Friday, December 28, 2012

Am I enough?


I can’t be her. Frankly, I’m tired of living in her shadow. I’m tired of being jealous of her. I wanted to make you care for me like you care for her, but I’m so done trying. I will be myself; I will not be a second-rate her. I will not try to make you love me. 

Am I enough? I’ve always been seeking to answer this question. From my earliest teenage years, I compared myself to other girls and consequently struggled with jealousy. While other girls warbled away sweetly to great acclaim, I just about managed to croak out the high notes of the hymns in church. While other girls were tanned and sleek and beautiful, I struggled with flyaway hair and no sense of style. While other girls played with and cooed over little children, I looked at the children with fear, loathing, and dread. Even after the worst of my awkward teenage years were over, I struggled with feeling that I wasn’t pretty enough, wasn’t good enough, wasn’t talkative enough, wasn’t deep and philosophical enough, simply wasn’t lovable enough as I was.

Painfully aware of my inadequacies, I put up a fa├žade as close to perfection as I could manage. I didn’t like to do anything I wasn’t good at. I tried to earn love, whether it was from my parents, from a guy, or from God. Even if I wasn’t as beautiful, good, or talented as other girls I knew, I hoped that someone could be persuaded to say, “You are enough.” Somehow, I never felt like I succeeded.

Finally, I gave up.

I am slowly coming to the place where I accept that for some people, I will never be enough. Finally, I admit that I’m really not perfect. I will never be as musical, as gorgeous, as witty as some people I know.

And that’s OK. (How freeing it is to say it!)

I am slowly coming to the place where I accept myself for who I am. I am realizing that I cannot earn love. I am realizing that God doesn’t compare me with anyone else.
He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. (Zeph 3:17)
And it’s a funny thing: as I become more accepting of myself, I notice that I’m becoming more accepting of others, too.

Instead of wasting time on comparisons and jealousies, I remind myself that I have an irreplaceable role to play, that I can touch somebody in a way that nobody else can. And I hold an irreplaceable place in God’s heart.

So do you.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Excruciating Pain and Incomprehensible Love


I had been going through a period of spiritual darkness for several months. Very few people – perhaps no one – knew how I actually felt, because I still did all the right things. But inside I was practically dead. I barely prayed, and rarely read my Bible outside of church on Sabbath. My mind was swamped with questions and thoughts of anger and bitterness over repressed issues from my past, as well as dealing with more recent events. In spite of everything I’ve experienced of God in the past, I was debating with myself whether or not I wanted to continue in my Christian life.

Now, here I was at GYC Europe, surrounded by 1200 other young people who were excited about their faith. For the first couple of days I swung between feeling uncomfortable and bitter as I wrestled with my negative thoughts, and excited as I met people I hadn’t seen for years and listened to the thought-provoking messages of the speakers. There was something about the atmosphere, and as I heard stories about and experienced directly the ways God worked for us that weekend, and considered the solid messages presented,  my heart began to soften again. I was finding answers for some of my questions, and being reminded that God actually was there…

On Monday I went to a seminar about prophecy. At the end of the session, I forget exactly how we got onto the topic, but the presenter began to share some things he’d recently learned about crucifixion. “Did you know that we get our English word ‘excruciating’ from the practice of crucifixion?” he said. “The word means,‘Out of the cross’…”

He started with a story about how his wife had broken her arm so badly near the wrist that she needed a metal plate inserted to help it heal. Although she was going to have general anaesthetic for the procedure, the anesthetist also injected local anaesthetic into her arm. “We’ve discovered,” he told the presenter and his wife, “that if we don’t do this, the patients wake up screaming.” Apparently there’s a certain nerve running through that part of the arm that is extremely sensitive.

The presenter continued his explanation of crucifixion. It was basically death by suffocation, due to the position of the victims on the cross, and designed to be as painful and shameful as possible. Victims were naked, and their backs – often torn to shreds by whips – rubbed against the rough wood of the cross. When they struggled to inhale, they would have to try to lift themselves up in order to take a breath, thus pulling down on the nails that had been driven into their wrists, right where that sensitive nerve was…. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain. And that is purely the physical aspect of the ordeal.

To be honest, it wasn’t the first time that I’d heard details about crucifixion, but this time something seemed to hit me. The presenter was still talking, in a voice getting choked with emotion: “Yet the Bible says that Jesus endured the cross, despising its shame, because of the joy that was set before him…”

And then I began to cry. I never cry in public, in fact I loathe crying in public, but now I couldn’t seem to stop. I simply could not – cannot – comprehend the kind of love that would consider me worthwhile to suffer for like that. I had been thinking so recently that it was such a hard thing to be a Christian and go through struggles because of my faith in Jesus; I had almost been ready to give it up. Suddenly I was slammed with an overwhelming sense of what Jesus had been ready to do for me. I was “the joy that was set before him”; I was the reason he endured the cross. How could anyone love me that much?! And how could I be ready to throw away that love?!

I went out of that room a different person.

You, too, were the “joy that was set before” Jesus. You, too, are the reason he chose to experience all that he did. How are you responding to him?