This post is about being loved and feeling loved. And what can happen when you don’t believe you are dearly loved — to your relationships and to your hopes and dreams for your life.
GROWING UP, I was not told…
I never believed that I was “dearly loved.” This was partly because I grew up in a frightening and unpredictable home and because of my father’s angry raging behaviors. I have always been profoundly unsure of myself. I remember how important it became to simply grow invisible.
Invisible was safe. If you aren’t seen or heard, you cannot upset anyone. No opinions. Eventually no thoughts at all at home, where you might slip up and express them. This was okay if he agreed with you. But if not, there was no telling what might happen. You might be lectured at for hours, or berated in front of a friend. Humiliation. Threats. Intimidation. Blame. It just wasn’t predictable.
When I look at my children I’m appalled by my upbringing. I want nothing more than to see my kids discover and grow into unique people. I see incredible things in them and I tell them often, out of love and a wish to affirm those truths.
“Those are beautiful words you have written.”
“God made you full of joy.”
“You memorize things so easily. That will make life so much easier for you.”
“You are careful and precise and that will serve you well in the future.”
“You make people laugh, what a gift!”
“You care about others.”
“You are gentle and kind and the world needs more men like that.”
“You will grow into someone who washes others’ feet.”
“Yes, that is sexist it pleases me that you saw it.”
“You articulate yourself so well!”
I speak these truths and other, because I believe children need help to discover their talents and abilities and to experience the spirit of God. I believe we don’t naturally know. My place in God’s world, made in his image, is something that I never discovered in that shrouded, hidden place that I disappeared in to for so many years as a child and young adult.
THE CHURCH didn’t tell me …
Secondly the Church sent subliminal, and sometimes outright sexist messages to girls where I was growing up in the south. I “heard” that I am a second class person; less valued by God because I (somehow) need men to support me, protect me, and teach me, especially about the Bible. I was to subordinate myself to men.
Though I heard those things, in my gut I knew it was wrong. I have always believed that if you believe in the world of Gen 1 & 2, and in the hope of lasting and true restoration by Jesus on the Cross, then you cannot accept the cultural Church practices spoken of in the NT.
By the grace of God I married beautiful, ennobling, questioning complex thinking person of faith. He lives with me in the land of questions and he does not attempt to tell me what the answers are. Together we began the journey and partnership of marriage in June of 1993. What he spoke into my life was hope, and goodness, and empowerment. He listened for my voice and I began to heal.
I was a fanatically hard-working ministry leader when he met me. I worked for my father (ironically) so at the end of the day, I finally had my father telling me what I was good at by giving me promotions. The more I accomplished the more responsibility I was given. I discovered I had many talents, I was a hell of a hard worker and I had a need to constantly be proving myself and my worth. At the end of the day, week, month, there was always more to be done. More to prove. More to do to validate myself as a daughter, as a woman, as a leader, as a human being.
I still didn’t believe I was BELOVED. Skip forward from my mid thirties to today.
TODAY I am …
44. I have been out of the workplace for ten years. I “used” my children as an excuse to leave an acrimonious place where (I felt) I had hit the glass ceiling. I was burned out trying to prove myself. I didn’t know the grace of God in my life. I didn’t really believe.
Over the last decade I have walked a painful path but I have discovered that I am beloved. Oh yes, those difficult lessons (my experience with clinical depression, my alcoholism, losing my parents) were so vital to my becoming human again and the reason that I am alive today. I got sober, which took courage in the Christian community. Actually I didn’t get any help from Christians but by God’s grace, my life is living through and beyond being an alcoholic or being depressed.
Today my life is so incredibly rich and full. And now as a woman, a burgeoning feminist, a feeble follower of Jesus, a sometimes photographer, a frequent writer, hungry student of the Bible, I am asking for others to speak truth into my life now about my unique contribution to be made.
If I let myself, I quickly become focused on what I am, who I am, why I am … and the fact that I am so afraid. (I think) I want to study and learn and be able to articulate Truth by going back to school. When I look around my community there are needs everywhere. I see them. I feel them. My heart breaks for it. As a white person with affluence I believe I have a unique responsibility and a unique place of financial privilege. As a woman, and a feminist and a follower of Jesus I believe my voice is unique.
The Jesus that washes our feet wasn’t a macho oriented, “women should be in the home cooking, cleaning, having babies and bringing me my dinner” kind of man who has been written and preached about in the Church. He preached that we are to live in peace, he offers us a life full of victory (over our sin), and he makes us generous and loving. We are to speak against injustice. That’s the Jesus I know. That’s my kind of faith.
But I am afraid and I can no longer blame my upbringing. I can no longer blame the Church. I can no longer blame my father. With no one left to blame, I am here with my convictions and beliefs, greatly needing shape and formation. It is time to act; to step out in faith that God is with me each step of the way and that there is a reason for each experience I have had. In some ways I “woke up” just a few years ago. A late bloomer doesn’t do it justice, but you are never too old to do something.
At fifty, my mother began a process of waking up. She is now in her seventies and to her credit is a person continuously searching for truth. I greatly admire that about her.
Andy Crouch, on his blog Culture Making, says disciplines are the key to excellence. Ten thousand hours is a good benchmark—that’s one hour a day, five days a week, for forty years (with two weeks of vacation each year!). If every Christian decided to spend 10,000 hours developing their capacity in a single cultural domain (painting, stress fracture analysis, genomic sequencing, you name it) and also 10,000 hours on the spiritual disciplines that embody dependence on God (solitude, silence, fasting, study, prayer), in forty years we’d have a completely different world. How are you spending your 10,000 hours?