Today I continue My Story.
Because I lived my life in fear of further rejection, always asking the question, "Who will leave me today?" I became a master of disguises.
I was the perfect student, the fun friend and the polite neighbor. I excelled at school with grades and good citizenship but when I came home at night my attitude was filled with anger, bitterness and sarcasm. These things seemed only to grow and seep out onto my mother and brother at home. After all, I had to fight to hold them inside, keep it together all day long so when I got tired, I would explode. The anxiety and frustration resulting from the fight of pursuing perfectionism would just erupt in my household. Terrible but truthful. I think somewhere deep down, I knew my mom loved me and wouldn't stop, wouldn't leave, would always believe the best about me so she took the brunt of my emotional turmoil.
When I was at my dad's house, I was polite, perfect and quiet. So very quiet. If you haven't noticed, I am really anything but quiet. It would take me many years to trust my dad with my words again and come out of the shell that my parent's divorce placed around me.
I soon came to realize that if I were well-dressed with painted fingernails, brushed hair and displayed my most feminine manners, my dad would shower me with compliments and praise. I began to place lots of importance on my outer appearance. Too much. He wanted me to make straight A's so I did. I learned that how I looked and what I accomplished were very important.
I found other ways to grab attention too. I was loud, funny and cute with my peers. The focus was always on me. How could I belong. I wanted to find identity in a group, a uniform or a status. To be a cheerleader, to be in charge of the right club and to be "popular" were my intentions.
Soon I began to find that perfection is an unreachable goal. All of my efforts toward a happy life would fail me. My feelings would betray me. No amount of compromise or conformation can produce the sense of belonging that only Jesus can give. So while the world was not giving me the yeses I so desperately needed to hear. The One who fights for me was crying out, "Yes" to my unfulfilled sense of belonging. Although I was deaf to his cries, ultimately they would carry me home.
By day the social butterfly silenced the despairing soul. By night tears overtook me in a sea loneliness. Fear would engulf me in the darkness of night. "Things would never change," my soul despaired. This pattern would continue throughout my childhood and high school and on into college.
By this point, I'd tried to make myself over many times. You know I was the cheerleader type, the preppy type, the nerd, the cowboy type, the snob. The latest effort being as a freshman at Texas A&M. All of a sudden, my grades weren't very good, my social life was in ruins, I couldn't make my boyfriend love me or the right groups extend me invitations. I had run from the rules I'd always lived by in the Bible. I felt terrible knowing I'd failed and would eventually disappoint everyone, especially God and my mother, but had no idea how to release myself to start once again. I'd tried all the Christian groups, churches and Bible studies that college had to offer. I knew that others had found fulfillment and direction in trusting Christ but it appeared that he didn't want to use or bless someone as unwantable as me. For some reason it seemed my life was so much less than all those around me. Salvation was the only prayer Jesus had ever answered me with a yes. And, I'd reached a point where I needed survival and sanity in my everyday life. Salvation seemed so far away. I thanked God for saving me from hell but begged him to save me from daily life.
Decisions paralyzed me. The future scared me. Nothing was going according to my plan for a bright future. I felt awkward, unconfident and insecure when I was left to make my own choices. I didn't make very good ones my freshman year. Even though my ears were deaf to His cries, the One who fights for me was crying out "yes" over my life, protecting and not deserting, defending and not destroying. My eyes were blind to see it but as I look back I can see provision and sustenance in such color that only the hand of Providence could have painted it across my life.
With adulthood looming. I had absolutely no idea who I was currently, how could I be expected to decide what I wanted to become? The pressure was overwhelming to me. I couldn't stop the tears. Ever. I felt like giving up, throwing in the towel, quitting. But if I did, where would I go? For the summer I went home. This is where Jesus pierced my heart with the love and belonging I'd always desired.
Our youth minister was recruiting counselors for summer camp. He asked me. I said, "Yes." It would be the first yes of many that summer. The second was at midnight the night before the bus left. I had the first heart-to-heart I'd ever had with God. I was at the end of my rope. I told God that if there was anything inside of me that he saw useful to please use it that next week at camp. I confessed that I thought me teaching kids about his character was a joke. I wasn't even quite sure of his goodness myself. Beyond heaven, my life was in a broken mess. I asked God what good going to heaven was if I didn't know how to live on earth. I begged him to use my ruins. I invited him to change me.
Little did I know He'd already said yes. He'd said it from the beginning of my life when he was the One who fought for me, he'd said it when my daddy left as he became my Father who'd never leave, he'd said it while I cried myself to sleep every night as the Comforter of every sorrow. He was saying yes to me that night as Rescuer of the rejected. I had no idea I'd just prepared myself to experience one of the greatest moments of my life.
It was only an instant, really. During worship at that camp one night, I witnessed an amazing sight. One of my friends was worshipping God the way I dreamed I would love him. Eyes closed, face lifted in awe, oblivious to anyone or anything else. I felt His tug. I prayed,"Lord, I want that." I was desperate to love Him with the love I'd never felt before but never stopped longing for all my life. I was desperate to get, to live and to give the Love that was crying "yes" over my life.
That week he used me. He filled me. He changed me. He began calling me to a greater purpose with a voice I was beginning to recognize. Hearing that voice has given me strength. A strength that causes me to move. A strength that says no to paralyzing fear and yes to the Providence of God. Because He did and He does answer my prayers.
He taught me that week. He taught me how to ask for things in accordance with His will. He simply stepped into the world of a perfectionist and changed my desires. That's when I heard his yes. I saw his yes. I experienced his yes. His yes became mine.
"Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete." John 16:24
And, the rest, as they say, is history...His story...in me.