struggled with many negative thoughts lately, all of this struck a chord. This semester, with the help of my parents I made the decision to start seeing a psychologist about my mental health. I get overwhelmed and scared all the time, and I’m in an environment where professors say things like “just get it done” while assigning you another task. It just wasn’t healthy anymore, and I needed outside help. To hear Luke say that the negative chatter that runs through my head is only my own perspective, and that God sees otherwise, was exactly what I needed in that moment.

When we sang Reckless Love that Wednesday night, and again the next Sunday, the line “O it chases me down, fights til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine,” stood out to me. God loves us so much that we are worth Their special attention. They leave the ninety-nine because we are the most important. The reason I keep coming back to Merge is because I leave feeling worthy and loved. I leave with a new perspective, and I leave feeling good, no matter what kind of day I had beforehand. Merge helps me believe the father’s version, and that is worth more than any inheritance.