Am I 'enough'?

Resisting the lies to find our true identity

We're not meant to all be the same

Sometimes the impact of BRF resources surprises even those who created them.

In 2018 concerns were mounting about the rising number of reports of self-harm, especially in young women. Bishop Rachel Treweek was one of those who pledged to stand up against the tidal wave of pressure that was causing young people to punish themselves in the belief that they were not ‘enough’.

Collaborating on the bishop’s Liedentity campaign, BRF’s Messy Church team created a 'Real me' session for Messy Churches. All the activities, crafts, songs and reflections pointed to one truth: that we are all special, uniquely crafted by our creator God in his image and for his purposes. We are not all meant to be the same.

You're not alone

In one particular Messy Church, the ‘Real me’ message hit hard. The previous week, the suicide of a popular young woman in the wider community – apparently as a result of low self-worth – had rocked the community. Leaders were counselled to use the activity sessions to simply listen to what people needed to say.

Before the session was over, one woman had confessed to living with abuse for years, and asked for help. Anonymous prayer requests collected for leaders to intercede over in the coming week were dominated with cries for help about mistreatment at work. An emergency meeting of the core team was called to plan how to respond pastorally to this unprecedented outpouring.

Download the 'Real me' resource

Young woman in black and white

Even our six wonderful teenage boys had a go at talking about the questions this month, because they too seemed to sense what an important topic it was. 

Messy Church ‘Real me’ session leader

During the meal, one of the dads said with a tear in his eye that he understood for the first time how much God really loved him.

Messy Church ‘Real me’ session leader

'Infinitely precious, known and loved by God'

Bishop Rachel Treweek

No one puts it better than Bishop Rachel (pictured left) in her powerful introduction to the 'Real me' Messy Church resource:

'It is stating the obvious to say that every person born into the world is unique. As followers of Jesus Christ, we want to declare the wonderful truth that every person is created in the image of God and is ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Psalm 139:14). It is therefore not surprising that we should long for every child and adult to know they are infinitely precious, known and loved by God.

'We know from research and the spoken experience of children and young people that they are bombarded by messages around them which convey that their value lies in their physical appearance. Magazines, advertising and social media perpetuate this perspective, and I know from my own visits to schools that these messages are strong even for primary-age children. Most heroes and heroines in children’s books and films are presented with features that are considered aesthetically beautiful and perfect. Princesses have waspish waists, huge eyes and flowing hair, while princes have a muscular physique and a strong jaw line. The celebrity culture seems only to emphasise these messages and peddle the myth that one’s physical appearance is everything if you desire to be intimately loved.'

'The celebrity culture seems only to peddle the myth that one’s physical appearance is everything.'

We're in this together

Bishop Rachel continues: 'Like many others, I am speaking out against these damaging messages and want to help refocus the lens through which young people see themselves in the world around them. I am therefore delighted that Messy Church have created this session to enable adults and children to reflect on who they are as children of God and to discover where their true value comes from.

Woman with hands covering face and ears

'In our western world, where the issue of identity is seemingly all about the individual, it is also important to emphasise the truth that we are created to live in relationship with our fellow human beings, who are equally precious. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to go on discovering what it means to be members together of the body of Christ.

'Every person is equally precious, wonderfully unique and known and loved by God.'

God looks on the heart, not the outward appearance

'Throughout history, artists and illustrators have attempted to portray Jesus’ physical appearance, but the reality is that the gospels have nothing to tell us about what Jesus looked like on earth. However, the Bible does have a lot to tell us about Jesus’ character and how in his earthly ministry, death and resurrection he revealed to us the heart of God, who is love.

'In being made in God’s image, we have been created to live in right relationship: with God, our fellow human beings and the world around us. It is therefore important that we give children positive messages about attributes of character which are good for the flourishing of others and the world around them. Sadly, sometimes in our desire to affirm and encourage children we inadvertently collude with a message about value being related to physical appearance. It is far more important to affirm a child for their care of others than the shoes they’re wearing; and far more meaningful to notice a child’s compassion or humour than their hairstyle.'

'It is far more meaningful to notice a child’s compassion or humour than their hairstyle.'

'However, this is not about deterring children’s enjoyment of clothes and fashion – there is no suggestion that one should never comment on the flashing shoes or the sparkling hair band – but we might want to think more carefully about how our messages emphasise that outward appearance is about expressing something of who we are, knowing that the "who" begins deep within us.

'And it is in that inner place that we want every child and adult to discover their value and potential, and to enter ever deeper into a personal relationship with their creator God through the life-giving generosity of Jesus Christ, ever present with them through the work of the Holy Spirit.'

More 'Real me' feedback

People were so engaged with what was going on that even those who are normally prone to flit from one thing to another tended to spend much longer on fewer activities. 

Messy Church ‘Real me’ session leader

One seven-year-old stopped on the way out to sift through his strips of paper show me the ones with ‘God can bring peace’ and ‘I can forgive people who hurt me’.

Messy Church ‘Real me’ session leader

For more help on mental health issues…

Ripped jeans and trainers

Dealing with self-harm

Within its valuable online library, BRF’s Parenting for Faith offers advice for parents and churches with links to further information and help.

Primary school pupil thinking

Fostering resilience in schools

Barnabas in Schools offers several impactful, high-energy, interactive Barnabas RE Days that support teachers in nurturing children’s resilience.

Debbie Hawker

Developing resilience (in adults)

Clinical psychologist Dr Debbie Hawker (pictured above) explains why resilience isn’t the same as bouncing back.

 

The Mirror That Speaks Back cover

Support for young women

The Mirror That Speaks Back is a fond and timely ‘letter’, written from personal experience, to young Christian women who, despite their faith, might be struggling with low self-esteem, eating disorders and general unhappiness.

Image acknowledgements

Photo of Bishop Rachel Treweek used by kind permission of The Church of England Diocese of Gloucester