I often surprise people when I tell them I had a horrible self-esteem as a child/teenager. Those who know me today can’t imagine the shy, quiet Erin of years gone by. Truth be told, I had more than a low self-esteem. I hated myself and longed to be anyone other than me. For several years in high school, I avoided mirrors because I didn't want to be reminded of how hideous I was. Because of this self-loathing, I set-out to improve myself. I vowed to be the best at everything I did because I “knew” this would improve my self-worth.
So I worked, and I worked hard. I might not be supermodel material, but I had a brain and a little bit of talent. I pushed myself to be one of the top students in my class. I won awards in the state of North Carolina for my skill as a clarinetist, and I made a name for myself as one of the best writers on the school paper. I even won an award for my journalism prowess. By the time I graduated from college, I had a GPA of 3.94. I had worked extremely hard and achieved a great deal, but if I’m honest, it wasn't enough. I still wasn't satisfied with myself. I still wished I was someone else. Oh, I felt I had more value as a person than I did before I achieved these things, yet I felt like my worth was based on what I accomplished, which created a huge problem for me when I became too sick to work.
In many ways, being able to do nothing but read and watch television was like being freed from a horrible life of confinement. My physical life may have become a prison, but my emotional, mental, and spiritual life opened up in ways I can’t even begin to describe. Rock-bottom became the place where God healed my heart and broken spirit and taught me what it meant to be free in Christ. To anyone looking at all I've had to endure, it would seem that my life has been nothing more but a series of hard knocks and blows, but to me, this sickness has been my salvation.
I understand what Paul meant when he wrote Philippians 3:4-7. He had a long list of accomplishments and things that made him “valuable,” but he realized they were rubbish when compared to the value of knowing Christ. Verse seven is where we see one of the most quoted verses in all of Philippians. “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.”
Paul understood what it took me years to discover – a person’s value is not determined by what he can do, how much he owns, or what he looks like. None of us are worth anything when compared to the greatness of God. Yet God sees a beauty and value in each of us, not because of anything we do, but because He loves us. He doesn't care if we’re too sick to attend church. He doesn't care if we don’t become a famous pastor or Bible teacher. He doesn't care if we’re in medical debt up to our ears. God loves us because He chooses to, and it is in Him and in Him alone that we are valuable.
Over the years, my dad had this saying he would repeat like a mantra to remind me of who God created me to be. Without fail, before I would head out the door, he would say, “Remember who you are and whose you are.” He would then have me respond by saying, “I am Erin Elizabeth Austin, and I belong to God. I am a daughter of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”
As a teenager, it would aggravate me to have to go through this before I could leave the house, but I’m now thankful for the reminder. On those days when I’m too sick to accomplish anything, I’m reminded that my value comes from God, and it’s okay if I’m unable to work. Yet I know many people who struggle with their chronic illness because they feel like they are no longer worth anything. So to you I say, “Remember who you are and whose you are.” God sees the beautiful person He created, and He loves you just the way you are – illness and all.
“Now God has us where He wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all His idea, and all His work. All we do is trust Him enough to let Him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join Him in the work He does, the good work He has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” ~ Ephesians 2:7-10 (The Message)
© October 25, 2012