Moving toward a proper self-image

By MICHAEL J. BROOKS / Guest Columnist

Lately I discovered a radio station in our area that plays the music of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s—the really good music—at least in the estimation of us “seasoned citizens.” I heard a song I’d almost forgotten by the late, great Roger Miller. The chorus says, “Dang me, dang me, they ought‘a take a rope and hang me / hang me from the highest tree, Woman, would you weep for me?”

“Dang Me” spent 25 weeks on “Billboard’s” country music chart in 1964.

I can’t seem to get this chorus out of my head. I’ve thought about singing it next time I get shamed at home or work as a way of saying, “OK. I messed up. Pile on!”

The man portrayed in this song is really down on himself.

Some believers approach the Christian life in the same way, insisting we’re rebellious sinners unworthy of God’s love. As Jonathan Edwards exhorted long ago, God justifiably holds us over the flames of hell like a spider on a web. My generation sang Isaac Watt’s classic hymn, “At the Cross,” published in 1707. One of the verses declares, “Would he devote that sacred head, for such a worm as I?” Somewhere along the way the verse was changed in the hymnals our church uses to “for sinners such as I?”

I suppose the image of being a worm was too much for the hymnal publishers.

But all of this is true. We are rebellious sinners unworthy of God’s love. Thus theologians speak of grace. This means we receive God’s love despite our unworthiness: “grace greater than our sin,” as another hymn states.

On the other end of the theological spectrum is the scriptural teaching that God created us. Everything that he made he pronounced good, including man and woman. Psalm 139 declares each person was purposely “knit together in our mother’s womb,” and Psalm 8 declares we were “made a little lower than God and crowned with glory and honor.” The King James translators couldn’t conceive of such an amazing concept, so they used “angels” in verse 5. However, the Hebrew word is “Elohim,” one of several names for God in the Old Testament.

So we have two polarities on the spectrum of self-image. On the one hand, we’re marred by our lifetime of bad choices and willful rebellion. We fall short. On the other hand, we’re God’s good handiwork, made deliberately and lovingly by him, created in his image.

How do we maintain a proper self-image? Maybe self-concept is a balancing act. We avoid a prideful attitude at all costs, for pride leads to destruction, but we rejoice that He declares us worthy to have fellowship with him.

Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church’s website is Siluriabaptist.com.