Something happened with children of my generation (people some call Generation X) and those kids that followed mine. Somehow, through no one’s intention or desire, we became people who were taught both that self-esteem was absolutely essential for help AND that we are not really worth that much in the scheme of things. Somehow, when we started teaching kids that they were valuable and worthy and then started allowing them to act like any way their pleased because of that, we lost a lot of people.

I see it in my students who both believe they are entitled to pass my classes but also believe – in the same, exact moment – that they don’t deserve anything and are worthless. I’m sure there’s a psychological basis for this stuff that I just don’t really comprehend, but I do see this terrible paradox – arrogant, insecure people demanding what they don’t deserve and missing out on what they do – simple love and respect – the things they should receive because they exist. This is sad.

So as I read John Eldredge’s book Waking the Dead: The Glory of a Heart Fully Alive, I was struck by this dichotomy and the way that Eldredge makes it accessible. What a freeing piece of information. That I can make mistakes and royally screw up and still be loved, but that because I am loved I should desire to be more like the one who loves me. That really is something.

Eldredge is writing, in part, against a teaching that many of us who were raised in the church received – the teaching that, ultimately, we are evil at core, “Fallen,” and thus must spend most of our time cleaning ourselves up and making ourselves right. I have long bristled against this concept because I see so many people, myself included sometimes, so beaten down by this idea that they are “evil,” unlovable, and ugly, as my grandmother used to say.

And Eldredge isn’t saying that people are perfect or that we don’t need to try any more to be better people. But the reason, he claims, that we seek to be better is because the core of who we are is loved – our hearts are loved by God. Imagine that difference – we do not seek to be better because we are wretched but because we are beautiful and glorious. We want to be better for the One who loves us. Wow.

Here is freedom. As Eldredge says, “Everything you love is what makes a life worth living.” Yes, that’s it. I love God; I love people; I love animals and music and art and writing (I really love writing). And these are the things I live for. These are the things that are glorious in me and in the world around me. These are the things that make me who I am, and if I can only live more fully into the person I was made to be, well, then how much more lovely will I be.

I wonder if we taught this to children – that they are beautiful and glorious, really, truly, at their core and that they need to live more fully into that – if we taught kids that if they love art, they should paint or if they love math, they should multiple – instead of teaching them that they are great but that what they love isn’t – if we didn’t break kids hearts with lessons about “practicality” and “earning a living,” would we have kid who were both confident but aware of their limitations. Would we have kids who don’t feel entitled but instead blessed and adore but one who makes them want to be better people? I wonder.

Waking the Dead by John EldredgeWaking the Dead by John Eldredge