Originally published on May 1, 2012
This one addresses peace with God and peace with Self. This one needs a disclaimer…I’m writing about Christian beliefs, but I’m not preaching. I’m not really even writing about my beliefs. I’m questioning a system of beliefs about which I know many things and have many questions. I’m writing many words that may not be coming out clear and I’m inviting critique and feedback and a discussion to improve the idea. I write today about the Christian tradition of my childhood. In this tradition, grace is one of the foundational tenets.
One of my teachers has described grace as, “unmerited, unearned, undeserved favor.” Proper Christians believe that salvation is unattainable by yourself but freely given by God. Fair enough. The counter doctrine to Grace is Depravity. This is where proper Christians believe that human beings are intrinsically, utterly and thoroughly evil and flawed in design and intent. They would say that humans are incapable of any good thing unless God has redeemed the person.
Ok…so this is a context statement, doesn’t reflect my belief, and will be dealt with in another blog. These two doctrines play out in some interesting ways. On the one hand, we Jesus people can and ought to be quick to declare the attributes and wonderful deeds of Jesus Christ. On the other hand, we Jesus people can be almost as quick to brutalize and self-deprecate our own persons.
We’ll refuse to take credit for an accomplishment. We’ll see ourselves as impotent, even helpless. We won’t trust our thoughts or feelings. We’ll be indecisive, not trusting our “only evil” desires. We’ll tend to unfairly look at many our problems as being primarily our fault. We’ll think of ourselves as evil. Ok, so…people have big and severe problems. True. People do f@#$ing horrible things. True. But how does reinforcing to ourselves that we are a strictly evil people actually help the situation?
If you tell someone she’s evil long enough, eventually she’ll believe you and live in a way that makes it true.
I suppose that the function of these ideas of depravity is to make us appreciate the free grace even more, praise Jesus even more, love and celebrate our faith even more.
But there are many occasions where I don’t see it playing out that way. Instead I see beautiful people thinking they’re ugly. I see smart people second guessing themselves. I see good people hating themselves. I see people with brilliance and ideas settling for mediocre unrealized lives. I see people accepting abuse and staying in miserable situations because they believe it’s all they deserve and all they have and that that it’s ok because it’ll all be better after they’re dead. I see people subjecting themselves to verbal and psychological abuse from spiritual leaders and thanking the leaders. I see people who have been hurt by others blaming themselves for their pain. I see people who ought to be celebrating God’s grace and favor obsessing over what they consider faulty behaviors. I see people who say they’ve been saved and redeemed still living and thinking like they’re evil and helpless and untrustworthy and wretched wretched scum.
Didn’t you just tell me that in Christ you’re a new creation? White as snow? God is faithful to forgive all sin? Why do you still hate yourself? I think we’re missing something about Grace. We say we believe God saves us. Do we really believe this? Do we believe He saves all parts of us, or only out eternal soul? Does He save us in body? In the mind? Does He save us only in the afterlife, or does He care about this life too? Does He give us peace with God only or does He give us the capacity for peace with others? Peace with self? Does God make people smart? Wise? Talented? Insightful? Resilient? Does God make us good? We are created in God’s Image which is very good. We believe that God has redeemed us and is interested in having relationships with us.
Why do we still look ourselves as evil and incapable of doing any good thing? Why do we second guess the people God has made us to be? Why do we put ourselves down instead of embracing who He wants us to be? And who does God want us to be but free. Free to love. Free to learn. Free to find beauty and hope.
Sometimes God saves by miracles. Sometimes the sea parts, the loaves multiply, the dead come to life again. Sometimes angels intervene. Sometimes God saves and there are tears. Tremors. Tongues. Happy feelings and someone plays the guitar. Sometimes change is seen quickly.
More often I think God saves in ordinary ways. He gives a man a realization that he needs to change, one day at a time. He gives a woman courage and cleverness to change her situation, one little bit at a time. He puts caring people in our path. Gives us other people to care for as well. Gives us awareness of small problems and the means to fix them. Gives us a desire to be better people and the means to undertake that journey. Gives us second chances after big mistakes. Gives us people who will forgive us and still love us even after we do mean things.
I’ve come full circle and have begun praising God by finding Him in everything. What I wanted to do was put out the thought that we can stop hating ourselves. And really, how does proclaiming our own self-hatred actually proclaim the goodness of God? And maybe I still can. God saves us in every little thing. He makes us new and makes us good. If we really believe that, we can stop hating ourselves. We can be responsible, insightful, compassionate and beautiful people. May you find God’s peace and comfort. May you know real love and new life.