One day a few years ago, I spotted one of the ugliest cats I’ve ever seen in my life. It was prowling near our property with an evil eye trained on our bird feeder. I said to my wife, “Look at that thing. It’s disgusting. It appears that it might even be sick.”

Now you need to know that I do not naturally dislike cats. One cat lived happily in our home for more than 15 years. Hector rang the doorbell when he wanted to go out and, when he was in, he’d lie quietly by the wood stove, listening to Tchaikovsky. What was there not to love?

But on this day, looking at this miserable, mangy, neighborhood cat, I felt actual revulsion. My wife said, “You know, the other day some neighbors walking by saw that same cat in the ditch and said, ‘Oh, oh, that thing is sick. It looks bad. What’s wrong with it? We’d better call the animal officer.’”

No sooner had she spoken those words than a beautiful little girl ran around the corner, headed in our direction. We watched wide-eyed as she glanced at the ditch, spotted the wretched creature crouching there, immediately picked it up, gave it a great big hug, and said, “Oh, I love this cat. He’s had the mange, so we took him to the vet and the vet had to cut his hair off in blotches right down to the skin. But it’ll grow out again. And he’s such a good cat. He’s a beautiful cat.” And with that she was off, cuddling her beautiful cat.

Now be honest. Do you sometimes feel unattractive and unnecessary? Do you ever wonder if anyone would even miss you if you suddenly disappeared?

Imagine being born with a disproportionately shaped body — arms that would eventually span 201 centimeters, but relatively short legs, and feet that end up measuring size 14. People refer to your feet as “flippers” and kids ridicule your ears as “flappers.” Your torso is top-heavy and you are always fidgeting. Then you are diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. Imagine your parents going through a divorce when you are just nine years old. Imagine being nicknamed “Gomer” because you are considered a little naive, even if good-natured. Guess what? You can stop imagining now. Your name is really Michael Phelps, and you are destined to become the greatest Olympic athlete in world history.

Many of the factors that seemed to be liabilities for young Michael Phelps ultimately turned out to be his greatest assets. His body was custom built for championship swimming. But none of that was very evident before Bob Bowman came along. Coach Bowman believed in Michael long before the world ever heard of him. Why? Because he looked past Michael’s flaws and saw his potential.

That, my friend, is exactly what God offers to do for you. The One who knows you best looks at you through eyes of love. He recognizes that you are formed Imago Dei — in His own image — unworthy, yes, but certainly not worthless. In fact, infinitely valuable.

Dottie Rambo once wrote: “‘Amazing Grace’ shall always be my song of praise for it was grace that brought me liberty. I do not know just why He came to love me so. He looked beyond my fault and saw my need.”

Ninety-five percent of us need the assurance of knowing that God is willing to forgive sin and give purpose to life. (The other 5 percent do too, but are too proud to admit it.) Real people need to know that life counts. We need someone to show us that we are uniquely suited to make a difference for good in this world. We need someone to pick us up and hold us close, flaws and all.

A wise man once said, “God loves us not because of who we are, but because of who He is.”

So — you’re flawed? God loves you anyway. You’re weak? God loves you anyway. You’re old, disabled, homely, uneducated? God loves you anyway. You’ve failed morally? God loves you anyway. How can that be? Because His love is not contingent on your beauty, your credentials, your popularity or your performance. His love for you is sourced in Himself.

Wouldn’t this be a good day to avail yourself of such love? Wouldn’t this be an especially good day to open your life to Jesus? It is He who has said, “the one who comes to Me, I will certainly not cast out.”

The Rev. Daryl E. Witmer is founder and director of the AIIA Institute, a national apologetics ministry, and associate pastor of the Monson Community Church. He may be reached by e-mail at Voices is a weekly commentary by Maine people who explore issues affecting spirituality and religious life.