restored dignity won't drop out of the sky

rumi there you are you're beautiful

this past friday i spoke at a large gathering here in denver called simply jesus. i was only there for the first part because of kids’ football games, but i did get to see NT wright in the lobby!  it was also a bonus gift to get to meet kelley nikondeha, a sister from shelovesmagazine & kindred spirit & d.l. mayfield, who has a really awesome series on her blog centered on downward mobility.

the contrast to my unplugged life at the refuge was wild (and microphones sometimes don’t work properly at big churches, either) but i enjoyed meeting some wonderful, interesting people & sharing a glimpse of the refuge community & a topic i am passionate about:  Jesus is a dignity restorer & that means we are called to be, too. 

4 years ago now i wrote a post called dignity restorers for the 8th letter project as part of rachel held evans’synchroblog. it was a chance for people to write a letter to the north american church. oh my, did i ever let it rip! what i shared on friday is not directly based on this post, but it is tied up in it. i really do believe we are called to be dignity restorers in a world that’s lost a lot of it.

here’s a sort-of slice from friday:

embedded into every human being is the image of God; it’s in our original DNA. this image is our basic dignity & value & worth. it is the one thing we all have in common (the next-in-lines are pain and a desire to love & be loved). when the fall of man happened in genesis 3, this image was not extinguished.  instead, i believe it got covered up by a bunch of rubble.

shame, brokenness, control, loneliness, addictions, depression, illness, poverty, oppression, and a host of other human afflictions often bury our dignity.

but it’s an eternal flame, in every person, no matter what shape or size or color or experience. nothing can kill it off completely.

God’s work in our lives is to call out our dignity.

that’s one of the reasons i love Jesus. when i read the gospels, he was the ultimate dignity-restorer. he broke through all kinds of barriers and restored people’s dignity over and over again. to me, that’s what healing & transformation is–a breaking down of the rubble so God’s image & beauty can emerge.   

restored dignity won’t drop out of the sky.  people aren’t going to wake up one day with the rubble magically cleared.

we need some serious tangible help & healing.

it reminds me of the story of lazarus in john 11; when Jesus calls lazarus back to life. he calls him out of the tomb, but then he looks to the people around him–his community & friends & advocates–and says “unbind him.”  unwrap him. i’ll add: help shovel out the rubble so life can emerge. 

i think God calls us to participate in this uncovering-unwrapping-unbinding-digging out process with each other.

and it takes a long time. (a heckuva lot longer than the instantaneous miracles we see Jesus perform in the bible–that’s my big Jesus gripe, more on that later).

i can honestly say if i hadn’t entered into healing community 20 years ago and still put my butt in the chair week after week after week even when it’s the last thing i want to do, i would still be completely buried underneath the rubble.  and after all these years, there’s still more of God’s image buried, waiting to be uncovered.

there’s a lot of buried dignity out there in our own lives, in this broken world. 

i didn’t have time to read this small portion of my 8th letter to the church on friday, but i thought i’d share it here:

Jesus restored dignity to people who had lost it. the sick, the lame, the broken, the desperate, the outcasts, the marginalized, the least, the last. over and over, he healed them, lifted their head, and touched them with hope. hope that the kingdom of God was available now and it wasn’t only for the learned, the put-together, the well, the powerful.  it was available for all those who were humble enough to admit their spiritual poverty & need for God.

the world does not need any more dignity-strippers.  they’ve got enough of that going on without the church’s help.

what the world needs are dignity-restorers.

  • people who are willing to call out God’s image in those that don’t know it’s there.
  • people who are willing to sacrifice their own jobs, time, heart, and money to change systems that keep others oppressed.
  • people who use their own power & privilege to make space for those without it.
  • people who are willing to give a rip about that one person who everyone else has given up on.
  • people who see beyond gender, politics, religion, socioeconomics, and all of the other things that divide and segregate us and engage in deep & meaningful relationships anyway.
  • people willing to go the long haul and offer compassion & love to the hurting instead of trite advice & easy spiritual answers.
  • people who will stand between the stone throwers & the one about to be stoned and advocate on their behalf.
  • people who touch the untouchable.
  • people who see the best in others instead of the worst.

yeah, this world sure does. and that’s my hope & prayer for us as individuals, as people of God.

i have no doubt if all our resource & hands & hearts & eyes & ears & buildings & power & influence & hope could really be channeled to restoring dignity in person after person, the image of God uncovered in his people, shining brighter and brighter, would dim the darkness of this world like never before.

may that be so.


ps: i’ve also got a post up at sheloves magazine this week for the monthly down we go column. november’s theme is margins. it’s called truth from the margins, i wrote it a month ago but it really folds into restored dignity and God’s image more fully reflected. i believe with all my heart that the future of the church, the world, lies in the margins.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • Thanks for sharing Kathy,

    I’ve read that in the light of a very good talk I’ve watched by Brene Brown with her definition of shame as disting from her definition of guilt where she says “guilt is
    uncomfortable but I am a fan of it”. And then a “need for courageous love” and to love you “must be prepared to have your heart broken”.

    And then how she talked abuot shame and blaming. She talked about resolving in her mind that her dropping a cup of coffee at breakfast had been the fault of what Steve here husband had done the night before. Then of him being on the phone to her and with her getting ready to blame getting the dial tone.

    A question she raised is a good one, about how do we work through it when it is so
    debilitating and painful. Part of having dignity must be in taking ownership for one’s own story and not blaming others for oneself is responsible for or for what others have done in the past. Sounds not to different about what you say about putting yourself in a healing community when it is the last thing you want to do Kathy.

    I agree with you about what you say about people on the margins. It seems that this is what Joseph and Jesus were with being rejected by his own people.


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