As we learned from Scot McKnight’s book 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed, which we followed during Lent, Jesus said that the most important thing we can do is love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. As such, we spent time exploring what it means to love God, love ourselves, and love our neighbor. Going through that process, I came to understand how the call to love ourselves is directly tied to our love of God and love of neighbor; God loved us so much that He created us in His image – in other words, He loved us enough to make us so that we reflect all that is wonderful about God – and as such we should love ourselves. Further, if we love ourselves, as eikons of God, then we can’t help but love our neighbors, who were also created in the image of God.
As I wrote in one of my posts, it’s often very hard for us to love ourselves. There is an abundance of low self-esteem, and even self-hatred, in our world, which makes it hard for us to love God or our neighbor. So often, this crisis in self-perception begins at an early age. There is a point at which we go from blissful self-acceptance to unrelenting judgment, particularly of our bodies. Most often, this process begins during the middle school/junior high years, and while many people are able to reclaim some sense of self-confidence, very few of us come through that period completely unscathed.
That’s why I was thrilled to learn about the “International Acceptance Movement,” or I AM. It’s being developed by a group of girls who started creating the program when they were in junior high, and who are now in high school. It’s been really well-received, and recently won a state competition for creative solutions. In the spirit of full disclosure, I should also say – proudly, I might add – that one of the leaders is Molly Hogsett, the daughter of one of my dearest friends.
I AM offers workshops for junior high students. The discussions encourage the students to think and talk about who they really are – their authentic selves – and include exercises that encourage problem solving and team work. The end result, hopefully, is that the students will come away with a better appreciation of who they are and how wonderfully God made them. So far, I AM has been invited to hold workshops in schools in New Hampshire and nearby states.
The great thing about I AM is that it is not just for young teens. People of all ages are invited to visit the I AM website (www.iamdi.weebly.com), learn about self-acceptance, help promote it, and even send in pictures of themselves holding a sign that says “I AM.” I AM is hoping to collect 2,500 photographs of people from all over the world who are committed to loving and accepting themselves just as they are. In other words, just as God created them.
Given it’s victory at the state level, I Am has been invited to compete in a “global” tournament that’s being held in Knoxville, TN at the end of this month. The team has to raise funds to support their trip and competition expenses. To help get the team to Knoxville, and to raise awareness about their terrific endeavor, Prayerworks Studio will be donating 30% of all sales to I AM through Friday, May 13th, 2011. Tell your friends and family!
In addition, if you send in a photo of yourself holding a sign that says “I am” to the I AM website, and then tell us about it, we will send you a handcrafted bookmark that features the following quote: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). Indeed, I AM fearfully and wonderfully made. And so are you.