Life is funny sometimes. You know how those same struggles keep resurfacing? They don’t often look the same as when they first come up. It takes a while to get to the bottom of what is really bothering you and then you realize, “Oh, here it is again, that same thing, just in a different package this time…”
Am I loved?
This question likes to show up for me in different packages, storms and struggles.
I decided that I should turn back the clock a bit as I pondered writing about this question. I should go back to my very first memorable struggle with God, faith and the gospel.
When I was in high school I struggled with a lot of inner turmoil. Especially early in high school. I wasn’t the person I wanted to be. I wanted to be the fun, funny, loud, confident girl who wasn’t afraid to be herself. Maybe some of that was wanting to get noticed by the cute boys… but a bigger part was being envious of the girls around me that were like that. They just seemed like they were more free, had more fun and made more friends. “They must love who they are, because they aren’t afraid to show it… Right??” At least that’s what I thought.
Here I am, quiet, shy, blending in, and not feeling quite sure where I fit all the time. Sometimes thinking “God I think you made a mistake… couldn’t you have put a little more of this or that in me?? I could really use a little more natural confidence and a little less anxiety”
I remember wanting to show up late to everything to make sure that my best friends were at church before I was, then I could plug into my group right away. I didn’t have to stand there by myself in the back feeling awkward until my friends showed up. It didn’t matter that this isn’t what would usually happen. Or if it did, is it really that bad to stand in the back for a few minutes by yourself? What looks like a little bit of peace to me now, then felt more like that moment when you are speaking on stage and you realize you don’t know what to do with your hands!! Do I stuff them in my pockets? Do I talk with my hands??
Back then I wished I could stuff my whole self in my pocket and come out when it didn’t feel awkward anymore.
Side note, my whole starting to show up late to everything makes me laugh now. Because when Daniel and I got married we had the – he wants to be “on time”(early) I want to be late(actually late) fight! Yes, I wantedto be late. It wasn’t a time management thing, it was purely a me thing. And I would drive him nuts!! But seeing as wanting to be late was simply rooted in my insecurities, eventually I let that go. And we are usually early. Now if we are late, it is definitely a time management thing, more rooted in getting 5 kids out the door!
I wish I could say something different about those early high school years. But the truth is I really didn’t like who I was, (some moments I still don’t like who I am.) However, during this time, I spiraled, I fed the negative thoughts. I didn’t bring them to Jesus, I believed them. I let them take root. It turned into this negative, self-loathing talk in my head.
Eventually the way all this mental self-negativity manifested itself, (because I’m telling you, it’s going to come out somewhere!) was an eating disorder. I started struggling with anorexia. I was on a quest for perfection with a distorted image of the truth.
I grew up in church, I grew up knowing Jesus. I grew up knowing that Jesus loves me.
I got it. I mean I could understand God loving all of humanity. But it felt like this big overarching love. It didn’t feel personal.
I know God loves me. But does He really love ME?
I wanted to be perfect, I wanted to pull myself up from my boot straps and change who I was! If I could just try harder, stick to the plan…except, there was no perfect plan. I always ran into self-disappointment and frustration. I always came up wanting.
“How can God love someone who doesn’t even like themselves?”
During this time darker thoughts, and questions swirled. “Can a person get so tiny they disappear?” “Can a person be so small, that the hurt is seen on the outside?” “Can you be loud through silence?”
So much hurt, so much pain we deal with in our hearts where people can’t see.
Here in the middle of my pain and frustration, this was where God reached down once again with His hand of redemption and truth.
None of us like to be faced with our brokenness. None of us want to realize that we are by nature broken. That all the efforts put forth have gained no traction. Or can be taken away by the shifting of the winds of life.
It’s hard when truth hits you in the gut. When you realize that the walls and defenses that you have propped yourself up with, to deal with the pain, are just making it worse. Those props were not real defenses for your inmost being. They were actually blinders keeping you in the dark and knives that are cutting you up where you are vulnerable. It’s hard to let go of those sins that you have been nursing in the dark for so long.
I had finally come to the end of myself and saw my brokenness.
I had been trapped in a mindset that told me God couldn’t love me because of who I was, and how I felt about myself. My understanding of how God felt about me revolved around me and my actions.
But God broke me. And through the light, the truth, of the gospel he illuminated the truth. He showed me that what I did and how I felt about myself had no impact on his love for me. Though I may loathe myself, he would never loathe me. He loved me with a love I could not fully, and still do not fully, understand.
God shined this truth in multiple ways, that all culminated in the blinders I had set in place finally falling off.
It was like a huge spotlight that shined a powerful focusing beam on the truth of the sin that I had been harboring. All the lies I was believing about myself, were seen for what they were- Lies. When I could finally see this sin in the light of the gospel, I saw how ugly and dark it was. The difference between how I saw myself vs how God sees me.
The gospel obliterated the lie that I needed to be perfect. That I could pull myself up by my bootstraps and get it all together. That I needed to love myself or like myself to be loved personally, intimately by God. I already was loved, from the beginning.
The truth of the gospel and how good this news about God’s love and Jesus taking all of my sin and shame finally hit me. It overwhelmed me, it changed me, but most of all it freed me.
I am truly loved.
I dove into the Psalms that summer of high school. God brought me there, He spoke to me in the deep places of my heart.
Particularly Psalm 139. (Wanted to make this shorter or to pull out highlights from this Psalm. But the whole of the scripture passage here spoke volumes, and I just couldn’t shorten it.)
1 You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
“Really? This is how God sees me?!? How much He cares for me!?!”
This is not an impersonal love, it’s not the overarching God loves all humanity kind of love I had pictured in my head.
God does love all of humanity, but his general love is also an individual love. He love’s each one of us personally. This is a God that sees each detail of my life so much clearer than ever I can.
This is a God that is consistently urging husbands to love their wives in the way that he loves each of us. He instructs fathers to love their children the way that he loves us, his disobedient, rebellious kids, bent on self-destruction.
I can’t think of a love more personal than what I feel for my spouse and my children. God knows our hearts, He knows what we cherish most. And that is what His love is compared to.
Except his love is not flawed. It’s perfect. It’s even deeper, wider and more full of mercy than my imperfect love for my husband and children ever could be.
He truly loves me!He loves each one of us. He didn’t make a mistake when He made me. He intentionally made me, and then pursued me with His love. He still pursues me with His love.