Friday, September 20, 2013

Intolerable Grace

My breakthrough came because of my son, who is still only a promise for the future.

Since he is the only child we have a name picked out for, he is the one I think about the most. I think about the kind of mom I want to be, the kinds of things I want to teach him, and what I need to learn or change before he gets here so I can be the best mom to him that I am capable of being.

I was sitting at my desk one morning, half asleep, thinking about these things. It's funny, but sometimes I think God waits to talk to me until that still of the morning time, when I'm awake because I'm developing habits but my brain hasn't caught up with the game plan yet. I think he waits because he knows I'm more likely to really hear him without my own brain in the way. When I get a question out of nowhere in this time, I take it to mean that God is trying to tell me something. He likes to ask me questions, and make me realize things for myself.

So here I was, staring at the beauty of a world just beginning to wake up, thinking about my son, when a question came to me:

How will you teach him to be strong in himself, to be strong in God, to have a knowledge of who he is and where he comes from that is rooted in God's purpose for him, if you refuse to do the same? 

God had a point. Kids do what they see you doing, believe what they see you believing, regardless of what you're saying to them. So how could I expect to teach my son confidence when I hated myself? How could I teach him about forgiveness when I wouldn't even forgive myself? How could I tell him about a loving God who accepts everyone and has such an amazing purpose for us if we will only listen - if I wouldn't allow God anywhere near my heart?

You see, for as long as I can remember I've struggled with not feeling good enough. In my mind and my heart, everything that went badly in my life was my fault because it wouldn't have happened if I was good enough. My parents wouldn't struggle financially if I was good enough, my mom wouldn't have heart problems if I was good enough, my best friend wouldn't have shot himself if I was good enough, I wouldn't have been another domestic violence and sex trafficking statistic if I had been good enough. Throughout my life, everything that ever happened, I took the blame for. If only I was good enough, these things wouldn't have been a problem. When I started lashing out and hurting other people because of my own pain, it was just more evidence that I wasn't good enough - after all, people who are good enough don't hurt this way, and they don't hurt the people around them.

I was living a delusion built on pride and I didn't even know it.

Trapped by feelings of inferiority, burdened by my pain and unforgiveness, I was on the outside when it came to anything about God. I'd been raised Christian, so I knew beyond doubt that God accepted me. And I resented him for it. How could he accept me? Hurt, broken, screwup me?

I didn't want to bring all of that pain to someone who would actually accept me. I didn't want someone to see everything that was wrong with me and still accept and love me. It wasn't how my mind thought the world should work. It wasn't comfortable to be forgiven without paying a penance that is even with the sin. It wasn't comfortable to be loved even though I knew - and so did he - that I was a complete mess.

I simply couldn't tolerate the idea of grace. Not for me. I didn't feel that I deserved to be accepted. It was uncomfortable to belong. I felt more comfortable - safer - on the outside where I could blame any failure on myself and where only I controlled the outcome of everything. It wasn't a happy life, but it was what I used to, and it was all that I thought I deserved. And so I stood on the outside, constantly pushing God away, refusing to be accepted. I built a wall between myself and God, I wasn't perfect enough to be loved and he was just going to have to accept that!

See the pride? That same thinking almost ruined my relationship with my husband too.

How could I teach my son that I would always love and accept him no matter what, if I wasn't even willing to let God do the same for me?

That was the moment, the breakthrough. I couldn't let myself hurt my son the way I was hurting myself.

I spent the next few days wrestling with myself. Everything in me bucked against the idea that I should let God love me. I was too broken, too messed up. Everything in me hated the idea that I didn't have to pay for the things I'd messed up, that God wasn't even going to hold it against me. I wasn't on probation with God. My record with him wasn't full of black marks for bad behavior. I wrestled with that. It was so hard to fathom that I could have a love and acceptance that I didn't deserve, that it wouldn't be conditional to my paying the price for my sins. Everything was just new and forgiven. I was just accepted.

I had to decide to accept it. And then I had to walk in that decision. I have to remind myself that I'm not holding on to this stuff anymore, not keeping people at a distance anymore. Sometimes, I have to mentally sit myself down and have a talk about it. "Don't you remember? This is what we decided. God isn't holding this against me and neither are you."

It was the breakthrough I've needed the most for many years.

Without that breakthrough, nothing would have changed. I would have kept fighting my husband's love and acceptance as hard as I was fighting God. I would have kept hating myself. I would have kept pushing everything and everyone good out of my life.

Instead, I'm happy.

Happy is a strange feeling for me, it's still very new. I'm still not perfect, and the wounds of the past are still healing, but I'm happy. I'm losing weight because I finally love myself enough to do something about the things that make me hate myself - and because my son deserves a mom who can play with him. I fight with my husband much less because I can accept that he loves me, and so he doesn't feel constantly rejected. I'm making friends because my confidence is through the roof. And finally, for once in my life, I'm not so terrified of my dreams coming true.

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