Broken or Whole? What say you?

Broken or Whole? What say you? July 31, 2013

Elizabeth, responding to a pastor’s recent tweet, says we teach our children they are whole. What say you?

Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection…As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, “Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.” … [My dark side says,] I am no good… I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned.”  –Henri J.M. Nouwen

I have written this post at least five times.

Right now, my fingers are shaking.

I have erased and re-written this sentence RIGHT HERE three times.

I realize this probably sounds dramatic. Forgive me, I’m simply attempting to demonstrate how frightened I get about the kind of theology that was summed up in a pastor’s recent tweet: “Teach your children they are broken. Deeply broken.”

I was raised this way.

I was taught this way….

To summarize, being raised with a “You are deeply broken” theological framework seriously screwed me over.

This is no way to raise children. I mean, unless you’d like them to wrack up thousands of hours in therapy. Not that I know ANYTHING about that.

I have to work my recovery every single day because I’m STILL afraid God hates me.

But there is hope. I can see it in my children. I’m teaching them to live a different way.

When I teach my children the Gospel, I don’t start with: “You are bad, therefore you need Jesus.” I start with: “Before you were born, God loved you.” I start with God’s love and I end with God’s love. 

I teach my children they are whole, deeply whole. I teach them they were beautifully created in the image of God. I teach them they are unconditionally loved and cherished—no matter what they do or don’t do. I teach them to be lighthearted, easeful, resting in full assurance that they are loved. I teach them that and nothing and nobody can separate them from the love of Christ.

This kind of theology affects me on a visceral, bodily level.

Which is to say, even though I left an abusive church ten years ago, I’m still cleaning up the wreckage of the destructive belief that says I’m deeply, inherently broken.

Hear me on this: I still struggle every day to believe God loves me. 

This is because when you teach a child they are unworthy and somehow intrinsically broken/flawed/less-than, you set them up for disaster–not just in their relationship to God but in their relationships with people. 

Indeed, my biggest obstacle in healing from a harmful theological framework has been an inability to receive love. For YEARS after leaving an oppressive church, I could not receive the love of God—and many times, the love of people—because I kept blocking it with the whole “I’m a wretch! I’m a worm! I don’t deserve love!” mentality.

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