yesterday was oscar night; i was traveling so didn’t get to enjoy the party but always play my part in seeing as many of the movies as i can. so many of you have probably read the help or at least seen the movie. a friend reminded me of one of my favorite lines from it this week, the words of the black nanny telling the little girl she cared for: “you is smart. you is kind. you is important.”
sadly, this little girl also received a powerful message from others in the her life that she wasn’t any of those three things. her mother was caught up in christian activities, putting on a good face, and keeping up with the jones’. passing on love & encouragement & acceptance weren’t her mother’s strong suits, and the nanny did whatever she could to make up for this lack.
when we’re honest, many people don’t feel smart, kind, or important.
many people don’t feel really secure.
many people don’t feel really loved.
sure, most can articulate “yeah, yeah, i know God loves me” but feeling and experiencing God’s love remains elusive.
we’re afraid to believe in ourselves. we’re afraid of our passion. we’re afraid of our gifts. we’re afraid of goodness.
we are much more comfortable and familiar with our badness. our lack. our always-falling-short-ness. our so-not-okay-with-who-we-are-ness.
my theory is that a lot of our faith experiences haven’t helped us with security; rather, they have sometimes increased our insecurity. the messages passed on to many of us through our families, relationships, and some of our church experiences are more like:
“you’re somehow not enough.”
“you’re a wretch.”
“you are missing the mark.”
“if only you were more like or had faith like ____ or ______.”
“if you could just do A and B and C, then X, Y, or Z will magically be yours”
“you’re not supposed to want anything good for yourself, because that’s selfish”
in these moments, there are some that would say i am soft on sin and dismiss our depravity. they don’t know me very well. i am well aware of our human tendencies toward doing-all-kinds-of-stupid-things-that-mess-with-our-freedom. i am well aware how much i need God, even though i don’t really want to. i am well aware that i am a flawed human being in desperate need of Grace.
but i am not only a broken, jacked-up sinner. i am also a whole, fully-loved-just-as-i-am saint. God’s beloved child.
and i think God’s children are supposed to feel smart, kind, and important. not so that we can be haughty or prideful, but so that we can be free and secure, holy and dearly loved, shining Christ’s light instead of letting it remained buried & hidden.
if we are reflections of God, what are we reflecting?
it’s said that the world will know us by our love. is that what the world sees when they intersect with us? do they see freedom? do they see hope? do they see security? do they see belovedness? do they see gentleness? do they see kindness? do they see passion? do they see something that they are drawn to?
i often don’t think so. in so many ways, i think what the world sees is angry, mean, insecure, and harsh. because that’s how many of us feel toward ourselves.
Jesus calls us to love others as we love ourselves. that’s probably a big piece of the current-state-of-the-church’s problem. how can we love others when we hate ourselves?
this is one of my deepest passions when it comes to cultivating a redemptive dignity-restoring faith community–that we could participate in helping each other shift from feeling insecure to feeling secure. from feeling imprisoned to feeling free. from feeling unloved & unworthy to feeling loved & valued. from feeling stuck to feeling empowered. from feeling dumb to feeling smart. from feeling useless to feeling important.
the other day i was with a friend who shared, “i’m starting to believe that maybe, just maybe, i really am loved….i’m liking myself for the first time in my life.” for me, one story like that will sustain me all year!
only God can do this work. it is a wild & beautiful movement of the Holy Spirit. but i also believe it flows most directly through people. God’s love will remain elusive unless we have tangible examples of it here. now. on earth. in our real lives. in our real experiences.
we need to not just tell each other the truth (that’s easy and a lot of churches are good at that).
we need to start showing each other the truth.
that we are loved. important. valuable. worthy.
that we have stories to live and songs to sing.
to get there, we must ask God to break through all of those crazy messages life & the church has passed on to us, to help us see more clearly our worth, our value, the possibilities that exist before us despite the obstacles. this lent, that’s what i hope we could know more deeply:
you is smart. you is kind. you is important.