Do I Matter?

Photo: shinealight, Flickr via Creative Commons

Photo: Ryan McGilchrist, Flickr via Creative Commons

I came into the Christian world through some twisty, obscure roads, carrying quite the set of luggage on my back. My childhood home was marked by scarcity, addiction, and abuse. I know four fathers. Having always excelled in school, I embraced arrogance and superiority early in life. Afraid and resentful of authority in equal measure, I found all of the ways to rebel that stopped short of real trouble. Underlying all of this was the unshakable truth that I was wholly and utterly unworthy of love. At fifteen I fell victim to the tenacious friendship of a girl who would become one of the best human beings I will ever know. Thus began my time in the world of the Latter-Day Saints, a world of unconditional acceptance and family and health I had never imagined could actually exist. The people of that community were the first to try to convince me that I had value, that I could be part of a quality group of people. Leaving the Mormon church a year later was the most heartbreaking decision I’d made up to that point in my life. I had simply come to a place intellectually that I felt forced me in a different theological direction, and couldn’t with any integrity remain. I began attending a small, unaffiliated (non-denominational) church in a nearby town. It was a place filled with gentle, kind, loving, well-intentioned people. They taught me the power of real forgiveness, validated my pain and helped me move on from some of it. They gave me an identity – political beliefs, interpretations of the world, an understanding of evil, and my place in it all. I likely misheard, misunderstood, or mis-remember the things they taught. However, one of the deepest held beliefs I was given at that time was that the secular idea of “self-esteem” was worldly, of the flesh, ultimately evil. Human beings were sinful, broken, twisted. We needed to cover ourselves with the blood of Jesus shed on the cross to be acceptable to God so that when He looked at us He no longer saw us but only Jesus. My identity was to be sublimated into that of Christ. Struggling to feel my own value was futile because apart from Christ I had none. Wrestling with issues of self-esteem was a distraction from the true meaning of life, which was seeking to glorify God (not that I ever really understood what that might look like). The issue with this, for me at the time, was that it felt so perfectly true. I already knew I was worthless, unlovable, a wreck. Thanks to Jesus there was a way for me to someday be worth something, and now I was to spend my life trying to thank Him for that someday event by trying to be as much like a first-century Palestinian Jewish man as possible. Wait… No really. Wait. Skipping over twenty or so years, we come to the present. Without diving into all the theological issues wrapped up in this (which I may do at another time), I don’t believe those things above anymore. We must remember that the story begins in Genesis 1, not Genesis 3. Image-bearers in a garden, not deception and a fall. We are made in the image of God. That image has been marred by sin and corruption and death. Life in Christ is the process of the redemption of that image. Our work in this world is to participate in that redemption on personal, relational, community, and even global levels. That is the kingdom come. It’s actually a really beautiful story, and I thank the Eastern Orthodox church for maintaining some of these truths for us negatively minded Protestants over the centuries. The teachings of the modern Church that say that self-esteem is “of the world” are wrong. The preacher who says seeking an understanding of your value is anti-Christian, is wrong. The magazines that tell you your worth is in your weight, or the amount of weight you can lift, are lying. The Christianity that says you are only as good as the sum of your moral choices is wrong. The exploration of our value as carriers of the image of God is the whole point, because if we don’t see the value in ourselves we are the worst kinds of liars claiming to see it in others. How can we love if we are marred by a belief that we are unworthy of love? And we are so very worthy of love. God believes we are worth saving. God believes I am worth redeeming. If my brain has been wired to negate that truth, then it is absolutely appropriate that I invest myself in the work of rewiring. And the more I learn to embrace my value as a carrier of the image of God, the better able I am to help you find your value as the same. What better effort can we make toward seeing the kingdom come than in finding it within ourselves and one another?

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2 Comments

  1. Adiel said,

    April 9, 2015 at 7:03 am

    Reading about the lies you were taught years ago makes me rather angry. It seems so wrong to think you’re worthless- ridiculous even! And yet, I find I tend to live with the same sense of shame low self esteem. But thinking about how God found me worthy enough to bear His image gives me a new drive to fight these feelings of worthlessness. God the Creator gave us His beautiful face. I look like Him. Seriously?! This thought makes me feel… lovely. And beautiful. And worth it.

    Okay, enough rambling from me. I just want you to know that your thoughts and words are helping me. Thank you for showing me a bit more of God’s face. His features look glorious set in your face.

    • MandyK said,

      April 9, 2015 at 10:06 am

      As always, thank you for your incredibly kind words 🙂 And knowing this stuff might help someone relate or put words to their own journey is why I have this blog, so thank you.


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