Am I Good?
Written by Jason Kamme
Do you know when someone is fishing in a conversation? Maybe they are fishing for information. Back in the day, I had a friend that would use me as a go-between he and a gal that he liked that I ran track with. He’d often start the conversation with something like, “Hey, how was track practice today?” To which I would reply something like, “She didn’t say anything about you. But track was great otherwise.” Other times, and probably most of the time, people are fishing for a compliment. My sister does this all the time. Back when she was in college she was in a band with some guys she knew and she would occasionally post new music on Myspace, if you remember that, and then she would call me and ask if I had been on Myspace recently, which I knew was my cue to tell her how great her new song sounded. Anyway, with the advent and ubiquity of social media this happens all the time, and for reasons I think run deeper than just a passing compliment or dating advice.
All the way down to how we see ourselves. The core question is something like: “Am I confident in the fact that I am good?”
Are you aware that it doesn’t matter what I think of you, what your spouse thinks of you, what your in-laws think of you, or what your friends on Facebook think of you, it doesn’t matter necessarily even what you think of you. Whether I am good enough is a question I ask myself often and I’m not sure I believe the answer.
It’s part of why I ran a marathon. It’s why sometimes I’ll post a cute picture of Emil or my wife. It’s why I’ll write something about how awesome things are going here at work. I think it is part of why I wear certain shirts and drive certain cars: Mostly so that you’ll agree that I’m good enough so that I’ll be more at peace with believing it myself, cause I don’t all the time.
It’s messed up.
And I don’t think I’m the only one.
I think that we as a culture, at a very deep level, are anxious and unsure of our goodness and worth.
I see it in Facebook posts. I see it in bumper stickers. I see it in shirts. I see it in who we hang out with, where we live, where we go. I see us trying to prove to other people that we are good enough so that they will agree and thereby convince us that it’s true. Because we don’t even believe it.
We live in this constant state of anxiety that leads to these “goodness seeking behaviors” that ultimately leave us just as unsure of ourselves after than when we started.
The result is that we get a picture of ourselves that is constructed with the feedback we get from other people. And while at the moment it convinces us of our worth and that we in fact have edges, it is temporary and superficial because it is affirmation that we have to seek. It is affirmation that we have to earn: you gotta run for it, you gotta make money for it, you gotta be young for it, you have to have the perfect family for it, the perfect body for it. It is contingent goodness. It’s an impossible goal line to reach and no wonder that on this most basic question of who we are we, our kids, are so confused and out of breath. Cause all know how to do is chase it.
I think that this is one of the most tragic legacies of the fall described in Genesis.
Prior to it what we have is a God creating. The earth, the moon, the sun, the stars, and God says that it is good. Then God reaches into the dirt and forms us, fills us with his breath, and says that we are very good. Did Adam and Eve have to solicit God’s opinion on that? No. It is a statement of fact about the nature of who they are, and as you read about how life went on in the garden, because of that reality, Adam and Eve were alive in the stability of their identity: in relationship with God. In relationship with each other. In relationship with the earth. Naked and unafraid. So now, I would like us all to get naked.
Just a few chapters later that goodness — our goodness — was called into question, and for a moment we considered it. And sort of like a pin prick in a balloon, the air went out on our sense of our identity, and ever since we have had a hard time believing those very simple words that God spoke in the garden: you are good.
I believe that part of what Jesus meant when he said, “I came that you might have life and life overflowing,” is that he came that we might know what we are again. That in the chorus of opinions and feelings about us, even our own, we would overflow with the knowledge that in Christ we are good. That our edges would come from the inside and not the outside.
Jason Kramme is the Family Ministry Director at Prince of Peace. He shared this talk recently during Staff Chapel.