One evening recently I had been feeling discouraged about something which has its roots in self. I was depressed because I had done something I secretly thought deserved to be noticed, and no one had seen it. The thing I had done is irrelevant. The point was that I was feeling overlooked, and in spite of all my theoretic determination to do right things because they are right and not for recognition, my feelings were a little bit hurt. I wanted, needed, to know that I was loved and appreciated.
These feelings have long roots going back to my earliest childhood. For most of my childhood my father worked two jobs and just was not there physically. My mother believed that breaking my spirit was the best way to raise me, and her communication was almost always negative. While there were lots of rules, there was no positive reinforcement, and there was also very little interest in the details of my life as long as I lived within the rules. I was very young when I recognized, with my childish understanding, that aside from my physical needs like food and shelter, etc., I was on my own. I stopped asking her for help or advice when I realized that no matter what the situation it somehow would end up being my fault. I longed for her, just once, to be on my side. It never happened.
Without much guidance, I was forced to try to figure out the solution to any problem alone. It was scary and because of immaturity and lack of understanding I sometimes made humiliating mistakes. I was a conscientious child and would never think of willfully disobeying the rules, so I lived in a lot of anxiety about being good. However, nothing I did was enough to satisfy my mother’s expectations, and the goalposts were moved over and over again. There were times when her lack of oversight put me in danger, but God always protected me. I look back now with awe as I think how faithful He has been and how well I was “parented” by Him. I didn’t recognize it at the time ~ but I do now!
What eventually made life bearable as a child was reading some Christian girls books when I was eight. That is where I heard about how much God loved me, and I found I could go to Him and pour out my problems and feel comforted and loved. I turned to Christ as my Comforter and Friend, clinging to Psalm 27:10: When my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up. (KJV) It gave me the security I needed to continue to try. When I was fifteen and finally recognized my nature as a sinner, I asked Him to become my Savior as well. That was the beginning of a life-long goal to learn dependency on Him for everything.
Sometimes I am better at it than other times.
Aside from fundamentals like the Ten Commandments, etc., I still often feel as if I am walking through life guessing rather than knowing what to do, especially in social situations. I press on, because there has never been another option ~ but I still often wonder if I am “doing it right”. Unfortunately, feeling defensive is frequently a part of that package. As a believing adult I have tried to look at my childhood with objectivity and forgiveness, but sometimes when I am very tired these feelings of inadequacy and fear still surface.
All of this is background for a little episode which happened that night when I sat down to eat my dinner. As I prepared my meal my thoughts were focused on how I believed I had been overlooked. I was feeling very tired. In my cloud of self-pity I thought, “Since no one seems to care what I do, maybe now is the time just to give up trying to contribute anything and use my energy for getting through each day.” God knows and I know that life is getting harder. I have to ration my energy carefully just to stay ahead of the basics. I often feel overwhelmed. Although I have been trying to learn to let today’s problems be sufficient for today and trust in the Lord, sometimes I feel a little anxiety when I think about the future.
My self -pitying thoughts continued on about how no one knew how hard I have to work to keep up; how all my life I had to struggle from a “come from behind” position and expend enormous emotional energy to look as if I knew what I was doing. It was painful to infer that all my effort was taken for granted or even dismissed by others. I wanted someone to notice and give me a little affirmation, but it felt as if all anyone ever wanted from me was more. I wanted acknowledgement. I felt unappreciated, and just wanted to “take my marbles and go home”. The Lord, as always, knew what I was feeling before I even knew myself, and had already prepared an answer.
I use a daily devotional calendar which I usually read just before I begin eating my dinner. The reading that night was: And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath. (Esther 3:5) The comment on the verse said, “…How often the seeds of disunity and even anger are sown when someone does not get the acknowledgment they feel they deserve… The praise of men ought not to be our goal. We ought to simply serve the Lord and one day He will reward us…”
I deeply felt both the rebuke and the love.
He didn’t have to club me over the head. All I needed was that little reminder that He knows our every thought, and that what He had been seeing in me was hurt pride. Pride is so incredibly sneaky ~ it rears its ugly head whenever we let down our guard, and can be the source of so much unhappiness.
I needed to go back to the comfort and sense of well-being I had as a child when I took my problems to Him, convinced that He heard every word and that He cared. I believed then (and now) that His love is not just for mankind (generic), but also for me (specific). How often we can let ourselves become discouraged or off track if we forget to go to the Source of love and grace.
All it took that night was a little reminder of Who He is, and who I am ~ and what our different roles are to be. He is GOD, the great I AM, and His character is Love. I am His servant and I never want to forget why I began following Him in the first place. His plans for me started before time when He made His plan for Christ to become my Savior. Throughout my life He has demonstrated His love in every way possible. Over time I have learned to look beyond just the things I get from our relationship, and am able to appreciate Him for Who He is in Himself. He is worthy to be worshipped even if He had not sacrificed Himself for us… just because of the nature of His character. He is Love personified. He is holiness without compromise. He is eternally faithful and He is always on my side, no matter what circumstances might seem to suggest, and even if He needs to discipline me. HE is the one worthy of praise; I can rest in the certain knowledge of His love and awareness of what is in my heart.
We forget that in spite of being sinners, we have been called by God, and that each of us is precious to Him. May I (and we) never forget the depth of His love for us; so deep that He called us to be His even before the foundations of the world. Called by God! No one could be loved or appreciated more than this!
Photo: Piper Green, all rights reserved.