“The world will tell her that because she is a girl, she is not of value.
The world will tell her that because her skin is black, she is not good enough.
The world will define her by her color and by her sex. It will tell her how to dress and how to act.
It will have her believe her worth is tied up in her bank account and her dress size.
It is our job to tell her otherwise.
It is our job to tell her that she is beautifully and wonderfully made. It is our job to tell her that God created her in God’s own image and called her good.
It is our job to tell her that her primary definition is as a Child of God.”
Worshipping in a racially and economically diverse congregation while in seminary, words such as this were a common part of the baptismal liturgy.
Our pastor reminded us as he walked down the aisle introducing this newest member of our church that baptism, an outward Christian sign signifying newness in Jesus Christ, also requires a promise and commitment from us: We are responsible for nurturing faith.
It is our duty to tear through the culture’s clattering about who we are and claim: We are God’s and God’s alone. Baptisms force me to stand alert.
So then why when I hear a song like Nikki Minaj’s “Fly” does my heart ache and eye well?
Because culture is deafeningly loud.
“Everybody wanna try to box me in/
“Suffocating every time it locks me in
“Cause I am not a word, I am not a line/
“I am not a girl that can ever be defined.”
I have had the privilege of ministering to a group of tweens/teens over the past few years and have known most of them since they were in elementary school. Our church is unique in that until recently this group was all girls.
To be in their presence is for me an often-Holy encounter. When they are at their best, their wisdom is staggering; their compassion is profound; their skills in reconciliation and forgiveness would confound the world’s leaders.
It is no exaggeration to say I love them fiercely. And yet in the past 18 months as they’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed some changes.
Regardless of the love they’ve received from their parents and our community of faith, the world’s clattering has gotten louder.
Drums beat to ardent cries of sexualization and profaneness; cymbals clang to increasing shouts of isolating technology and materialism.
It’s pervading: on TV, written on their Facebook walls, in advertisements, in their music.
(For that matter, have you tried to buy clothes for a young girl? It took me no less thannine, yesnine! visits to different stores to find a holiday dress for my 4-year-old daughter that didn’t have her looking like a princess or harlot.)
Glimpses of self doubt, shorts that keep getting shorter, onsets of indecisiveness, obsessions over body weight … I wish I had the power to silence the gonging noise!
“ I came to win, to fight, to conquer, to thrive/
“I came to win, to survive, to prosper, to rise/
To fly. If only the silence were long enough to whisper into their ears, may you fly.
Released from who the world tells you to be. Set loose from corrupted values of self worth.
Freed to know you are beautifully and wonderfully made, created in God’s own image and called good.
My dear youth, young people of the world, may you know and live into your true definition as Children of God: You are God’s and God’s alone. Get ready for it Get ready for it Get ready for it
Rev. Tricia Dillon Thomas, is Associate Pastor for Youth and their Families at Peace Presbyterian Church; www.PeacePCUSA.org.