It is 5:00am and the alarm goes off. The gentle tune that was especially chosen to bring about wakefulness in a calm and soothing manner only brings with it foreboding for the day ahead. A wave of nausea washes over me and my stomach bunches into a tight knot. A heaviness settles over my chest and I cannot face throwing the duvet back and putting my feet on the floor.
I think about why I feel this way. What is in my day ahead that causes such a strong physical reaction to waking up? I need to get dressed, feed my family breakfast and go to work. At work I have just a normal day ahead. I need to cook dinner and then go to bed. Nothing at all that could be causing this deep depression I have sunk into.
I sit at the breakfast table and happy chatter surrounds me. I cannot even smile. It seems even the muscles in my face have frozen into a downcast expression. A quick lifting of the corners of my mouth that never reaches my eyes is all that I can manage when my children vigorously hug me goodbye. Sadness envelopes me.
When silence descends on my home, I start to ponder my life. It all started when I was nine years old and Janine pulled my pants down in front of the hole class including the boys. I cried. I was an easy target and the bullying continued unabated for the next ten years.
“Turn the other cheek,” I was told. “They killed Jesus.” If Jesus could endure being killed, I could surely endure being bullied. I must be weak. I cannot be the wonderful person my parents tell me I am if those I go to school with ridicule me. I cannot possibly be likable if all they do is mock me at every opportunity. Fearfully and wonderfully made? Never. God rejoices over me with singing? Why would He do that? No one else does except my parents and they have to love me. Who do I believe? What is the truth? Where is Jesus in all this?
The storm rages in my mind. The constant tug of war between the voice that says, “You are worthy” and the voice that says, “You definitely are not. Look at what they just did to you.” Most days, “You are not worthy,” won until I started to really believe it. Headaches set in which grew into migraines lasting days at a time. Panic attacks became the norm which fueled the bullies. The spiral went down, down, down. I fell hard down the slippery slope of depression.
But I kept fighting. The war continued inside my head. I had not given up yet. I was young and had energy. I could be happy. I could be liked. I could find a husband. Life could be good. I lived life with conviction and passion, but the school bullies were just replaced by a new group of bullies. The bully changed tempo and was no longer silly children having fun at the expense of another. The bullies were adults who inflicted real pain. The bullies were Christians. Christians in leadership.
Now who do I believe? The Lord knit me together in my mother’s womb? He knew all my days before I was even formed? He loved me enough to send Jesus to save me from eternal damnation? But Christians say I am fatally flawed. God will never use me as I am an unworthy vessel.
Tell. Me. The. Truth.
I know what my Bible says but do I really believe it? Surely those around me would confirm, in how they treat me and see me, that I am wonderful; God’s unique creation. Why don’t people like me? Have I sinned too much? Am I really fatally flawed? What can I change about myself?
I think I will talk less. I know, I will never give my opinion unless it is asked for. I remember being told once that my opinion has no value unless it is asked for. I will strive for perfection. I will never show I have made a mistake. Everything will be absolutely perfect, always. I will live to be above reproach and never tell anyone how I feel.
I. Will. Trust. No. One.
And the list of rules grew and completely enveloped me. Perfection was my unattainable aim; my every shrinking prison. I had started out as a nine-year-old with a desire to be liked and accepted and had turned into a thirty-two year woman unable to get out of bed to feed her nine month old baby. I was crushed by disappointments and weighed down by guilt. I was unable to move.
In sheer desperation I called out to Jesus, “Save me!” Very slowly and gently he started to show me the lies I had believed; all the times the lies were reinforced as truth. This time I chose to believe Him. I chose to ignore the voices around me that said otherwise and I decided that believing Him was the only thing I had not tried.
And I found some friends; real friends. Friends who loved me, encouraged me, prayed tirelessly with and for me and no matter what they actually thought of me, reinforced the truth I was reading in my Bible.
Things did not get better. They got worse, much worse. My body betrayed me. Today I still live with the effects of two difficult pregnancies. Today my body still continues to betray me; people still do not like me, criticize me and inflict pain. I had to ensure years of unnecessary medical issues because of one doctor. But today I choose to believe that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and that my God rejoices over me with singing.
I started out with a simple and completely acceptable desire; to be liked and accepted. I was nine. Innocent. Young. What is wrong with the desire to be liked and accepted? Nothing, really, until everything becomes wrong with it.
As I sit and ponder my life I can see now that there were people who liked me. Actually, a lot more than did not like me. Even at age nine I had a large group of friends. I was one of two girls that the cool boys let play with them. As I entered high school and I look back really carefully I can see all the times I was accepted; all the places I excelled. I can also see all the times I was not, but they pale in the light of the all the acceptance I somehow missed. I was blinded by a lie I chose to believe. I lived for twenty-three years in a mind battle; a prison created by believing one lie when I was nine.
Today I am looking back over the last six months of my life. It is nine years since the Lord set me free in 2010. During the last six months there has been a lot of criticism, some accusations that have cut me to the core and much frustration. I have thrown up my hands in exasperation. I have cried. I have been hurt. I have wanted to give up. I have felt pressed. I have felt myself sliding down that slippery slope of depression. I have almost said, “I will trust no one.”
But I have not. Yesterday I received an incredible bunch of flowers from someone who thanked me, with tears in their eyes, for being me. I choose to believe what God says about me. I choose to see the acceptance and not focus on the rejection. I choose to spend time with Jesus every day. I choose to hide the Word in my heart. I choose to say to my God, “Make me to hear joy and gladness and be satisfied.” (Psalm 51:8)