What have I made myself out to be?
During my commute this weekend, it hit me. I’m not satisfied. I have never been truly satisfied. Because I have an extremely broken sense of self.
My earliest memories consist of falling when I expected a pair of arms to catch me, and hiding myself under a blanket. Being called naughty and shy. Losing my confidence in the classroom. Frustration and guilt of not playing the violin perfectly.
Later, paranoia of being called fat behind my back. Feeling socially devalued. Hearing suicide associated with selfishness. People not seeing beyond the color of my skin. Welcoming a sister into the family, only to grow up abusing each other. Taking the blame for every fight we ever had. Saying goodbye to my best friend, after her parents perished in an accident. Sitting on the school bus alone, year after year. Finishing last in every race. Messing up on stage. Getting talked over, unable to hear my own voice.
At one point in third grade, I was so used to being unable to finish my sentences, that the one time I wasn’t interrupted (I was announcing my brother’s birth), I trailed off into unintelligible words.
I was accused of not being passionate or considerate, when in fact, my inner world was too delicate and ethereal to be shared from my mouth. I made myself too numb to cry, because I was ashamed at how ugly it made me, but years later, when I found freedom to show emotions again, my eyes became a waterfall.
I don’t get warm and fuzzy feelings each time I reflect on my childhood. But was I simply ungrateful? Why am I so thoroughly broken, when I haven’t met criterion for trauma? Doesn’t everyone have these embarrassing moments? And certainly I had good things too?
Yes, there were good times. I saw the Wiggles live in concert, and handed a bouquet to Greg Wiggle, just before the curtain fell. I had giant stuffed mother bear, a purple teddy named Purple, and a vast array of Barbie dolls, which I took with me to bed. When I was in Kentucky, my parents drove me down to Universal Studios, where I went on the E.T. Adventure ride three times in a row, filled with wonder. I loved observing all the animals in the science classroom, pretending to be a princess, and drawing invented narratives. I remember going out for walks and bike rides in Robinson Park, and when I was older, winning the giant pumpkin guessing contest, at 89 pounds, in West Goshen Park.
But there was always a dark side to all the games I played. When I drew, I would scoot my desks together into the tightest possible corner, before I felt safe enough to begin inventing. And my stories were always about captivity and orphanage. In my imaginary world, I was always a prisoner. After building something, I would be so grieved to have it knocked down, I considered gluing the blocks together. I ritualized putting our play kitchen into order, without ever giving myself the chance to play. I felt so lovely when I danced, but the longer I looked into the mirror to check my pose, the more disappointed I became.
My sensitive nature hurt, from the very beginning of my life. I loved myself, until one day I realized there was the possibility not to. That moment came in Kindergarten, when my friend Amy turned to me and asked, Do you love yourself?
Yes, I said with confidence. I thought it was a silly question. But later, that simple question kept turning in my young mind, until that little “yes” became a loudening “no.”
I’m buried under a rising mountain of such lies, and its weight has nearly taken me to an early grave.
I can’t begin to imagine where I’d be, if I didn’t know God was on my side.
I’m at a place where I can breathe again. But I know that God has a more complete victory planned for me.
I wasn’t meant to only survive this burden. I believe that the mountain I’m standing in front of is meant to be cast in the sea. And ahead of it, on the other side, awaits a new level of blessedness.
When I first began hacking away at the stone in front of me, I didn’t realize that the very ground under my feet would be upturned and moved.
In fact, I feel like I’m adrift in God’s beautiful river. As my sins sink out of sight, into its endless depths, I float on. I don’t care that I’m not on solid ground anymore.
This sweet water is life-giving, and it refreshes my soul. It’s where I’m meant to be.
The Lord is daily singing truths over me, replacing the lies that have ruled my heart since I was young. Jesus tells me He is so very delighted and pleased with me, and has always called me His beloved daughter.
Before I had a heartbeat in the womb, I was loved and cherished. When I was rejected and hurt by the world, I had a Father who felt my pain right beside me. And when storms come and shake my world, I will still be held securely in His arms.