Self esteem is a big issue for Middle School and High School students. And it’s not just about how they look. The deeper issue is in the question “am I worth anything?” which is a question that all of us, but especially adolescents, are asking. When we ask that question, we look to all sorts of places to find the answer. We’re told by the world through the media that we should look to our appearance. “Shouldn’t we all want to look like Barbie and Ken?” We’re also told to look at our status and possessions. “If I buy a Mercedes or the new ipod, people will accept me, right?” We sometimes look to our jobs for identity. One of the first questions we get asked by a new acquaintance is often, “what do you do?” We are trained to find our identity and, subsequently, our value in the answer to that question. Sometimes we define ourselves and our worth through romantic relationships. People will often go from one relationship to another looking for meaning, looking for value, looking for their self-worth and identity. Whenever we seek value and worth through these external options, we along with our kids are bound to come up short.
These problems are nothing new, they’re ancient!
In Genesis chapter 3, when the curse of sin comes into the world, part of the curse is described like this:
“To the woman he said…‘your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.’”
And like this:
“To Adam he said, ‘…Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat…by the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.’”
Within this “desire” and this “painful toil” is all the fabric of our constant search for self-worth and value. Men and women work to find their identity, some in their spouse and relationship and some in their work, some in ipods and some in the mirror. But it is important for us to remember that this is part of the curse, the very curse to which Christ came to put an end. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” It’s only in Christ that we find our true identity and our true value as beloved people created in the image of God, independent of the standards so often pressed upon us externally.
Just last night at Jr. High Youth Group, we were talking about being genuine and loving genuinely. One student asked, “if we want to be genuine and our real self is ‘sin’ then how can we love?” I simply said, “you are made in God’s image, the reason sin is bad is because it’s not the real you!”
This month, may we be people who find our identity in Christ and thus find the “real us”—created in the image of a loving God and valuable enough to Him that He died on a cross so that we could be made new!