An incredible woman of faith
I often feel like I'm not "good enough." It's been an underlying theme in my life. It affects how I relate to others, how I see myself and how I view God.
As a child, I knew that I was different than my sisters — less compliant, more strong-willed, out-spoken, ornery — and it affected how I saw myself: as the bad seed. I didn't even look like my sisters — three thin, beautiful, fair-haired girls who were sweet and smart. And then there was me — a slightly chunky, outspoken brunette who was more negative than not. It seemed that the only way I stood out was for doing something wrong and being "less than" my sisters. I felt like I was never quite good enough. Then into my marriage that lie grew into a formidable force, dominating my identity. I couldn't seem to do anything right. As our marriage struggled throughout certain seasons, I felt utterly responsible. "I'm a failure," I told myself.
I haven't really known how to get past this feeling of unworthiness, so I just learned to live with this "thorn in my flesh" and tried to apply faith and Christian principles. Over the years I've grown to realize that I need to see myself the way God sees me (as a beautiful, princess — an heiress to the throne), instead of through the warped lenses of my own perspective. I KNOW in my head that my identity is found in Christ — for I am a new creation.....
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. — 2 Corinthians 5:17
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. — Galatians 2:20
I believe this. I really do. Yet getting that knowledge to take root deep within my heart and permeate my thoughts and feelings toward myself is a whole other matter.
What is blocking me from freedom in this area?
God answered this question for me over the weekend in a mighty way. My life will never be the same!
I never realized it before, but deep down I harbored a sense of self-loathing. This was brought to my attention last weekend during our Girl-Getaway. Some of us ladies were lounging around in the living room and I had my Bible Study book ("A Guide for Listening and Inner-Healing Prayer: Meeting God in the Broken Places" by Rusty Rustenbach) open in my lap. I was trying to get my reading done (between laughs and blurbs of conversation) so that I would be prepared to lead the lesson in a few days. The chapter was about discovering areas in our lives that may be blocking us from entering into that place of being able to listen to God with our heart. Some people are encumbered by guilt and need to forgive themselves. I read the words: "Some become so infested with shame that inner loathing becomes a constant companion." I made the following note in the margin: I think I have some self-loathing, but I don't really feel like I'm "infested with shame".....but I will ponder this later and pray.
Moving to the next paragraph, I read, "Galatians 5:14 Love your neighbor as yourself." I got chills as I realized: I don't really love myself. Maybe that's why I have such a hard time selflessly loving my neighbor. It's not that I don't love others, but I'm realizing that because of my baggage, I compare myself to others and get either jealous or prideful. This is no way to relate! If I consider myself "not good enough," then I'm too insecure to relate in a Christ-like way. I don't spend a lot of time engaging with people and it's not easy for me to automatically befriend and show compassion. I always figured that it's just the way God made me. — You know, being an introvert and all. But if the chills I was receiving, along with my increasingly rapid heartbeat were any indication, I believed God was trying to tell me something.
After everyone went to bed, I stayed up with Ally to share what I was feeling. She is a great friend who helped "coach" me in inner-healing prayer. I asked God to show me when it all started — this self-loathing that I often feel. I closed my eyes, listened, and waited. After a few seconds, He brought to my mind an image of an Alabaster Box. If you don't know what that is, it's just a little cardboard box with a money slit at the top. These boxes were passed out to everyone at church so all could collect money for missionaries. My mom kept a box in her top dresser drawer.
Once that image was placed in my head, I knew immediately why. I began to gasp and sob as my heart became heavy with the full realization of what that box meant to me. I don't even remember how old I was (definitely old enough to know better) when I started stealing money out of my mom's Alabaster Box. I remember taking a couple of coins at a time, so they wouldn't be missed. Well, I got caught. The look in my mom's eyes broke my heart. It was then that I realized not only was I stealing from my mom, I was stealing from God.
I had completely forgotten about that event. But once it resurfaced, I realized that....yes, this is when it began. I hated myself. I felt lower than pond scum. I remember thinking that there must be something truly innately wrong with me, that I would stoop so low as to steal from God. I was disgusted with my horrible self. I didn't TRY to be bad....I just was. Since my mom was displeased with me, I convinced myself that God must be, too. What I had done was unimaginable and unforgivable. I hated myself.
I must have carried the shame of that event deep down inside of me all of these years. No wonder I have never felt "good enough."
After realizing all of this, I asked God to take away my shame and heal the brokenness. I asked Him to forgive me for my act of stealing and disobedience AND for believing the lies all of these years. God had forgiven me all those years ago, and I needn't have believed I was unloveable and unworthy.
It's also important that I forgive myself. Sometimes I think it's easier for me to accept God's forgiveness than it is to forgive myself. But I did it. I am free! It wasn't until I realized that I had been believing a lie for so many years, that I could truly forgive myself. It's becoming easier to see myself the way God sees me, instead of through eyes of guilt and shame. God has healed me! My shame is no longer a stronghold and will not be carried down through generations. Praise God!
The interesting thing is that this self-loathing and shame that has been my constant companion has filtered into other aspects of my life......the desire to please, my need for acceptance, my perfectionist tendencies to try to be BETTER than good enough, the way I compare myself to others, how deeply wounded a harsh word makes me, and on and on. Wow. What an eye-opener!
I have a feeling that God is going to be revealing even more to me in the upcoming days. I can't wait! There are so many layers of "me" that need to be stripped away....layers that have gotten in the way of being the kind of woman God has planned for me to be. It's an exciting journey to be on. I love relating to my Father in this way — asking Him questions, listening to Him speak, letting Him reveal what He wants to me, being open to change, and moving forward a new creation.
NOTE: Elizabeth is an incredible woman of faith. Her blog, "Dead Man Skipping: Enjoying Life Through Incurable Cancer" is her day-to-day story of a happily married mother of three who is wonderfully alive to life while dying of cancer. Here is the address of her blog: http://www.deadmanskipping.com/ Thank you, Elizabeth, for allowing me to share your testimony with the readers of the L2G Forum.