Old Tape Messages

One of the most insightful bible studies I’ve ever heard was on John 14 and Jesus speaking about orphans. With this being our scripture yesterday, I figured I would share this interesting interpretation for our blog today!

While in South Africa on a mission internship in college, we took various classes taught by missionaries and staff. These ranged from learning about Basotho culture, mission studies, to even biblical interpretation. One of our group leaders, Charlene, spoke on Jesus and orphans. This topic has so many unique applications, from Jesus literally welcoming the little children, to even a more figurative concept of being an “orphan” with no place to belong.

Charlene pointed out that parents and caregivers ideally give children the emotional support to grow into healthy adults. Mom or dad reminds the child of his or her meaning and self-worth. Loving parents provide comfort during painful moments. They kiss boo-boos and make them feel better. They set the child on a trajectory for success. Think of the “positive messages” a child hopefully hears:

  • We love you more than you know
  • God created you to be so special and unique
  • We are proud of you
  • Jesus loves you

So obviously, when children grow up in broken homes, there are problems. Sometimes young people can overcome this, through the support of friends, extended family, or a church community. Other times this causes lifelong issues. Think of the “negative messages” a child in this situation might hear either said out loud or implicitly:

  • Nobody loves you
  • You are broken/worthless
  • You’ll be alone
  • God doesn’t care about you

These kinds of negative messages really do a lot of damage. The fancy psychological words for these are internalization and externalization. Internalization is when we take our troubled thoughts and direct them inwardly upon ourselves (i.e. anxiety, depression). Externalization is when we take those troublesome things and project them outward onto others (i.e. bullying, vandalism).

Photo by Eduardo Schäfer from FreeImages

Our mission leader talked about how these messages are like old cassette tapes. You remember that “old” technology, right? The tape plays on one side, and often there would be more audio on the other side. Charlene talked about how we all have these old tape messages running over and over again in the back of our mind.

For the young teenager struggling with an eating disorder, those “tapes” spread the message of “You are ugly, you will never be beautiful.” For the perfectionist, “Your best will never be good enough.” For the elderly man fighting depression, “No one truly cares about you, you will always be alone.” The list goes on and on.

Sometimes, these messages we literally heard in our past. Think of the abused child who heard all sorts of nasty things from a parent. Insults, foul language, and verbal abuse can hurt long after they’ve been spoken. They can cause major psychological issues well into adulthood.

Other times, these old tape messages are ones that we develop ourselves based off our circumstances. Think of the child in the foster care system who thinks nobody would ever want them, and that they don’t deserve a “forever home.” Silence and lack of support can lead us to a very poor view of ourselves. If we do not hear affirming words regularly, then that can lead us to believe twisted falsehoods.

What are the old tape messages you have playing over and over again in your mind? Some of them might be subtle and infrequent. Others might be loud and deafening. Yet we all still have some kind of message we struggle with.

The incredible news of the gospel is that Christ will never leave us alone. All those old tape messages you struggle with are downright lies. Christ tells us who we truly are. He invites you into fellowship and a sense of belonging. We are worth so much in God’s eyes.

Regardless of whatever “message” is playing in your mind, Christ invites us to hear the truth. Take out those old, broken cassette tapes and throw them away. Hear the good news of the gospel.

We are redeemed and loved. We are God’s children. Now that’s worth repeating over and over again!

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