Tell That Man Who He is!

What would it take to change someone's poor self-image? From loser to winner? From worthless nobody to valuable somebody? It's hard to say.

USA Today carried a brief note on Sept. 25, 1997, about a marvellous rescue of a child. A homeless man in New York City saved the life of a two-year-old boy whose house was on fire. The man talked Sonya Lopez into throwing her son down to him when the mother and her child were trapped in their burning house. He caught the 27-pound boy and then helped Sonya get out. The baby was uninjured, and his mother was treated for smoke inhalation and released. They are fine.

The hero that day was 45-year-old John Byrnes. He has been homeless for two years. He is an alcoholic. In his own words, he is a "drunken bum."

Maybe Mr. Byrnes needs to look at himself through the eyes of Sonya Lopez.

Do you think he's just a drunken bum to her? Not on your life. He's a certified hero. He saved her son's life and hers. Yet this is the best he could say for himself afterward: "Drunk as I am, I knew what to do right then and there."

People do heroic things because they are created in the image and likeness of God. Like a coin whose image has been defaced, any one of us may mar the likeness to God in his or her character. Alcoholism or a dozen other things that quickly come to mind can convince us how unworthy we are. We hear others attach labels to us. Worse still, we accept those labels stupid, drunken bum, cheat, liar, con.

My theory is that the day he saved the lives of a baby and his mother should have changed John Byrnes' self-image. But how long has he been told he is worthless? How many times has he been called a bum because he is homeless and dirty? And what has his alcoholism cost him in terms of the view he has of himself?

Perhaps the only way to reverse (or avoid) a terrible self-image is to have people who really care about you to remind constantly of your worth in their eyes. Parents, hear this about your children. Mates, hear it about your spouses. Hear it about anyone whose welfare and happiness you value.

God's strategy across the centuries has been to remind you of your worth in his eyes. If you missed it in his words, he said it one last time in giving his Son for you. No matter the label someone has stuck on you, heaven says you're worth dying for.

Rubel Shelly

The FAX of Life

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