The You God Sees
For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:13-14a
What are human beings that you are mindful of them, or mortals, that you care for them? You have made them only a little lower than the angels. Hebrews 2:6b-7a
Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.” Genesis 1:26a
One of today’s great tragedies is the lack of an accurate and reliable self-image. The increasing numbers of human beings who are uncertain about their standing as a family member, co-worker, life-partner, friend, and – most heart breaking of all – as a child of God, is troubling. Poor self-esteem, along with a self-image that rises and falls as far and as fast as a roller coaster, is at the root of many of today’s problems. We do violence to others and ourselves when we do not honor and acknowledge our inherent worth.
The problems of poor self-image are most pervasive in women – especially with teenage girls – but both genders and all ages fall prey to unrealistic, societal expectations. In a recent TED Talk (www.ted.com), Meaghan Ramsey discusses why thinking you are ugly is bad for you. She explains that about 10,000 people per month Google the phrase, “Am I ugly?” It is truly heart breaking, and she mentions research indicating that uncertainty about one’s image negatively affects test scores, initiative, and relationships. How have we descended into such an uncertain and inaccurate identity crisis?
The Bible is very clear about our image: fearfully and wonderfully made; a little lower than the angels; made in the image of God. Unfortunately, the voice of Scripture cannot easily drown out the unrelenting images on television, the constant pressures of social media, or the intense scrutiny of a typical schoolyard. The Information Age brings much that is good for society, but it also peppers us with a constant barrage of misinformation about how we should look, act, speak, and perform. We never know who actually sets those unrealistic standards, but we do know – most of us, anyway – that they are unattainable, unsustainable, and unhealthy. Still, we persist in our belief that we must mimic these airbrushed, carefully scripted, heavily edited, and overly sexualized images in order to be successful, to be loved, or to be worthy. Ms. Ramsey tells the story of a teenage girl who recorded and posted a video, asking, “Am I pretty?” Predictably, she received thousands of replies, many of which were vulgar, hurtful, and blatantly untrue.
How can we stop looking to social media, television, and movies for validation of our self-worth and begin looking to those who love us most, including God? A solid church is a good place to begin. Supportive youth gatherings, covenant fellowship, and support groups help us understand that we are not the only ones who struggle with seeming imperfection. Retaining a healthy outlook about our appearance has everything to do with whose standards we use to judge ourselves. “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” Who answers that question for you?
Come home to church this Sunday. Celebrate the miracle God created in you!