Wednesday, April 30, 2014

You Should Be Proud

    I decided on a graduate school. MIT for a PhD in organic chemistry? I think yes (!!!).
    I also defended my senior thesis and passed. Meaning I survived talking for longer than I ever have, in front of three professors who know a hell of a lot more about chemistry than me, whilst only freezing for a second or two.
    "That should give you something to feel confident about," said my PI afterward.
    I think I said "Yeah" or something like that and raised the pitch of my voice to sound happy - like I meant it.
    Except I didn't.
    Every time something good happens, every time someone says something complimentary, I assume they don't mean it. They can't. Don't they know all my shortcomings? Like, when is MIT going to realize I'm too dumb and revoke my admission?
    But every time someone says something critical, well, I take that to heart. I don't respond well - I usually beat myself up and cry in a corner - but I do take it to heart. I assume they're right.
    I think there's a phrase for this: low self esteem.
    (The horror!). 
    I know. I know. I believe in Jesus and in self-esteem.
    There seems to be this idea floating around that if we believe Jesus saves us from sin (which I tend to believe is true), we have to be worthless little shits dangled over a fire (I am not using that word lightly, by the way). In other words: self-esteem is anti-God, because sinner equals worthless equals YouNeedJesus.
    May I suggest that this equation is flawed?

This is not God.
    We're all screwed up, some of which is our fault and some of which isn't. Christians call this sin, but whatever the word, I think we can all agree that 1) it sucks, and 2) it's pretty inescapable.
    Which is, apparently, why God decided to become a person and be murdered and then resurrect. I'm not a theology expert by any means, but I can't help but think that by overturning even this inevitable screwy thing called death, He promised us that sin - in us, around us, where ever - wasn't as powerful as Him. He gives us eternal hope and faith and life. We can change. In Christ all shall be made alive.
    So, according to Christian theology, sinner = WeNeedJesus.So far the equation holds.
    But sinner = worthless?
    Well. I don't recall reading that in the Bible. The closest I can find is in Romans, when Paul calls himself a "wretch," adding that "nothing good dwells in me." 
    A lot of teachings run with this idea, really stressing that "nothing good" means worthless. Because if you don't know how horrible you are, you can't repent and become a Christian, so they make damn sure you know how much you suck ("Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," anyone?). Their intentions are good, but...
    Well, let's finish the verse. "Nothing good dwells in me, that is, my sinful nature."
    The sinful nature sucks. Ain't nothing good in that, Paul says. Right, agreed. Death and decay and lies and malignancy, pain and bitterness and illness, all suck.
    But we're not all our sinful natures, are we? The sinful nature is not our essence. He made us in His image. That's our essence.
    We're creations made to live anew. We're not worthless.
    Call me crazy, but I think it's pretty freakin' special that God made billions of unique creatures all in His image. Why not celebrate the imago Dei? Is that not a form of worship, to attribute good creation to God?
    In fact, I think it's pretty blasphemous to say God creates anything worthless. After all, even on earth we find the notion of futility repugnant. So if God is Creator and He is good, it logically follows that He's not up there making worthless people as a sick cosmic joke.
1 Shenanigans 1:7. And whilst Baseball Cap Guy was driving, Jesus did appear and say, "Surprise! Thou art worthless, though apparently I yet bothered to create thee. Joke's on both of us, eh?"
    Self-esteem is defined as the recognition of our worth. If Jesus made us as unique image bearers, how is recognizing our worth a bad thing?
    So, yeah, I've always been kind of ashamed of my academic success. "I don't want to be vain, so I'm going to hate myself. I'm not going to take pride in developing what God has given me."
    We're all chosen. We've all got individual talents, given by God and developed (or underdeveloped and waiting). Embracing our talents and being confident (with humility) in what we've accomplished is good.
    Jesus gives us a new life. Let's celebrate, not denigrate ourselves.
    I think that's a life worth taking.

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