It’s a term you can’t avoid hearing in our culture: self-esteem. Think better of yourself. You deserve the best. Be confident in your abilities. If you believe you can do it, you can.
For years I bought into it, too. Finding myself. Finding my worth. Loving myself despite my faults and the “ugly” things about me, inside and out.
That’s what the world tells us to do, right?
But then God nudged me awake. And instead of slapping me on the face with the horrible truth as He could have done, He gently and gradually showed me the lie I was holding so dear. You see, the problem with self-esteem, and even self-confidence, is that, well, it’s all about … you guessed it…
As a Christian who was searching genuinely for the heart of God, truly wishing to make His desires my own, I couldn’t help but see it.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:9-10)
What place does self-confidence have if we are to become weaker, so that God is able to become stronger within us? Shouldn’t it rather be called God-confidence?
What place does self-esteem have for someone who delights in weaknesses and insults? Wouldn’t it better be named God-esteem?
The world takes admirable virtues such as esteem and confidence and even love, and turns them inside out, makes them things of selfishness, small and warped, casting shadows into our souls. We let the world feed us these lies because we so ache to believe them.
But then, the best and most believable lies are always laced with a bit of truth, aren’t they? Because, in fact, we are of worth, we do deserve love and esteem. … But not in and of ourselves. Not because of anything we’ve done or ever will do or ever can do.
No, we deserve these things solely because of Jesus’ love. Jesus’ blood. God’s grace and overwhelming mercy.
Some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever known have had no great physical beauty. God’s spirit filled them so completely that they shone with it. Their kindness was a glittering mantle. Their humility was a peaceful balm. The love that came from their eyes dazzled those around them with the undeniable awareness of God’s goodness.
When I think of it that way, my physical attributes seem so remote. My self-esteem and my self-worth fade to insignificance.
I won’t deceive you, it’s hard to do. But don’t ever think that it’s impossible, because it’s not. Just like any journey of the feet, a journey of the heart takes time. It’s painful and wearying … but oh so worth it in the end. Because it leads us closer to God, closer to who He intends us to become.
Self-esteem? I have no use for it. Not in the way the world wants me to, anyway. With my eyes firmly on God’s plan for me, with my desire for His will alone, my self slips into the place it was created to be…
This is a guest post by Brent King.
Deeper than our deepest longings, fairy tales tell truths about our inner and outer world, truths that are either too obvious for modern men or too truthful. Take, for instance, Little Red Riding Hood. It affirms that the world is dangerous, that there is an evil wolf that will eat us up if given the chance. Yet there is also a huntsman who can slay the wolf and save us. The great themes of sin and redemption are encapsulated in such a story in a clever and deeply symbolic way.
It’s All About the Good News
GK Chesterton said that the deepest truth about fairy tales was not that dragons exist, but that they can be beaten. Who doesn’t see the bad news about dragons? They lurk all around us in our broken world. It’s the good news of their defeat that we need to hear.
The Pagans Knew More!
Many of our modern tales do not reflect this reality. In these stories, the young girl easily defeats the wolf or the protagonist befriends the dragon and they live happily together ever after. Consequently, our children are assured that wolves and dragons can be effortlessly vanquished. The pagans of old knew more about the dragons than we do!
It Seems Impossible
The good news in those ancient stories is that, beyond all hope, the dragon has been defeated. They are stories that seem impossible. We have all seen the pictures of the hideous monster dwarfing the brave knight wielding a sword. How can that story ever have a happy ending?
Yet it is this hope that lies at the root of our fascination with fairy stories: that good will triumph against all odds. The eucatastrophe, as Tolkien called it, of the fairy tale represents the heart of the Gospel: the dragon has been destroyed. The princess has been rescued, and she will live happily ever after with the prince.
A Primal Story
Fairy tales hold power over the human heart because they reflect the Gospel story, a story that rejects the idea of the princess saving herself. Of course, this is the primal story. It tells of a God who made the world and man. It tells of a malevolent angel’s attack, and man’s defeat and captivity. It was a rout so complete that, to save men, God had to become a man and fight the enemy Himself.
That is What Happened, but We Tell the Story Like This:
Once upon a time there was a lovely damsel who fell in love with a prince. Through her own folly, she was captured by a necromancer, drugged, and confined in his dark tower. The prince disguised himself as a commoner and entered into his shadow-shrouded stronghold to rescue her. But the sorcerer was too strong and slew the prince. Yet he could not combat the ancient magic that brought the prince back to life. The prince subdued the sorcerer and his minions, rescued the princess, and took her back to his kingdom where they lived happily ever after.
An Enduring Story
We tell and retell this story, as if we can’t get enough. Somewhere deep inside, we all know it is true. It awakens our imagination, rousing us in a way that religion cannot. No one, anywhere in this world, is immune to its power. It revives a hope of victory that reaches down into this broken world from beyond.
This is the Fairy Tale Gospel
The fairy tale world shares the darkness of our world, yet its world powerfully pictures a place where marvelous and unbelievable things truly happen, where good battles evil and survives to tell the tale. This is the fairy tale gospel: a gospel that introduces us to the true Gospel so that our once upon a time can indeed become a happily ever after.
Brent King is a freelance writer of Christian fantasy and historical fiction from Lake Oswego, Oregon.