“You shall not grovel in the dust and weep, for you are worth so much more than that.”
I had this thought in my head the other day and ugh, so many feelings. So many memories.
I had been thinking about a beautiful post titled “Dear daughter, I hope you have some fucking awesome sex” that I read the other day and that got me thinking about the religious guilt hangover I am still affected by.
I was walking home past a primary school and I got thinking about the kids I want to have in the future, and how I want to raise them. I realised I have absolutely no intention of baptising them, and that even if the best school around were a Christian/CofE one, I would be very unlikely to send them there. I don’t want to raise my kids with the same guilt that I absorbed growing up. I also remembered that although I was baptised in the Church of England, I was never confirmed, due mainly to a double booking of the Bishop, followed by me joining a “community church”. Instead I was later baptised into that “community church”, Lifeline, Dagenham, and looking back now, it really bugs me theologically what they did. I was baptised into the Christian faith, and while it would mean I wouldn’t be able to participate in a Catholic Eucharist, I was at the time a Christian. Already Saved. Already washed in the water signifying Jesus’ blood and sacrifice. Why on earth did I need to be baptised again?
To show that I was committed to their church, their “manifestation of the Body of Christ”. In other words, I wasn’t properly part of their church unless I was baptised into it. Theologically, that’s very shaky ground. Morally, it was also bankrupt. I wanted it, sure, but I wanted it partly because I was desperate to fit in, and it was presented as a way to do so. There was so much subtle pressure; it was held up as a special thing. You were only considered for baptism if you’d been a member of the church for over a year.
Anyway, bearing that background in mind, the phrase I had running round my head seemingly came out of nowhere and I wanted to cry just hearing it.
All the songs I listened to as a teenager, particularly music from the likes of Tim Hughes and Matt Redmann, were all so self-flagellating. Songs like ‘Find me in the River’ by Delirious? which goes:
“Find me in the River,
Find me on my knees
I’ve walked against the water
Now I’m waiting if you please.
Find me in the river, Find me there
Find me on my knees with my soul laid bare
Even when you’re gone and I’m lost and dry
Find me in the river
I’ll be waiting, if you please.”
They were all about putting yourself down, because you’re a weak and failed human, a sinner, worthless, worth less than the dust of which you were made (Ashes to ashes, dust to dust).
But now, that’s bullcrap. If we’re so worthless, why would God bother trying to save us? We must be worth so much, if, in our “broken” state, the Almighty God chose to send himself down to rescue us so we could be with Him in heaven.
Every fibre of my being now cries out that I am worth something. That I am worth SO MUCH MORE than the crap that fills my head, that makes me think I’m useless, incapable, fat, broken, guilty, stupid, no good.
I am so much better than the voice that tells me I’m an idiot, a moron, those words dripping with scorn and derision.
I am worth so much more than the Church that tells me I am, since it tells me I’m broken inside, a sinner, full of guilt for merely existing (original sin, anyone?) and full of guilt simply for being in my animal body.
They judged me ‘guilty’. Guilty for wanting good stuff, guilty for liking food, guilty for being proud of my achievements, guilty for liking sex AND having the temerity to get it outside of marriage. Guilty for standing up for myself. Guilty for feeling angry when people have wronged me. Guilty for not forgiving people who have hurt me because “vengeance is mine, said the Lord”. Guilty for feeling like God could never love me. Guilty for injuring myself on purpose. Guilty for being drunk. Guilty for calling my brothers bad names and breaking my promises and using God’s name in vain. Guilty for not praying more and reading my Bible every day. Guilty for being a Goth.
A thousand little transgressions for which I must beat myself up and beg for God’s forgiveness, grovelling on my knees in the dust to which I belong.
There’s a flame inside me now, a little voice that says You Are Not ‘Wrong’. You Are Worth So Much More. The little flame that is angry that all this stuff was weighed onto my mind and my soul. The voice inside that is angry at the church for doing this to me, for making me think I was broken just for existing, then waving a flag on the far side of the shore that promised salvation and relief from the burden they gave me.
It cries: Injust! Unfair!
I have every right to be angry. Because, no matter what they say, I am not guilty just for existing and being my own damn self. I am worth so much more, and I will not grovel any longer.