I am not going to try to preach to you, convert you or tell you that what you believe is right or wrong. I just want to share my love story with you in an honest, authentic way that I hope speaks to your heart and makes you look at Love a little differently….
I always think twice about telling the “When I was a kid” or “When I was growing up” stories because I never want anyone to think that I am walking around with my head hung low blaming my mama and daddy about stupid mistakes that I made just because of “what happened” when I was little. But this time, you need to know the story, or at least some of it, so that you can really understand my story, and I am hoping that makes sense to you. If it doesn’t now, it will by the time you’re done reading this.
To make a long story short, I was never THAT girl- you know- the popular one, the cute one or the one that everybody flocked to when she came in the room. In elementary school I lost all of my hair, including my eyebrows and any body hair that would even faintly remind me that I was reaching the age of puberty, so I had to wear a wig. You know the guy from Coming to America who liked Eddie Murphy’s girlfriend? Do you remember his nice, big, juicy Jheri curl? Ok- now imagine that curl on a sixth grade, skinny, flat chested little girl with no eyebrows. I know- rather special. Eventually I got a more normal looking wig (I am not quite sure what a “normal” wig would be to a 6th grade girl in 1984, but it was better than the big curl wig that was more befitting for an adult). That is actually where I learned that it was far better to laugh with the crowd than to be laughed at by the crowd. I learned how to laugh at myself and how to conjure up comebacks rather quickly, but being different still resulted low self-esteem and so did being sexually abused… and so did being the odd ball because of not having the latest fashions or the best looks… and so did not having my dad in my life… and so did being ill-equipped to handle the stones that life threw at me… It all led me down the road of destructive behavior and poor decisions that screamed without reservation that I did not love myself.
You would think that accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior as a young adult would fix all that. I did. Actually I kind of forgot about my low self-esteem and lack of self love and respect once I started going to church. It was a convenient way to forget about it. I mean, I heard the song that said once you accept Christ that your “hands and feet look new” so I thought that there would be this miraculous transformation. Everything would become NEW. Memories would no longer haunt me. EVERYTHING would be rainbows and sunny days because God promised to never leave me or forsake me, right? Until the divorce happened shattering my dreams….until my mom passed away crushing my faith…until friends betrayed me destroying my ideas of loyalty….until I felt more alone and more incompetent than I ever had while not just sitting but serving in church. What in the world was I doing? Those childhood demons joined forces with the ones that held a tight grip on me in adulthood, and I was losing a battle that I didn’t even know that I was fighting. How would I ever win a fight like that?
In everything hard that I faced in my life, my instinct was always to try to handle it myself. I would seclude myself from the world, either by faking like I was OK or by hiding in the dark in my room on the side of my bed. I remember distinctly wishing in my heart that God would just go away and leave me alone! I could sense His presence in those dark times- just like He was standing physically in the room as tangible as the cold sheets on my bed- but I didn’t want Him there. I needed to fix things alone- in the dark- in the sacred and dangerous place of solitude where I had always retreated to beat myself up about any and every thing that was “bad” in my life- even the things I had no control over. I didn’t want Him. I didn’t want His help. I didn’t want His LOVE, and it was because I COULD NOT TRUST. I know what I had read about Him, but I also knew what I thought all the other people in my life were supposed to do and to be to me- only to be disappointed. What would make Him so different? He would leave me just like they did. He would get tired of me and shake His finger at me in disdain just like they did. Nothing I did would be good enough for Him just like nothing I did was ever good enough for them. So why try?
Can I tell you something? It wasn’t a bright light that came into my room that was in the form of an angel. It wasn’t a dream that awakened me because it was so real. It wasn’t a prophetic word or some stranger walking up to me telling me that all of my sorrows would yield a great harvest. IT WASN’T. It was me, sitting at the window of my office on the second floor of my home crying because I was tired. Crying because although I was supposed to be full- full of God, full of love and full of joy- I was empty, and I knew that there was something terribly wrong. I was out of options. Friends and family had failed me. I failed myself. Planning and well wishing had failed me. Trying to live up to other people’s standards had failed me. God was all I had left to try FOR REAL. For me, it was as simple as admitting that I really needed the one thing from Him that I pushed away- His unconditional love. It was risky because all I had known was abandonment and betrayal. All I had known was that the people who I was supposed to be able to trust the most- did the most damage. And no matter how much I read in the Bible or heard the sermon preached that said “God is good”, I could never see His goodness for myself- not because He was not loving but because I was not worthy. THAT is what life had taught me.
Then I opened my arms- literally and said to God, “I open myself to your love”, and my life has never been the same. Being open and willing to accept His love has helped me to truly understand His unconditional love for ME. It has helped me to see that I don’t have to be perfect and my life or my circumstances don’t have to be perfect in order for God to love an imperfect being like me (and like you) in a perfect way. It has helped me to love ALL of me- the good and the bad- and to accept myself. Why? Because if an infinite, all-knowing, all-powerful and ever present God could love and accept me, who was I not love and accept myself? Who was I not to love and accept others?
Accepting His love- REAL love- UNCONDITIONAL love- has helped me in ways that I am sure words could ever express. It has helped me to break free from a lifelong lifestyle of low self-esteem and degrading self-talk. It has led me to an intoxicating freedom to be myself unapologetically. It has helped me to heal and has helped me to love myself and others better. God’s love has helped me to continue the journey that I travel every day in the pursuit to LOVE MORE and NOT BE AFRAID. When I embraced His love, I embraced the best thing for my heart.
The day I decided to trust…
The day I opened my arms…
God opened His too….
And I have been happily nestled there ever since in a love that is hard to describe and even harder to live without….
Open your arms. Let Him in and let Him love YOU. THAT is what God longs for- a heart that accepts His love.