Dust

“You shall not grovel in the dust and weep, you are worth so much more.”

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.

Angry-making, no?

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.

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2 thoughts on “Dust

  1. I listened to all of those same flagellating songs and felt all of that guilt and brokenness, and I am also PISSED about that.

    A Matt Redman song that was the theme of my first church retreat, and that STILL pops into my head sometimes:

    Jesus Christ, I think upon Your sacrifice
    You became nothing, poured out to death
    Many times I’ve wondered at Your gift of life
    And I’m in that place once again
    I’m in that place once again

    And once again I look upon the cross where You died
    I’m humbled by Your mercy and I’m broken inside

    Once again I thank You
    Once again I lay down my life

    Now You are exalted to the highest place
    King of the heavens, where one day I’ll bow
    But for now I marvel at Your saving grace
    And I’m full of praise once again
    I’m full of praise once again

    Thank You for the cross
    Thank You for the cross
    Thank You for the cross, my friend

    What makes me SO ANGRY is how this kind of bullshit jived with what I already felt as a lonely, depressed teenager–alone, broken, a fuck-up–and gave my bullshit depressed feelings validity. The appropriate response to a teenager who empathizes strongly with “I’m broken inside” is “NO, NO YOU AREN’T, tell me what makes you feel that way so I can help” not “Yes, yes, we’re all broken, that’s why you need JESUS.” Because I didn’t need jesus. I needed empathy without a religious filter, and I needed professional fucking help.

    So yea. With you all the way on this one. 😦

    • Hugs and internet solidarity for being royally pissed off.

      I know that song all too well. I still own that album and others of his… somewhere.

      But yes, I completely agree. I mean, I even attended a seminar or two at Soul Survivor about what to do if your friend is depressed, not realising it applied to me. If all the adults are going around singing “woe is me, for I am BROKEN and GUILTY”, how the fuck is a teenager supposed to realise that what they’re feeling isn’t normal or healthy?

      And don’t get me started on church counselling services. When Pompa died and I was so wrapped up in grief/depression that it interfered with my life to the point that my studies were affected because I couldn’t sleep and didn’t want to eat, I went to the church counsellors and said ‘I’m suffering, help!’, but they were no help at all. I muddled through on my own, becoming more and more bitter and drifted further and further away, and over time things got better. Eventually, I bit the bullet and went and saw my GP who referred me to the University Counselling Service (my word, did that ever feel like failure) and got actual help.

      Seems like Church Youth Workers forget they have a duty of care to their teenage charges for their emotional and physical health, as well as their spiritual health. They should be able to recognise when they and Jesus aren’t enough and they should have no problem gently pointing the person to the professionals. But I doubt that’s going to happen any time soon.

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