Sunday, April 29, 2012

Marred Identity

". . . Abject misery is a level of daily suffering that boggles the human mind. When people have lived only in abject misery, they begin to operate from a marred identity. Marred identity is the internalization of external misery. People who have known nothing but the horrors of extreme poverty begin to believe that they actually deserve their devastating circumstances. They believe that the powers that be or the gods of fate have relegated them to this way of life and that there is nothing they or anybody else can do to change their lot in life. The more they wrestle with marred identity, the faster they sink into listlessness, lifelessness, and a form of hopelessness that is palpable for everyone who observes them."

This relationship between poverty and identity and psychological well-being speaks deeply to me because it so eloquently pin-points my motivation to know, serve, and love "the poor." This is why I go to pot-lucks. This is why I went to Uganda. This is why we may move to Ghana. Not to give people some food that will be gone tomorrow. Not just to give them material things that will rot away.

But to change their identities.

Traveling to Third World countries or going to the ghettos of America can turn a lot of people upside-down because of what they see and experience of poverty. A lot of us can't get back to where we were before.

When that happens, it helps us understand with greater clarity why, "when Jesus launched his ministry, he said that he and his followers were going to confront the structures and the systems and the people that work together in darkness of mind and spirit to keep those who are poor entangled in poverty."

One perspective of what Jesus could have been saying when he was on earth is, "We're going to announce some good news to those people who are very close to having a marred identity. And we're going to work until the sun goes down on this world's existence to let a certain group of people know that they are not forgotten, they are not damaged goods, they are not hopeless and they are not beyond the possibility of being loved by our great God and by his followers."

See, by the manner in which Jesus lived, he identified with the poor. He associated with them and hung out with them. "He healed those who had no recourse for medicine. He fed the hungry by the thousands. And he said to those with marred identities,

 'You're treasured creations of the Most High God.
I will redeem you and call you my own.'"

1 comment:

Stacie said...

Juliette - reading this made me think of the book "When Helping Hurts". If you haven't already, I'd recommend reading it. It offers a fantastic insight into how our best intentions often destroy the God-given identity of those we're trying to help.