I was doing a spiritual exercise where I spent time reflecting on my childhood. I was really struck by how much those initial life challenges still play such a role in my life. I remembered the easy-going, natural confidence I had early on in my life, and how it slowly eroded away. The alcoholism and unhealthy relationships, the discipline that bordered on abuse, the big move that led to new kids in new neighborhoods that didn’t like me much. So many, many challenges.
I went from the darling of my school community to nearly the lowest kid on the food chain. I was teased for everything you can think of, including how my English was “too good.” It all lead to a sense of inadequacy, of never quite feeling like I was enough. Of feeling like other people had normal, happy lives but I was just an actor, struggling to suppress my emotions, to play a role so I could fit in. Except I never quite felt like I did fit. Can you relate?
Fast-forward to this moment, right here. Wow, has God healed me. My life is so vastly different! Those ugly, hard moments are now like a faint scar. While I remember how the wound happened and the pain I experienced in the moment, the wound has long since healed. I shake my head in awe at how far I’ve come through faith. Yet what also jumps off the page of my past is how the lingering roots and tendrils of those early wounds branched out to become such a part of my adult experiences. The feelings of inadequacy, of not being enough, of needing to do and be something in order to feel accepted and valued. Of my deep need to feel like I’m doing something that matters. All of it stems from the struggles that little girl faced.
But the surprise for me today? I don’t think I ever really learned how to handle defeat. Oh, I “overcame” feeling inadequate in that I fought my way back up the high school food chain, becoming popular again because I associated that with happiness. Only here’s the thing. I wasn’t happy. I was miserable! I missed the friendships I left behind on my all-encompassing mission to “arrive,” only to discover there was no one there I wanted to arrive with.
Fast-forward to my adult years, and I’ve succeeded in almost everything my hand has touched. Oh, I’ve definitely had serious setbacks and challenges, as you know. Brutal ones. But I’ve always more or less achieved what I’ve wanted to, and become a leader in whatever I’ve done, even when I’ve tried to avoid that role. Until now. 2020. A year like no other, a year that has revealed so much for so many of us.
For perhaps the first time I see my fragility, my inability to control with crystal clear clarity. Sure, I’ve known those things, but not to this depth. I also see my lack of adaptability and sometimes of talent. I see all the areas I fall short in more than any other year of my life. Even the early ones. And that’s what strikes me this morning. I’ve always thought I was a 5 talent person (see Matthew 25:14-30). This year I’ve learned maybe I’m only a 2 or 3. Yet I share this not from a place of discouragement or defeat, but from a place that acknowledges I’m okay. That perhaps defeat isn’t in acknowledging the weaknesses, but in letting those weaknesses define who I am. I am an ongoing work in progress, and I suspect you are, too.
I don’t have to be the best speaker, the most talented writer, the kindest, wisest, best or most loving mom/wife/sister/daughter/employer/employee/volunteer to have value. I don’t have to make seven figures, receive accolades or change the course of the world to matter to God. Or to the people who love me. Nor do I have to do those things for God, as if God needed me to do anything.
My value is found at the cross. It’s found in that moment where Jesus chose to be spit upon, mocked and beaten. To have thorns pierce through the delicate flesh of his head, tasting the saltiness of his own blood as it dripped down his face. When he allowed thick, crude nails to be hammered mercilessly through bones that cracked and ripped in painful protest. It’s the hours of agony he endured, struggling to catch even one small breath as he slowly suffocated on that cross. All so that I don’t have to. So I can be free from punishment, from fear, from performance and the need to be something. Because I already am something: I am HIS. I am so deeply, richly loved, as are you.
In this moment, I realize I don’t care anymore what I do or don’t do in a worldly sense. I don’t care if the role God gives me is big or small, because every role, every moment matters to him. His role for me is simple. He’s called me to love him, and to love my neighbor as myself (Matthew 22:36-40). No more. No less.
I think of the saying over the doors to my church: “Small things done with great love will change the world.” Now more than ever, all I want for 2021 is to walk closely with the Lord, to fiercely love those around me, and to love well the people who cross my path. Because this is how God has asked me to co-labor with him; to be the church to folks caught in the pain and suffering I’ve gone through, yet who have no true solution to move forward. I no longer want to think big. I want to think small, using whatever gifts that have been entrusted with me for His glory, not for my need to achieve.
I know I will never truly arrive until I get to heaven. But once I get there, I know I will love the company.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT What were your revelations in 2020? How were you challenged? What might God be trying to teach you? Spend some time today praying over those lessons with the Lord, asking for his guidance as you walk into 2021. How might those lessons change how you act on a day-to-day basis moving forward? How might your life look if you fully embraced his path for you? Spend some time visualizing with your Creator. Instead of focusing on setting resolutions or goals, prayerfully choose a God-directed vision for what your next steps might be. And consider joining our faith-driven vision board event if you'd like to approach this next year with richer, more God-centered faith on Saturday, January 16th at 9:30 am Eastern. You can register for this free event by clicking HERE.
PRAYER Lord, I am so slow sometimes. It can feel like all of the things I thought I knew I'm learning all over again. Thank you for the challenges, for how they've stretched and grown me. Even though in my fear and pain I have railed against you at times, you have always come right back in to meet me with deep love, with reassurance of my infinite value. How kind you are! How patient. And I'm so grateful, Papa. I definitely need your patience! Thank you for all the growth you have produced in my character, and for all this next year will hold. I know whatever comes my way, no matter what my feelings may tell me, you are always there on the throne. Looking for my good. Wanting to help me grow in my understanding of what it means to follow you. Praise you Papa! Amen.
To learn more about author & motivational speaker Barb Lownsbury or to have her speak at your next event, CLICK HERE.
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