In my day to day life with people on the margins of life and faith, one of the saddest things to me is how many of us struggle with feeling worthy. Seriously, there is a love and security problem in this world! Men or women, rich or poor, gay or straight, black or white—our common experience seems to be that somehow we don’t feel okay about ourselves. It is a big deal to me, how many amazing, beautiful, unique and precious children of God have no idea of our real worth.
Like, no idea.
There are all kinds of reasons for this brokenness—our family of origin, broken relationships, bad theology that’s been drilled into us, and basic Genesis 3 realities. Regardless of how we got here, the pervasive feeling for a lot of us is that we are not worthy of good things, we are not enough, we are not lovable.
God’s precious creations living out a pervasive message that they are unworthy, unacceptable, unlovable and undeserved is just not okay. It sure doesn’t seem like the hopeful outcome of the “good news.” And it certainly won’t make the world a more loving, merciful and just place.
Under the rubble of all our brokenness, shame and self-doubt is the original image of God in us. Sure, it’s mixed in with all our humanness too, but that’s easy for most of us to see. We’ve got our brokenness nailed and living from that place doesn’t take much effort.
What we most often forget, ignore, dismiss, deny or flat out refuse to accept is that God’s image is packed into all of us. God is weaved into our hearts and our souls because we are His creation. This means that inside of us is God’s incredible love, hope, passion, wholeness, integrity, beauty, glory, purpose, mercy, justice, dignity, strength, courage, faith.
It’s in there.
Oh yeah, it’s in there.
Buried, but there. Waiting to be discovered. Waiting to be uncovered. Waiting to be reclaimed.
So how do we do that? How do we reclaim God’s image in ourselves? How do we take back what’s been taken from us? How do we recover what’s been lost?
The first thought that comes to mind is where I always go—we reclaim God’s image in us through community and relationships. So much of the downward journey is about in-the-trenches relationship with each other, where we participate together in healing, restoration and reclamation. I need others to help me see what I cannot see. I need others to call out God’s image in me and their courage to help me be brave too. I need the encouragement of others who challenge me to something more. I need tangible examples of what could be, and people to help me reclaim my original identity.
And I have a part in helping others reclaim identity too.
As much as I’d love it to be that easy, most of us will not wake up tomorrow feeling fully reclaimed. But we can take back what’s been lost slowly and surely. We can practice reclamation in our own lives—clearing out the rubble one day at a time to uncover what’s underneath and helping each other do the same. Henri Nouwen reminds us of an important reality: “You don’t think your way into a new kind of living. You live your way into a new kind of thinking.” Reclaiming God’s image inside of us won’t come through only thinking. It will come through new ways of living.
It looks different for each of us but I think these are some ways we can practice restoration and reclamation of our original identity:
- Show up in relationship instead of running and hiding.
- Receive love even when it feels vulnerable and scary.
- Discover what we are passionate about and risk criticism to live that out.
- Celebrate small and big changes we’re making.
- Acknowledge and accept our weaknesses as part of our humanness and worth honoring, instead of something to be despised.
- Consider how we would want our children to feel about themselves and try to live into that.
- Hold our head high when we want to look down.
- Extend mercy and grace in all kinds of crazy ways.
- Notice the beauty and good in ourselves, in others and in God too.
There are so many more worth adding and I’d love to hear how you are learning to reclaim your original identity and move toward greater freedom and hope. We definitely need each other on this one!
Thank you, dear sisters, for the ways I see you reclaiming what’s been lost. It’s beautiful to see and gives me courage to keep reclaiming my identity too.