Can we live in the present without being undercut by anxiety about who we are? We might have handicaps or simply dislike how we look.
We are told to have self esteem, but from the time we’re babies, our self worth reflects how others see us. Often (always?) the reflection we see
is distorted, like the reflection in a mirror at the fun house:
Even “selfies” distort the image we have of ourselves. Put those images on Facebook or Instagram and our imaginations go to work—we can tell ourselves so many versions of how others see us. We see so many enhanced images each day; it’s not surprising that we fall into comparison games that we can never win. Unrealistic expectations and lies we believe about ourselves can spiral out of control.
In Psalm 139 David shows us how to break the false images that we have internalized. He gives us the truest mirror we could ever look into: understanding that God has made us with infinite care. Regardless of what others may think of us, or what we think of ourselves, we are beautiful works of art and nothing about us is accidental:
Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.
Psalm 139:13-16 (The Message)
It is so powerful to realize that God created us intentionally and knew us before we were born, but what about the “rest of our stories”? What about the wounds that happen to everyone in life, both psychological and physical? How does God see us when our choices or the choices of others have damaged us?
The story of Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan, shows us even when we see ourselves as worthless and broken that Jesus wants to welcome us and sustain us. Mephibosheth started life as a healthy child, but became lame when his family fled from danger upon hearing of the deaths of Saul and Jonathan. Later in the story, King David wanted to welcome Mephibosheth into his household, but Mephibosheth deflected. He did not see himself as worthy of the invitation:
“Don’t be frightened,” said David. “I’d like to do something special for you in memory of your father Jonathan. To begin with, I’m returning to you all the properties of your grandfather Saul. Furthermore, from now on you’ll take all your meals at my table.”
Shuffling and stammering, not looking him in the eye, Mephibosheth said, “Who am I that you pay attention to a stray dog like me?”
2 Samuel 9:7-8 (The Message)
Rather than treating Mephibosheth in keeping with his poor self image, David insists on treating him as well as he treats members of his own family:
Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the King’s table; he was lame in both feet.
2 Samuel 9:13 (NIV)
Mephibosheth was still lame, but he was welcomed in perpetuity as equal to the King’s sons. In this story, King David sees him as worthy of acceptance
just as he is.
David’s welcome of Mephibosheth foreshadows how Jesus seeks us out and wants to welcome us into his presence.
Are there wounds in your life that make you feel like you’re too broken to be welcomed by Jesus? Are there ways you disqualify yourself when Jesus offers his love and acceptance? Imagine yourself in the place of Mephibosheth. What would your wounds be? How would the King respond to you and welcome you? What is your response? If your self image prevents you from accepting Jesus’ view of you as worthy of love and belonging, take time to pray for help and healing.