This past weekend something incredibly meaningful happened about 60 miles down the road from where we live. At the 35th Annual Rodes City Run 10K in Louisville, KY on Saturday morning, one of the participants was a lady named Asia Ford. Asia’s story, even before the race, is very inspiring; the mother of three wanted to lose weight and get healthier, not just so she could be there for her children, but to help inspire them to be all that they could be. This race was to be one great example to herself and to her children that each of us is valuable and we can achieve more than we ever thought possible. But as the race progressed, things were not going as planned. Having recently gotten over pneumonia, Asia, at about mile 4 of the 6.2 mile race, did not feel like she had the strength to finish. Her son TJ with her, she was praying for the strength to make it a few more steps. Soon they had made it to mile 5, and it was at this point that the story turned into one that has already touched millions of lives.
Seeing Asia Ford struggling, Louisville Metro Police officer, Lieutenant Aubrey Gregory, on duty the morning of the race, stepped in to see if he could help her. As he neared, she took hold of his hand and, in this gesture of kindness and help from the officer, she gained the physical, and more importantly, emotional, even spiritual support that she needed to finish the race. Photographer Jonathan Roberts captured the beautiful moment of triumph as Asia, Officer Gregory, and TJ, crossed to finish line together, hand-in-hand. Truly a beautiful and powerful image.
I love this story, and other stories like this, for what they are on the surface, but also for the deeper places in our lives that they point towards and shine light on. In knowing the meaningful moment was captured on camera, and, in an insightful way, sensing that the image would possibly be seen by many people, Asia Ford offered these deeply important words to all of us: “When you see the photo, just know that you’re worth it. And you can do anything that you put your mind to.”
Just know that you’re worth it.
These words, in a serious way, harken to the words that Jesus speaks to us. In what is probably the most well-known Bible verse of all, we find the bold and powerful proclamation that “God so loved the world.” But it’s in the next verse, John 3:17, that Jesus goes on to say, “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” Now, that word ‘condemn’ carries with it the imagery of what we today would say about a dilapidated building. The building inspectors would ‘condemn’ the building, saying it’s not worthy of use, it’s not even worthy of being repaired, the only thing left is for it to be destroyed.
God did not look at our broken, sin-stained world, at our broken and sin-stained lives, and say, “Forget it, I’m sick of these people, just get rid of the whole thing.” Oh, praise God that He didn’t! Rather He saw people whom He created, people whom He loved, people made in His very image, and His heart cried out – “Save! They need to be saved – they are worth it.”
Lieutenant Gregory looked on Asia Ford, not as someone who unfortunately didn’t have the strength and ability to finish the race she started. He did not see her as someone who was just another face in a crowd. He saw her and he saw worth, he saw a fellow human who was struggling, and he reached out and became a part of something so much bigger than himself. Whether he knows it or not – he gave us all a beautiful picture of the Kingdom. He gave us a glimpse of what God Himself did.
Now, I don’t want to over-spiritualize a moment or put Lt. Gregory up for sainthood, but what we see in that picture, I believe, is a picture of God’s in-breaking Kingdom. It’s the kind of picture, that as we seek God’s Kingdom, we’ll see is happening all around us. When we live in the Kingdom, when we take on the character and heart of our God we look at those around us not as people who need to get their act together, not as people who are different than us, as people who we don’t need to bother with, but rather we look at those around us and say, “You are worth it. You are worth my time and attention. You are worth my affection. You are worth it, not because of what I can get from you, but because God has created you uniquely and wonderfully. And you are worth it because, in God’s eyes, when He looks at me, somehow He says ‘My child, you are worthy of my love.'”
I cannot, for the life of me, understand why and how God does that. I do not measure up to a holy God. I am not adequate enough to receive any good thing from God’s hand. Yet God, through the worth and sacrifice and triumph of Jesus, makes me worth it. Wow. And as I think about this, I realize, this needs to be the driving force in our mission as His followers, that people are worth it. The mess and sacrifices of life are worth it because people matter to God, and none of us have the right to look down on others because without God we would be nothing. Praise God for His great love! May His Kingdom break into our lives more and more. May we reflect His heart and His character more and more in our relationships.