Selah's cover of "I Look to You" returned to my playlist this morning.
I was talking with a dear friend recently and she asked me a question that touched a very tender nerve:
"perhaps it's a self-worth issue..."
I heard her, but I couldn't imagine how what we were talking about - my desire to be of better support to those I loved - had anything to do with self-worth. But I trusted her and I knew she loved me. So I filed her question away for "someday when." Someday, when I have the time. Someday, when I am willing to probe more deeply. Someday, when I am unable to breathe because I feel the walls crumbling around me - again. Then I will revisit self-worth. But for now, I'm okay -- but thanks.
Then, a few days later I received a thank you card with this message on the front:
"One day she woke up
and decided she was worthy,
and her soul cried out
"Hmmm," I thought, "today is the day to plumb this question." But I had to start with another question. What defines worth?
First I turned to the dictionary. It said what I already knew: "the level at which something or someone deserves to be valued, is fit for, capable of, or suitable for." It's etymology however stopped me in my tracks. From Old English roots, the word "worth," hearkens back to the word, "woerp" which refers to "an enclosed space, or a homestead."
I sat back in my chair and let that sink in. Was I at home in my own sense of worth? Do I feel at peace with the value of what I bring to humanity? Has my sense of home been directly impacted by my sense of worth? Has my sense of my own worth been been informed by my home - or more pointedly, my housing? What correlation might there be between home, value, and worth? It took me a few moments to take the next breath.
As I thought about the concept of worth, I realized that a thing's worth is not defined by the thing itself, but is based on its perceived value. For example, gold is intrinsically worth no more than lead or silver. We have assigned a higher value to gold. The same with sports heroes over teachers. Or celebrities over mothers. Those who have advanced degrees over craftsmen, or those in the trades. It is society that assigned that value. There is no intrinsic higher value in one, over the others.
I needed to have a clear sense of what I valued in order to see my own -- or another's -- worth. So, I dug deeper. What clues could scripture give me in finding a truer sense of worth. I looked at what prophets, disciples, apostles, and Christ himself valued. Humility, meekness, self-sacrifice, patience. These resonated with me, but I still couldn't feel the deeper shift that I know comes with a transformation of thought. Then something I found in Mary Baker Eddy's Science and Health with Key to the Scripture hit that nerve again -- and this time, it was like a tuning fork. She writes:
"let worth be judged according to wisdom..."
It rushed through me like a lightning bolt. A few weeks earlier my Sunday School class had been examining the difference between intelligence and wisdom, and one of the girls said:
"Wisdom is intelligence
used with love."
When I heard it, I knew it was true. It immediately became my go-to definition for "wisdom." And here was Eddy saying that worth should be judged according to wisdom -- the loving use of intelligence. It all shifted into place. If I was feeling less than "worthy," I needed to examine how I was using the God-bestowed intelligence that filled my consciousness throughout the day.
For example: Was I reading scripture, and delighting in every word, but not bringing these vital truths into Christian practice? Was I consciously bringing wisdom -- intelligence used with love -- to bear on every interaction? Was I vigilant in my daily defense of the wise use of intelligence? Did I affirm throughout the day that intelligence could only be used for good, for the benefit of humanity. Did I refuse to believe that intelligence could ever be corrupted or used "against" others?
Elsewhere in her Message to The Mother Church for 1902 Eddy assures us that:
"Conscious worth satisfies the hungry heart
and nothing else can..."
and nothing else can..."
To be conscious of my worth -- my right to engage in the loving use of intelligence -- was all that would satisfy my hunger for peace. My worth is not based on an irreversible history of personal mistakes, failures, choices, or accomplishments. It is not defined by how others perceive me. My worth is founded on my day-to-day practice of wisdom. This is what has value. This is practice of wisdom is something I can monitor throughout the day.
It's not surprising that this "loving use of intelligence," aligns with a conscious application of The Golden Rule: "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The Golden Rule is not a human choice, but a divine imperative. It is a law that operates unspent throughout the deep collective root system of humanity. It is ever-establishing our ever-active spiritual worth -- moment-by-moment, heart by heart.
We are worthy of this intelligent view of ourselves and others. We are worthy of the peace and joy it brings. We are worthy of being conscious of our worth, and the worth of being conscious. Conscious of what we know, and how we use it. This is a place we can homestead and abide in -- forever.
offered with Love,