I have longed for affection and approval all of my life. As a child, I was always trying to do the right thing, like keeping my room clean or just acting generally happy even when I wasn’t. My parents divorced when I was four-years-old and after being taken back home after spending a weekend with my mother I would hold in my tears, tell my Dad I had a good time as I walked to my room where I would put my head in my pillow and muffle my cries until they were gone. When I was done, I would return downstairs, acting as if everything was fine.
As I approached and entered high school, I became very aware that there were certain music, television shows, and activities that you needed to like in order to be accepted. I experienced being “kicked out of the group” a term in which many young women may be familiar with. It happens around the time of junior high, where a group of girls decide they are not going to speak to a certain girl anymore, if ever again. I lived in a town so small it is technically a village. Once you’re kicked out, there is literally no one else to be with.
By the time I was mid-way through Grade 9, the only “love” I had ever known in my life had failed me. My parent’s divorce was extremely messy and my friends had abandoned me, it seemed like the people who were supposed to love me only loved on certain conditions. There seemed to be so many expectations of how to be the right kind of person.
I wanted to be known and loved for who I really was, but I was afraid that if people got to know the real me, they would leave. I started putting up walls and trying to be everything to everyone. I was living a double life: one that looked fine from the outside but was crumbling on the inside. I began cutting myself and feeling consumed by suicidal thoughts. I felt like a waste of a person. By eleventh grade I was hardly eating anything, and if I did eat, I would make myself throw up. Most young women struggle with body image and I was no different, I remember staring at myself in the mirror and worrying about my weight from a very young age. I remember being upset when I weighed more than 80 pounds as a child. On top of it all, I was into drinking and flirting with drugs, which all was very normal for teenagers in my school, but I honestly used to cry if we couldn’t find someone to buy alcohol for us. I loved the freedom and escape that alcohol provided from every day pressures.
By the time I graduated high school, I felt completely empty. I began to seek something more in life, and that eventually lead me to a small church in Regina, Saskatchewan. I never thought I’d go to church, that was something losers and very un-cool people did. Deep inside, I really just thought it was too late for me to know anything about God. I didn’t grow up going to church and any time I ever did attend church, I didn’t understand a thing. I thought it was something you had to be born into. Over time, God softened my heart and I learned that he loved me.
Giving my heart and my life to Christ was the best thing that I have ever done and I have learned so much about love and about loving others. It is a basic truth of Christianity that God loves us and forgives us.
I definitely felt the highs of God’s love and forgiveness, but still often found myself in very low places, paralyzed by self-doubt. All through my Christian walk I have heard whispers in my mind, awful whispers. Sometimes I lay frozen in bed berating myself, “How could you have done that? You idiot. Who could love you? If anyone really knew you, they would hate you. They would be gone. They would leave. You should leave. Leave your family. You can never be the mother that your children need. You can never be a good wife. You are too messed up. You have too many problems that cannot be fixed, there is just something wrong with you. Your family would be better off without you. Worst of all, you can never be the Christian that God wants you to be. You continually fail Him. How can you keep making these mistakes? You are such a loser.”
Do you ever hear things like that? These berating, accusing daggers almost kill a person. When I’ve heard them, I’ve believed them. I’ve honestly thought about running away from it all, trying to find somewhere to hide where I don’t have to talk to anyone ever again. I’ve believed these sentences and for some reason, I’ve always thought Jesus believed them about me too. I might’ve even thought Jesus was the one saying them.
But Romans 8:1 tells us that there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. Do you believe that? It is so much easier for me to believe the accusing words than to believe words like this: “God loves you and forgives you. You are loved by Him, not because of anything you have done or haven’t done. You are loved by Him regardless of any mistakes. And He is always going to forgive you and help you and be with you. God’s love never fails. God’s love has no conditions. You are loved, just the way you are.”
How many of us have John 3:16 memorized? If I’m being totally honest, it might be one of the only bible verses I have truly committed to memory. In case you don’t, here it is: ” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” But what about John 3:17-18, the verses immediately following? “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned.” God’s love saves us, it doesn’t accuse us. It doesn’t berate us. God’s love forgives us. God’s love never fails, no matter what we have done or will do. Why do I say these things to myself? I have come to realize that these berating words come from Satan. He wants to paralyze me, he wants to kill my spirit and more importantly, he wants to kill God’s Spirit within me. In the past 8 years that I have been a committed follower of Christ, it has worked.
Over time, I am getting stronger, fed off of God’s love and forgiveness. Each time I find myself in these low places, God meets me there and helps me. And He forgives me. And He loves me. I’m never going to be perfect, I’m always going to be a sinner, but God is always going to love me. And it is the same for you. In the past 8 years, God’s love is the only love in my life that has never hurt me, never let me down, never left me. It has just taken me time to trust it and believe it because love from people can always break.
I am giving up finding my worth in people and positions. I am working on finding my value in Christ and letting that be enough for me. I am working on drawing as close to the Lord as I can and letting him fill those empty places in my heart, those aching, wounded places. I have learned that when I try to fill those holes up with other things, I am always searching for more. Only in God’s unconditional love and immeasurable grace will I find my worth. And God’s love never fails.