I wrote earlier about wanting to be more. I truly do long for that fulfillment. I believe that God has given me that longing, but I am not sure how to achieve the more he would have me to be. Simultaneously, I recognize that this innate drive can be perverted in such a way that I end up attempting to glorify myself rather than God.
Conversely, I recognized something today as I visited with a friend. While part of me longs to be more, there is also a part of me that cries to be Enough. Enough for what? Important enough regardless of my achievements, social status, appearance, wit, etc. ad nauseum, that my parents would stop what they were doing, without thought, if I needed them. I long to be valuable enough to merit consideration, at the very least, to those who are supposed to love me. I suspect I am not the only person in this world who feels that way. In fact, I would guess this intrinsic desire is part of humanity.
My story is a little long and complicated in this regard. How did I arrive at this emotional place? I suppose that as I was growing up I was a little girl who didn’t necessarily feel good enough. For reasons that only became apparent in my late twenties, my mother left my father when I was two. I met her again when I was 24. We just didn’t have contact for decades and I felt in my child’s mind, that I must not have been enough of a reason for her to want to stay. Why wouldn’t she want me? Additionally, when I was eleven my beloved grandmother died. It was only later, in a fight with my stepmother, that I learned she committed suicide. This affected me deeply and reinforced a sense that I was continually being left by those I loved.
When my Dad remarried, I had a difficult relationship with my stepmother. In her opinion, I was too fat, not ladylike enough, and never quite adequate enough to warrant unconditional acceptance. She constantly admonished me about what ‘nice girls’ do and don’t do and frequently refused to buy me clothes unless I lost weight. Thus began an obsessive, frantic attempt to be slim enough and to be perfect enough. Compared to what? Some unattainable and highly subjective standard. Clearly that ongoing dynamic led to hurt feelings, resentment, bitterness and not a small amount of conflict. She was one of those people who says the most outrageous things in the heat of an argument; statements intended to inflict pain. Things like, “Look at yourself, no wonder you don’t have a boyfriend!” when she felt I was too heavy. Or, “I hope you NEVER have a daughter like you!” (Was I so awful?) For whatever reason I was unable to shake those statements off. They became some of the lies that I, without any awareness on my part, began to believe about myself. “I am not good enough. I’ll never be good enough.” And while by her standards that may have been the case, those were falsehoods.
The constant, oppressive expectation that I need to be perfect and look perfect caused me to internalize the pressure and pile more expectations upon myself. In some ways, I ended up crippling my own heart. Despite my efforts at obsessive self improvement, I couldn’t ever make her happy. Furthermore, I was unable to prove to myself that I was inherently, intrinsically worthwhile and I was unable to feel peace and contentment.
On the other hand, and much to my step mother’s revulsion, I was without question my father’s favorite child. I reveled in that! In his eyes, I could do no wrong, because I was his princess, which is precisely what the inner soul of any young lady wants to be. 🙂 It was a glorious time in my life. From the view atop my pedestal, the world was my oyster. And in my mind, while others had neglected me, I believed I had at least one person who would never fail me. After all, I would always be a daddy’s girl; my father’s daughter.
However, as years came and went, so did a successive string of wives. With this most recent wife, I experienced what I thought would NEVER come. The father who raised me, had custody of me as a child, and utterly adored me disappeared. To this day, I roll my eyes as he extols the virtues of her children, their spouses, and her grandchildren. It hurts me deeply to know that I can count the number of their visits on one hand. I guess I always hoped I that the mere existence of my two amazing children would be enough to create a longing in my father for a relationship with them even if he no longer desires one with me.
In truth, I’ve sinned in this situation as much as anyone. I took my eyes off the prize; off of God my father. I’ve expected people to fill that part of my heart that can be accessed only by God. I look over the fence and feel bitterness when I perceive a slight instead of immediately refocusing on God and thanking Him for provision.
There have been hard times in my life. Moments when I was utterly, truly abandoned. I spend three agonizing weeks in Barnes Hospital with a ruptured appendix and for the most part, I was alone. My father came once for about five minutes and my step mother popped in to St. Louis to see me; but she went shopping instead. As I type these words, they seem Jerry Springer-esque and absolutely unbelievable. But God stayed with me in my hospital room. He never left me, not for one second. His was the invisible hand I held during the many CAT scans and painful medical procedures. His arms were the ones that held me throughout those long lonely nights in that sixth floor hospital room.
I’ve cried many tears over the years as so many others have. Wasn’t I important enough that my folks would WANT to be with me in the hospital? Aren’t I “enough” merely by being their daughter that they would walk on water to be with me in case I died?
I know this sounds like a whine fest. And for many years, it was. In fact, I probably excelled and earned top marks in self pity. I bore my grudge with all the ferocity that only an Italian woman is capable of. But as I grow, God continually reminds me that I am ENOUGH…ENOUGH for him. I am ENOUGH to God merely because I am his child.
In Psalm 27:10, Kind David said, “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.” Those are powerful words! He takes us just as we are! I am learning, processing, and realizing that it isn’t my job to achieve some subjective standard to earn the approval of those around me. That is tantamount to digging through the dumpster behind McDonald’s for food, when God himself has invited me to his house for dinner. He reminds me that I will always be welcome there. And next to me, there is an empty chair at the table that is reserved for you. God truly wants you, just as you are, exactly where you are, to be welcomed into his presence.
This slow and progressive realization is helping me to allow myself to be imperfect. What freedom there is in letting those emotional burdens drop! Certainly I’ll be tempted to turn back and try to pick them up. But this is a problem that can be solved by abandoning the lies that I have believed about myself and seeking God to fill that need. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever and he will not fail me.