What MIT taught me about God

There I was, at 17 years of age, wearing my best outfit, sitting in the dining room of an important man. He held the keys, as it were. He didn’t have all the power, but it was his backing that I sought. It was his seal of approval that I needed.

It was a cold afternoon in New York. I had spent the morning taking a standardized test in a local high school. For hours I had worked systematically through packets of questions and had filled in the ovals corresponding to my answers. I had done well and I knew it. Weeks later I would find out that I had the highest score in my school. By a lot.

I was confident in my intelligence, confident in my class-standing. First, of course. I was captain of everything. President of everything else. I sang solos in the school chorus and played the lead in the school musical. I was friends with all my teachers and even the principal.

I had scholarships coming in and letters of recruitment in the mail seemingly every day. I was going to award dinners at the capital and was featured in the local news.

I had been accepted by every school to which I had applied, but there was only one that I wanted to attend. My essays for every other application were simply drafts compared to those for this school. I saved my best teacher recommendations for this one as well.

None of the other schools had interviews, just this one. So there I was, captain of everything, president of everything, soloist and acting lead, sitting down at a table before a stranger. I was used to speaking or singing in front of the whole school, even the town, but I was speechless. It was the question. A question that I was not prepared to answer.

“Why should MIT accept you?”

I didn’t know. I was nobody, nothing. In comparison to that great academic institution who was I? I wasn’t smart enough to go there. I didn’t have any accomplishments worth anything. I could do nothing but stammer and fall on the mercy of that stranger.

“Uh… I don’t know,” I began. Honestly today, sixteen years later, I have no idea how I finished that interview. I don’t know how I finished that answer. All I remember is my own sense of inadequacy before that great school.

God is Bigger

If I couldn’t give a good reason to be accepted by MIT how can I begin to expect God to accept me? What can I offer him? What meager accomplishments of mine could sway God Most High? What intellectual standing would hold any significance before the Author of Life? What talent could influence the Almighty?

“Uh… I don’t know.” Exactly.

What would you say to that question?

Maybe you have your answer prepared and practiced. “I’m a good speaker and I have a dynamic stage presence.” “I can play an instrument and could lead a worship band.” “I can lead people effectively and disciple many.” I can learn languages easily and could be a missionary.” “I have a high-paying job so my tithe would be a terrific addition to the kingdom.” “God would be lucky to have me!”

Have you thought that before? Even just a little?

There are two reasons that we should never try to answer that question. First, God cannot benefit from us. If he needed us then he wouldn’t be God. Second, we shouldn’t answer that question because God’s not asking it. God isn’t asking what we offer, he’s showing us what he has offered.

If our acceptance into God’s family, as it were, were dependent on our resumes then no one would ever be saved. Least of all me. Instead our reconciliation with God is through the righteousness of Jesus Christ. The cost of our acceptance was paid by the blood of God’s own Son.

We didn’t earn our place in the family of God. Instead we were graciously called and allowed to participate in this kingdom.

So stop relying on your own skills and status and find your worth in Christ, the Righteous One who became sin so that we could become the righteousness of God.

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About jbokel

husband, son, student, teacher, learner, preacher
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