by Michelle Bauman
You are Your Best Thing is the title of a book by Tarana Burke, founder of the “MeToo” movement, and Brene Brown—professor, author, and public speaker. The book is a “collection of essays on Black shame and healing” according to Penguin, and it’s getting lots of press lately from the literary world. I haven’t read it, so I can’t tell you if it’s worth reading. If I’m honest, I’m not sure I ever will. Truth is, I can’t even get past the title.
You are Your Best Thing. There’s so much inherently wrong with that statement, isn’t there? First, it implies there’s only one thing about an individual that really matters. In this case, I suppose, it’s race. Yet, depending on the situation, that single redeeming quality might be gender, or productivity, or health. The title lacks recognition of the complexity of humans; there is no appreciation of the various gifts each person brings to the table. You are simply one thing—your best thing—and your entire identity resides on it.
Moreover, this purposeful reshaping of identity not only disconnects us from our identity markers—religion, family, nation, and vocation to name just a few—but it also disconnects us from our identity Maker—God Himself. Mantras like “You are your best thing,”, “Love lives here”, and “Be a good human”, not only define goodness for us, but they also locate goodness in us, a confession that is contrary to the poor miserable sinners we are. Virtue, as defined by society, only becomes achievable when one is transformed fully into society’s image rather than the image of God.
What does that transformation look like? In some cases, it means becoming nothing more than a sexual being on the spectrum of gender. In other instances, individuals become a pinpoint on a continuum of racial inequalities. Yet, internally we recognize that no matter how much we transform, we still don’t get it right. Guilt, anger, darkness, and sin surround us. We are never “good” enough.
It really shouldn’t surprise us. When we swallow the age-old lie Satan offers and try to become gods ourselves, we lose not only freedom but life. The altered image the world offers is corrupt and narrow in comparison to the perfect fullness God intends.
And that’s why Y4Life’s message is so important. God has more to give than our social virtues can offer—more hope, more meaning, more LIFE. We are not now and never were simply our “best thing.” Instead, we are now and always will be children of the heavenly Father. Designed and redeemed by God Himself, our value doesn’t reside in the good we do; our identity is made whole because of the work God has done in us. We’ve been made for more than society has to offer; we shouldn’t settle anything less.
Our western culture works to reshape us into something we were never meant to be, but praise be to God that He is at work too. Through Word and Sacrament, God reforms and reaffirms our identity. His work is more powerful than any woke moment or movement society has to offer. May we cling to this promise and hope at Y4Life, and may we boldly share it now and always!