Every once in awhile I experience a mental walk through the decades of my life, resembling one of those hall of mirrors with random distorted images of events long gone by. Shaking off such a trance can be easier said than done. Having lived with self-doubt and a lack of confidence for most of my life, I have found these glimpses can leave me in a darkened state, infecting my present with negativity and pain.
I suppose one could comment that my admission is raw or real, maybe dramatic or short sighted, possibly even courageous. For me it is the desire to pay forward the healing that I’ve found from those who have dared to share their own stories in the face of their weaknesses. I haven’t understood my worth and by hating myself I’ve crippled relationships with others. Now that I’m well into a path of recovery, I want to open my heart in an effort to bring hope and maybe even some peace to my fellow traveler.
In college (which was quite a while ago) one of my classmates announced that he was going to stand in line someday to have me sign one of my books. I laughed it off like a joke, I’d never write, let alone publish a book…Was it any wonder that members of that same study group would ask me about my writing process, how I did it and such? Still I didn’t see. I figured I was one of many students earning high marks and saw nothing special in my talent.
It didn’t stop there, I used these misunderstood words to puff me up, helping me create a false shell of ego so that those around me wouldn’t see my fear and struggle. I certainly couldn’t let anyone get too close, they’d find out my secret, discover that I am learning disabled and that I’ve been compensating for as long as I can remember. This pattern turned into a vicious cycle of how I lived my life. Ego on the outside with hate, pain, and fear hiding within.
I wasn’t as good at hiding it as I thought, the ugliness of my inner world would seep out. My mask began to fade and keeping up appearances became too much of a struggle to continue. At the ripe old age of thirty I was miserable and the world knew it. By thirty-nine I met complete despair and cried out in surrender. My pleadings weren’t met with instant answers, rather a channel of peace rested upon my broken spirit and slowly began to lead me from a personal hell to a life of happiness and fulfillment. (Luke 18:10-14)
The prayer of St. Francis often saddened me throughout my destructive years because I did not feel that I had the ability to encompass such a selfless walk. Through much prayer, study, and application I have come to understand that my shortcomings are no more or less than any of God’s children upon the earth. The idea later occurred to me that in order to apply the prayer to the outside world I must first turn the prayer of St. Francis inward. What a miracle that is turning out to be.
My journey from self-loathing to self-appreciation continues daily. Instead of hatred for who I am I try to re-frame those gremlin-like thoughts when they come, replacing them with words of love and then looking for the opportunity to share those same words with someone else. These meager attempts are all that God requires, the effort is enough and I find more often than not God makes up where I lack. (Isaiah 41:13)
The irony of the whole thing is that I’m blessed with a face that doesn’t always appear approachable. The nicest way to put it is that I have a “tough” exterior. I have to laugh each spring as my students begin to confess that in the beginning of the year they thought I was going to be mean or hard to get along with. In other words, I have to work extra hard to help people feel love from me and yet the more I practice it, the easier it becomes and my self-confidence grows. God certainly has a sense of humor.
From my surrender to today, I have found through a loving God the seeds of my self-worth. I have no doubt that each subsequent day will reveal more of His plan for me. Through His grace I have published one novel and have two more on the way, with high hopes that those classmates will find me and I’ll have the honor of giving them the novel they predicted...signature and all.
We are all rising, let us remember from where the light shines. (2 Corinthians 4:6-7)
May you find peace and love in all you do-- J.