insecure christians

insecure christiansthis was a guest post i wrote for rachel held evans‘ blog last week (see, i do know how to use capital letters!).  i wanted to re-post it here so i had in my archives; plus, some of you may not have seen it or wanted to comment over there because there were loads of them.  anyway, i’d love any thoughts you wanted to add to it.

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I had an amazing conversation last week with a non-Christian counseling grad student who had a project in this class to “move toward something in their culture they were uncomfortable with.”  He chose Christianity.  His experience with it wasn’t a positive one so he was trying to bravely explore it.  We had a delightful conversation because he asked the best questions, the kind where trite Christian answers won’t quite do.  He wasn’t talking about atonement theories or biblical interpretation of certain passages (for the most part, I think only Christian insiders give a rip about that kind of stuff).

He asked–Why do Christians never seem to feel very good about themselves?

I laughed that he had hit the nail on the head.  The basic premise of Christianity is that there is nothing good in us.  That original sin has ruined us and we are miserable sinners, unworthy of anything good without the blood of Jesus.   That depravity is our essence.

With that as our starting place, my experience has been that despite all of the “God loves me” messages that get tossed around in church services and Bible studies, nothing completely fills in the cracks of that deep chasm.  That somehow, no matter what, we just aren’t good.  We aren’t worthy.  We aren’t secure.   We aren’t loveable.  We are fatally flawed as human beings.

I know this well in my own life. I come from a liberal, non-churchy family that believed in the basic goodness of people (we were those people who evangelical Christians worried about!).  When I opened my heart to following Christ, I needed a real, tangible God and was strangely and beautifully drawn to Jesus. I always say that if I had just stuck with that and never became involved in the kinds of churches I ended up attending, I would have been better off in the security-as-a-person department.  But alas, that is not my story, and the rigidity and rules sucked me in, and I learned about what a miserable person I was without the cross of Christ.   I ended up feeling worse about myself than when I started, and I brought a lot of shame and guilt to the table from the beginning!  Christianity seemed to cement in me my badness.  It reminded me constantly how much I fell short and how unworthy I was without God in my life.

About 17 years ago a wise and beautiful friend rocked my world with an important theological twist that some of you might say “duh!” at, but it was never taught to me in my hyper-conservative-evangelical circles.  We were made in the image of God.  That goodness is in us from the beginning.  Sure, sin and brokenness has infiltrated this Genesis 3 world, but we must remember it all started with Genesis 1.  Man and woman, created in the original image of God.   That is our essence even though brokenness buries it.

I think that the spiritual journey is to uncover God’s image that was originally placed there.  

I know from experience in my own life and journeying alongside many others that this is no easy task.  It makes it far worse when the starting place is “I am really a miserable wretch.”

The Apostle Paul in Romans 7 talks about the struggle of our humanity to lean into sin.  This passage is used all the time to hold up basic depravity, but we forget the twist that is there–“It’s not me, but the sin that lives in me” (vs. 7:12).

As a mother of five, the last thing in the world I want my kids to think is that they basically suck and are unworthy, unlovable.  I want them to know they are beautiful, created in the original image of God with his imprint built into every fiber of their being.  I want them to know they are worthy, secure, free.  With a great human capacity to sin, fall, fail and really mess things up, sure.  But I do not want a faith that forces me to build in them a basic insecurity from the start.  That feels cruel.  And completely counter to what I know about being a loving parent, and I’m only a human one.

My experience in working with people in pain in the church is that there’s an awful lot of insecurity going around in a system that is supposed to be built upon freedom, healing, and wholeness.  Far too much fear, depression, inadequacy, unworthiness exists in countless Christ-followers when they have a chance to be really honest. Something is gravely wrong with this!

But the systems we’ve created and the theologies we’ve clung to perpetuate it.

Ultimately it not only damages us personally and relationally, but keeps the real power of the church paralyzed and stuck.

And really insecure.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

4 Comments

  • I read the post on Rachel’s blog, but not the comments. This is a great post!

    Not only are we made in the image of God, but we are also intensely loved by God. Was Jesus Who He claimed to be? That which is written about Him is running over with His love for people. The only people who He had problems with were the religious ones who put burdens on people’s backs that were too heavy for them to carry (their religious systems, “theology” and rules).

    If some people on Rachel’s blog had problems with your post, they will have extreme problems with this next bit: Christianity is rampant with systems and theologies that need to see everyone as miserable pieces of filthy garbage. What should we do about our terrible situation? – Go to their “church” and they’ll help us find Jeee-zus. They’ve got it all figured out. They know exactly how to interpret the Bible, which explains all this stuff.

    Next, give them lots of money so they can build some big buildings with everything we need (soft chairs, gymnasiums, sound systems, movies and lots of staff to cater to our every need) to keep us comfy while we hide out from all those “sinners” out there in the world. Bit by bit they will give us more inside info. on how to keep from turning into garbage again. Don’t worry, they’ll have “spiritual authorities” there to tell us what to do and what not to do, a demanding job for which they should be well paid and held in high esteem.

    This system persists because it maintains the power, authority and wealth of the “church” and those who profit from it. I know that not all churches have totally bought into this model, but I suspect they are the exception to the rule.

    Yes, I am very opinionated on this. Our world is filled with poor, hurting people while we, and especially the religion known as “Christianity”, hoards our wealth, spending it mostly on ourselves. If Jesus were to appear in bodily form this very moment and appear on every television, smart phone and so on in the world and tell us to sell all that we have and give it to the poor, would we dismiss Him as a raving lunatic or go away sad because we are so very rich?

    Reply
  • The gospel is the unvieling of who we are in reality . Sin only obscured that reality and blinded us to it . The fall of adam only trapped man in ignorance of
    his original design made in the image of God . Jesus sees in all mankind there underneath the blindness of sin is a loss of our true identity . Mankind is nolonger in adam the last adam done away with Him . There is nolonger two adams only one Adam exists in the mind of God , christ crucified the false adam identity and his mind is reality of the new creation man is all that exists . What has been lost in first adam cannot compare to what has been resored in last adam . God came to restore his lost image in man and has successfully done this through the cross . He awakens us by his spirit to behold christ as the mirror of our own true identity . The ugly duckling awakens to the reality it was a beautiful swan all along . God sees his own image behind the facade of the deluded negative self image we have adopted through sin and the fall . Insecurity is a failure to grasp in reality who we are in christ , its an identity issue , we are nolonger in fallen adam we are in Christ , sin has only obscured that reality . The gospel is able to establish the most insecure believer in the world in a secure , confident , initmate relationship that bestows incredible dignity and value through secure sonship . This security is not based on our performance but on the completed work of Christ through which we have been clothed in perfect rightoeusness and resting in the acceptance of our eternal , unfluctuating , permanent right standing as a gift we confidently access all the riches of his grace without striving or effort . This is real security . The heart once it has grasped the
    reality of Christ is liberated into the security of sonship in the Fathers house .

    Reply

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