The following is the ninth installment of the “Out of the Closet and Into the Pews” series. The series features members of The Reformation Project’s Inaugural Conference – a leadership conference for 50 straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Christians who are committed to reform.
The Destiny of Worth
by Lisa Bohn (BEA guest writer)
No shock to those who are close to me, I have a long, ugly history of low self-esteem, self-worth, self-image, whatever you want to call it. Long and ugly. Along my personal faith journey, as I began to get closer to a decision to accept Christ into my life, issues of self-worth began to rear their ugly heads. I have always had problems with a low self-image, and the concept that Christ loved me enough to die on the cross for me was totally foreign. Who was I to deserve such a gift? Who was I to have that on my mind? What had I ever done to be worthy of that ultimate sacrifice? No matter how many times friends kept insisting that God and Jesus loved me no matter what, and that He wanted a relationship with me so badly that Jesus died for my sins, I didn’t believe it for a long, long time.
This poem by Marianne Williamson has been one of the most important parts of my faith journey, and I cling to it. I have it posted on the wall next to my desk at work and try to read it every day.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us. I try to remember this. I try to remember it when I teach my classes, when I serve as a doula, when I am crying with a friend who is in pain, when my husband and I parent our children, etc. I try to remember that I am worthy. I am manifesting the glory of God, using the gifts He gave me. It is not about pride, not because I think, “Sure, I think I’m such a badass that I am worth that sacrifice. Thanks, God.” It’s because I have spent SOOOO much of my life feeling unworthy that I need to have a relationship with a God who helps me see that I am worthy.
What happens when someone feels unworthy? Why is it such a big deal? When we feel we are unworthy, we are not manifesting that glory. And instead of giving other people permission to shine, we are dimming their light. And furthermore, and this is where it gets really scary, when an entire group of people is made to feel unworthy, it sets up a dynamic where that group is in danger. In danger from themselves and the self-destructive behavior that so often accompanies low self-worth, but also in danger from other groups who also perceive that group as being “unworthy.”
I am a long-time, staunchly-supportive ally of the LGBTQ+ community, and it is merely a stone’s throw to connect the idea of worth to the challenges they face from the Christian church. This is an institution that has, for hundreds and thousands of years, told this community that they are wrong, sinful, an abomination, should be put to death, etc. That who they are at their core is NOT WORTHY, not valid, not blessed. That God made them this way…and then doesn’t want them to act on it.
That stance is so very dangerous and hurtful. When an institution (like the Christian church) that means the world to so many people advocates a position that degrades an entire group, it establishes a dynamic in which people feel justified in their bullying, hatred, fear, and perpetuation of negative stereotypes, not to mention their violence. This is when we get homelessness because gay teens are getting kicked out of their families. This is when we get people being beaten up, fired from their jobs, ostracized from friends, family, and churches. This is when we get bullying so bad that people are committing suicide. This is when we get Matthew Shepard.
This is one of many reasons why the work that The Reformation Project is doing is so very important. “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” is NOT ENOUGH, because that attitude is still setting up the idea that LGBTQ+ people are sinful, WRONG at their very core. By examining the Biblical passages that have traditionally been used to condemn homosexuality as sin, exploring the historical and cultural context in which they were written as well as the translations from the original Hebrew and Greek, we are working to change the way the Christian church sees the LBGTQ+ community.
We are working to help that community manifest the glory of God that is within them, and giving the church permission to light up the world with the love of a compassionate, merciful, gracious God who loves me and you (yes, YOU!) for exactly who you are. A child of God.
Walk with light and God bless. Namaste.
Lisa Bohn lives in Jonesboro, Arkansas with her husband, two boys, a dog, and 3 chickens. She teaches theatre on the university level and is also a natural childbirth educator and doula. She went to a Baptist church when she was younger, was a devout agnostic for years, was confirmed Catholic as an adult, and currently adores the affirming, open community at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. You can find her at http://theheartdivide.wordpress.com, @theheartdivide on Twitter, and https://www.facebook.com/TheHeartDivide.