Every now and then, there will be this post on social media that asks this question: If you could give some advice to your former self using only two words, what would you say? I usually always post the same two words: Self Worth.
I was in an adult Sunday School class in which one of the women, named Bella*, began to share an experience she had while in college. Bella was now married and had a son. But she confessed to us that when she was in college, she was less inhibited. Bella said that one night she went to her boyfriend’s dorm room to have sex with him, unaware that his roommate was hiding under the bed, waiting for his “turn” with her. Bella recounted how fiercely she fought both guys to get out of that bed and out of that dorm room, as soon as she realized what their intentions were towards her.
Along with the rest of the Sunday School class, I listened to Bella’s story. Yet, there was a question burning in my heart, almost through my clothes, as my eyes searched Bella’s face hoping to glean more insight. It was a question I wanted to ask but never could: “How did you know to fight back?”
Bella was raised with an abusive mother. She once shared that as a child, she and her sisters often went to school with gashes and bruises on their faces, but no one ever asked them why. So, Bella thought that abuse was normal. Bella frequently witnessed her mother also abusing her father, sometimes pouring scalding hot water on him, sometimes hitting him with large objects.
Still, with all that abuse, with such a tumultuous upbringing, Bella knew she was worth more than to be passed around between college roommates. And from that, I wonder how what happens to us shapes us, and, does it have to? Some people go their entire lives scratching for every bit of self worth and never seeming to find it. Nevertheless, Bella found her self worth in the boilerplate of a near gang-rape attempt. Many in our congregations suffer from a lack of self worth and have trouble feeling truly loved by God. So how does this help our congregations in our ministry? How do we teach our children how valuable they are?
In part one of this two-part series on self worth, I encourage us to speak self worth to ourselves and to others. But not because of who we are—that would be humanism. There is no value in our flesh. We were made from the dust—not the dirt, but the dust. Scripture tells us that even our own righteousness is as “filthy rags” (ref. Isaiah 64:6). Yet, the dignity of our humanity is what God put inside of us. He breathed life into us. Even as we are what II Corinthians 4:7 calls “earthen vessels”, our “treasure” inside is God’s gift to us. That is why we have self worth, because we are made in the image of our Creator.