It has been quite a few months since I last wrote a “Thought for the Week.” The fact is that I went through a period where it became difficult to find the time to write as a result of full weekends. After that I felt like a break might do me good, and freshen my thoughts. After a few weeks it became increasingly easier to find other things to fill my time. For those that were regular watchers or readers, and there aren’t many I must admit, my apologies.
I went through a period where I wondered about the benefit of this format. As my world was looking increasingly busy with the commencement of post-graduate studies I thought about letting it go completely. However, I started to think about the benefit, at least for myself, of reflecting on my weekly studies. As my MPhil and then, hopefully, my PhD unfold it will be helpful for me to pause each week and contemplate what I have achieved during that week. For those that would like to come on this journey with me I am hoping for a genuine process of discovery. In fact the nature of research degrees is that they are intended to offer new perspectives, now constructs, and new theories on existing information and understandings. I think some might find it interesting to take this journey with me.
Many years ago I came across an idea that changed my life and has been the constant touchstone for my own personal development and ministry. The idea is a simple one but it has profound implications: Genuine love is communicated and experienced as an expression of honour. That is to say when someone experiences love they experience a sense of worth. Often times in the Old Testament we can see individuals blessing others. It seems like it is almost a magical incantation. But it certainly is not that. To bless someone is to honour them. Many times such blessings were an act of ultimate honour as a father would pass on his very name and wealth to a son.
Therein lies a powerful principle. Someone’s name is their identity. To truly honour someone is to seek to increase their awareness of the value of their identity. It is in fact true that every time someone is honoured effectively it is experienced as love and the opposite is equally true. Every time someone is loved effectively it is experienced as an increase in their own sense of worth.
For many years I have thought about the issue of God as love and how that impacts upon our sense of self. It is very easy for us to see ourselves as worthless before God and that while God loves us it is in spite of ourselves. We remain forever truly despicable at the core. In fact such constructs have been a central part of Christian teaching in some circles from the very beginning. However, if God is love and love is experienced as worth then should it not be true that to experience God is to experience an increase in the sense of our worth, not a decrease? It seems to me that one of the evidences of our broken relationship with God, into which state we are born, is the extent to which we move towards feelings of worthlessness. Such a sense of worthlessness is expressed in the emotion of shame. Hence I come to my PhD thesis – Shame and Self-Worth in the Light of the Wesleyan Understanding of Holiness: The implications of a Grand Ideal for a Theology of Self.
Over the next three years it is my hope to explore such issues in depth and to re-envision our understanding of holiness as an experiential encounter with a loving God that empowers us to love ourselves, others and ultimately God, effectively. That is to communicate honour and worth in all we do in each of these relationships. I am confident that at the core of our faith such an understanding of God, and our relationship to God, does the most to bring about transformation in our lives. To be filled with love is to be filled with a sense of worth before God that empowers us to actively seek to love and value others as the constant focus of our lives. So if you would I invite you into this journey of discovery and pray that in the process we can find great wealth in exploring who God is, who we are, and how our lives are intended to be lived.