I saw a Super Bowl ad a few years ago called “Run Like a Girl.” In it, a slew of people are asked to demonstrate what it looks like when a girl runs. The first six or seven people, all older, demonstrate a stereotypical “girly” run, wimpy and not very athletic. Then we are presented with a younger girl, maybe seven or eight. She hasn’t yet been imprinted with and overwhelmed by stereotypes, and so when she’s instructed to “run like a girl,” she does it with passion and power. There’s no limp wrist or fluttering elbow. And it’s transcendent, inspiring. Because here’s a human heart and mind untouched and unclouded by stereotypes and generalization. And here’s a young girl, therefore, who’sliving in a differentstory.
The morals are many. Once a story takes root, it’s powerful. It can even become a prison. We all have stories in our brain, and it doesn’t matter if your story is true; if it’s true to you, then it’s true in all of its effects in your life. However, this reality also opens up to hope. What if there is a reality outside of our current experience with which we can align, and through which liberty, freedom, and abundance are available? In fact, this is what an adopted life is all about. As Jesus said,“I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.”
Living in adoption means living in a new story, and Scripture has the power to anchor us into the story of new life that God tells through Jesus. It’s not surprising then, that when we turn to Matthew 4, we see Jesus “run like a girl,” if you’ll follow my meaning: we see Jesus living from a different story, not from the templates provided by the dominant culture. Nor does he live out some self-produced story from the confines of a self-consumed ego, as we often do. Instead, Jesus lives from the story that the Spirit tells. Jesus is called “beloved” by the Father, and this is the story that he lives from, always.
Yet right after this declaration, Jesus’ trust is tested. Does he really trust the story of belovedness that the Father speaks over him? Will he believe that he's “in”? Or will he doubt his story and choose some alternate storyline? We read about that struggle in Matthew 4. There, Satan comes and says, basically, “It’s not enough to be a child of God. Prove yourself.” We should take note again that this is always the same strategy Satan uses with us, too, repeated ad infinitum. We should also note how Jesus responds: he answers with Scripture! He parries Satan’s blows with the story and authority of Scripture.
In other words, Jesus lives a Scripture-formed life. Clearly, he has studied it. He has read it enough to memorize it. And his Scripture-formed life is an adoption-formed life. He is living in Act IV, and not repeating Act II (grumbling in the wilderness, as his forebears did), nor Act III (turning to some more tangible comfort—like the bread offered him by Satan, as the Israelites turned to idols) to relieve the tension of trust and suffering.
All stories—all the good ones, anyway—have a protagonist who clings to hope in the face of great tension and suffering. They remain anchored in their hope and faith, against great odds. We see this in Jesus. And then we discover that we, too, are the protagonists! We, too, can walk the path with Jesus, who has blazed the trail. We are empowered to do this as we let Scripture ground us into the story of our adoption, even when we don’t feel like it. Because we often doubt our adoption; our thoughts and emotions may well contradict it at many points. This doesn’t make us bad Christians, it just makes us human beings. But if we will allow Scripture to inform our story, as Jesus did, we will become grounded in a new story, the very one that God tells and asks us to trust.
For all of these readings in one place, order my book 'Learning to Live and Love Like Jesus.'