Word-y Gifts for Christian Faith & Life

How is your self-image?


It was wartime. Tensions and fears were high. They were especially so for Mephibosheth, the five-year-old prince whose grandfather and father had died untimely deaths on the battlefield, leaving a political vacuum that begged to be filled. Knowing the boy’s life would be in danger, his nanny picked him up and fled. In her panic, she dropped him, and there the grandson of King Saul and son of Prince Jonathan became disabled. The unfortunate accident had enormous consequences. Mephibosheth would grow up in a town called Lo Debar (meaning “without pasture”) with a shattered self-image, no longer seeing himself as a prince but a pathetic cripple.

Many years later, David, the new king, heard about Mephibosheth and was eager to do something special for the son of his deceased close friend, Jonathan. He invited him to dinner and when he arrived, David greeted him enthusiastically. Mephibosheth, however, approached David in fear and with his head bowed low. When David told him he was giving him the land that once belonged to his grandfather and a permanent place at his table, Mephibosheth asked him why he would “notice a dead dog like [him]?” All Mephibosheth saw when he looked at himself was a worthless cripple, but David saw the worthy grandson of a king.

The story, which is told in 2 Sam. 4:4 and 9:1-13, is a stunning tale of the dangers of a poor self-image (among other themes). Too often, we allow the “accidents” of our lives—failure, mistakes, setbacks, disappointments, rejection, injuries, and so on—to redefine us. In our own eyes, we become “failures,” “divorcees,” “washed up,” “damaged goods,” “dead dogs,” or whatever. And, like Mephibosheth, our distorted self-image consumes us, causing us to live far below our God-given potential—“failures” will stoop for opportunities rather than reach for them; “damaged goods” will struggle with self-rejection and have trouble forming and keeping healthy relationships; and “dead dogs” don’t hunt, they simply wait to be buried.

With significant numbers of Christians struggling with mental health challenges, Mephibosheth’s story reminds us that how we feel about ourselves can be quite different from who we really are, and what we believe about ourselves will affect the quality of our lives for better or worse.

How is your self-image?

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