I do it continually. Every day, all day.
And because my problem could be mistaken for humility, it’s easy for me to ignore it or forget that it’s a problem at all.
I need to talk about self-loathing.
I couldn’t tell you at what point in my life I started hating myself. My family and friends love me, sure, and I’ve been raised all of my life being told that the Creator of the universe does as well- enough to die to save me.
I don’t know why that won’t sink in.
Most of you know that for the past five+ years I’ve struggled with depression, off and on. During those bouts of despair, it’s difficult – it feels impossible – to remember that life is precious, and to call to mind the great things my God has done for me. I don’t want to talk about the details of all that. I don’t want to defend the reality of my depression to you or belittle it so I feel superior either: I know that it was not as bad as it could have been, but I also know that for me it was very real.* I felt like I was distant from God on those days, and I felt like it was my fault- and that made me hate myself, and feel like there was a wall separating me from my Savior – a wall that I had to tear down before He could help me. I’m making progress- or rather, Jesus is, in me. We’ll see what happens. I haven’t been seriously depressed for a couple of months, hallelujah.
But this post is about something different.
I’m not writing this because I’ve finally come to terms with God’s love for me and I’m “all better”, or because I’ve discovered how to get over this self-loathing that punctuates every aspect of my life.
I’m writing this because every day of my life it seems like it’s getting worse.
And I need to talk about it.
My church, ‘Aletheia Boston’, blesses me beyond belief. I started going there in January and have since been challenged in my relationship with God, drawn closer to Him, and convicted about the sins in my daily life. I’ve also made some amazing friends. The people who surround me on Sunday mornings (and any other time I spend time with them) pursue God, and encourage me to pursue God. My pastors don’t water down the truth (that’s what the church is named for, after all), and I love it. I’ve never felt so keenly that I’m in the right place, even if I am among the quieter members of my family and slower to get to know people.
Honestly, I couldn’t summarize the sermon for you perfectly, but I did take some notes that, for me, were mind-blowing.
Pastor Adam read from Genesis 1, and said this: “You and I are made in the image of God- we are intentional and we are blessed.” The scriptures don’t give us permission to put people into boxes because they come from a certain hemisphere or have a particular color skin.
Galatians 3:26-29 says, “26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
We are equal children of God; Pastor Adam made the point that when we hold onto our prejudices, we do so at the expense of the Gospel in the eyes of those around us. We don’t get to see the world through “white eyes” or “black eyes” or through any other prejudice or point of view. We get to have “Jesus eyes”, and that’s it.
We don’t get to assign our own value to any human life- we don’t get to say that one person is less important because they’re old or because they’re not yet born or because their skin is darker or lighter than ours. We don’t get to view any person as a mistake, as worthless, as unimportant. In God’s eyes, we are each beautiful and purposeful and have been fearfully and wonderfully made- and let’s not forget, in His image.
My favorite thing that Pastor Adam said in his message was this: “There is no version of Christianity where we get to decide who lives and who dies- because every human life is intentional.” (He sort of shouted it too, which I loved. I was tempted to jump up and cheer.)
In all humility, I don’t think I have a problem with putting people in boxes, with de-valuing them or having a racist/sexist/ageist/’you-name-it’-ist viewpoint on the lives of those around me. In all humility, I adore people. The more unique, the better. I love watching strangers, finding a random act of kindness with which I can make someone’s day, observing my incredibly diverse church interact… I love worshiping with a body of believers that represents more nations than I can count on both hands. (*shameless plug for my wonderful Every Nation church*)
So when Pastor Adam finished preaching (and as I was volunteering that week, I got to sit in on both services), I was pumped because it was a great message, but I wasn’t initially challenged to go out and change something about myself. I thought that, as this topic went, I was all set. No conviction, just encouragement.
It wasn’t until later that day that I realized there was a message in between the lines for me- something Pastor Adam didn’t mention, but that he had spoken to, whether he realized it or not: how does walking around loving the world but hating myself glorify God?
All it does is tell God that He made a mistake when He called me to be His servant. It says that His glorious plan for me would be great- but really I’m not what He thinks, and that He ought to go find someone else who is “better equipped”. It’s me saying, “God, thanks for thinking of me, but I know myself better, and I’m not worth the trouble.”
I don’t look at myself and think that I am one of God’s incredible creations. I look at myself and wonder why He would even want me. I wonder what He could possibly have been thinking when He made me. I wonder why I had to be the boring person in my family. I wonder why I don’t have any of the personality or beauty that I see and wish for in my family and friends. I wonder why, why, why?
I don’t look at my person or my life and see value. I don’t see the image of God stamped onto me. I don’t see anything beautiful; I see the opposite. I don’t see the fact that He has called me for a reason.
And I don’t want to be crippled by hating myself any longer. I’m tired of it. My self-loathing and insecurity affect every conversation I have and every relationship I build. I don’t want that any longer. I’m writing this so that I’ll be accountable to start valuing God’s plan for my life. So that I’ll remember that I have a purpose. That I am special (not to go all Sesame St on you).
And I know that as long as I’m crippled by focusing on my negative view of myself instead of God’s love and grace and purpose for me, I will not be prepared or equipped or confident to do His will, and I will live a hampered, messed-up life.
I’d love if you could pray for me when you think of it. It’s going to be a struggle.
Thanks for reading, my friends.
[job 42:2 – I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.]
(Aside: I’d really encourage you to check out the podcast from that sermon- the series our church is currently working on is called “Sex, Money, & Politics [and a few other things you’re not supposed to talk about in church]”. The entire series is really phenomenal. And if you’re anywhere near Boston, stop by- we meet at the YMCA in Cambridge at 9:25 & 11 on sunday mornings; there’s more information on the website.)
*Note: I also fully understand that teenagers go through crazy hormonal imbalances, and am willing to concede that health played a part in my depression. But I’d like to state for the record that that does not mean I was any better for knowing what was to blame.