Are we glorious?

One song has been playing in my head, seemingly non-stop for the past few months. I sing it everywhere. In the shower. In the car. Doing dishes. At work.

It’s from The Greatest Showman, a movie musical about a man called PT Barnum who was kind of a terrible person in real life by modern standards. But in the musical he is lovely, passionate and helps people with physical differences find a home in his circus. The film contains fantastic music you can’t stop listening to, dance numbers you end up trying to replicate in your kitchen and lyrics you want to scream from the rooftops.

I have been obsessing over one song in particular called ‘This is me’. It’s just fun to sing. Lettie Lutz, a bearded lady, leads the group of “oddities” in a defiant and empowering declaration of self-acceptance:

But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious.
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

It’s meant to be a rousing chorus of self-confidence, which, embraced by all, could allow us to truly own our differences and live unashamedly as us. Yet no matter how much I love belting out this song in my pyjamas, I actually think it is a perfect example of why our children are suffering a deep crisis of confidence today.

There is an endemic lack of self-esteem in our country. We see individuals who are wonderful, complex, shining examples of God’s creativity hating themselves, suffering with anxiety and seeing themselves through a deeply warped lens. But the message of this song isn’t the solution. I believe it’s part of the problem.

The message we think helps people love themselves and find self-confidence is: “God made you unique and wonderful. You are perfect just the way you are. No one can be like you, so embrace you! If other people don’t like you, leave them behind because they aren’t your true friends anyway. You don’t need to apologise for who you are. Your true friends love you because you are glorious.”

But I don’t see this approach to confidence in scripture. Think of all the heroes of the faith: Moses, Mary, Deborah, Elijah. I don’t think John the Baptist woke up every morning, looked in the mirror and said: “Okay, John. You’re going to talk to a king today. You are perfect just the way you are. You are unlike everyone else and you can do it. You are glorious!” This is the man who said about Jesus: “He must increase; I must decrease.” (See page 8).

The problem with the world’s formula for confidence is that it puts the emphasis of perfection on us. But we know we aren’t perfect. We know we aren’t glorious all the time. We know we make mistakes and hide. How could we possibly consider all that worthy of enough admiration to convince us we are confident?

I don’t have to be strong, perfect and confident in myself for God to use me

Thankfully, God has a plan for us to walk in confidence, which can be summed up in three statements:

God is awesome and holy, and he loves me totally.

Confidence isn’t about believing we are amazing. It’s about believing that the God who is beyond understanding loves us wholeheartedly. Not because of who we are, but because of who he is.

God is daily shaping me to be more like him, and I am not finished yet.

Scientists talk about the importance of having a ‘growth mindset’: a deep belief that we can change and are changing. A fixed mindset says: “I can’t do it.” A growth mindset says: “I’m learning how to do it, and I’m getting better every day.” When it comes to identity and confidence, we seem to have embraced a fixed view of ourselves. In essence: “I’ve been given this box to live in, so I might as well learn to love it.”

But what I love about life with Christ is that he promises to transform us to be more like him. My failures today get separated from me; he turns them for good and shapes my character to be more Christ-like. I will be better tomorrow than I am today, and I will be different in ten years’ time because God is constantly growing and shaping me. I am not perfect just as I am. Not yet. So I don’t have to pretend to be.

I am invited to play a small part in God’s wonderful plans.

Even in my imperfection, God invites me, unfinished, to join in his great plans. He uses my gifts, and delights in letting me work alongside him. He gives me jobs I can’t possibly do without him. He lets me stay weak so he can be glorious in what he is able to do through my weaknesses. I don’t have to be strong, perfect and confident in myself for God to use me. I just have to be confident in him and willing to let my weaknesses exist.

What would it look like to offer to our children a confidence that cannot be shaken by criticism or embarrassment? What if the song they began to sing was:

But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For he is glorious
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
He’s gonna send a flood, gonna drown them ou
I am brave, I am bruised
I am not finished yet, this is me.
Right now
Look out cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat he drums
I’m not scared to be seen
I’m sorry if my imperfection bugs you, but I’m pretty impressed with my progress.
This is me. Right now. But just wait...

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