You know what makes me mad? Coming face to face with the realest parts of me.
I grew up knowing that God was good. I grew up wanting so much for everyone, I mean everyone, to think I was too. I loved to be loved. Part of it was my personality. Part of it was my siblings were going through various difficult stages that caused me to believe it was my job to make it easier on parents by being “the good kid” in the family. Part of it, truthfully, is I was really good at being good. I mean, so compliant and acceptable and friendly and mature and responsible and annoying good that I fooled everyone. Most notably, me. I came to see that trait or ability, what I would now call dysfunction, as my ticket to earning my worth. People had to like me, love me and generally admire me, because I absolutely would not give them a reason not to. I overachieved. I denied feelings I considered undesirable. Feelings like insecurity, anger, tiredness and fear. Those weren’t the feelings of a godly and mature teenager, I reasoned, so I simply stuffed them down so deep, I didn’t even notice they were there.
But they were, lurking down inside me and they eventually led me down a path that I would not be able to follow. God was at work in the midst of my sincere and insincere efforts to please Him and people and myself too. I see clearly now all the ways, but at the time, well I just kept working harder. I married the first “cool guy” who romanced me. High school sweethearts. Never mind the fact that he was a huge flirt with other girls. Never mind the fact that we had almost nothing in common, and my dearest most honest childhood best friend was reminding me on my wedding day that I did not have to marry him. I married him and almost immediately knew something was wrong. He didn’t seem to love me, or really even like me that much. Especially when we were alone. But, in front of others, we were cute, loving newlyweds. I remember feeling so desperately lonely around our one year wedding anniversary. We were in a hotel where I was working as a trainer for a restaurant. He had come to surprise me, and even brought a beautiful sapphire ring. But when he fell asleep on the bed that night I walked out to the balcony and wondered if he would care if I jumped off. But, rather than sound the alarm bell that something was in fact, horribly wrong in my marriage, I circled the wagons in tighter. My marriage couldn’t be in trouble. I did everything right.
A few years, a few affairs and two babies later, he walked out the door. The chinks in my resolve to be good were weakening, but I still vowed to be the best single mom ever. Do everything right. Reach out for help gratefully. Tell everyone how God was sustaining me. Never mind the fact that I was angry. Terrified. Ashamed.
Then along came prince charming. A wonderful man. Godly. A pastor for crying out loud! So now, now I had a shot to really show how good I could be with the right support behind me. Except, he was completely unsupportive of all my efforts to make our life look perfect. To do more than was reasonable. To be impressive to the church folk. It was so infuriating! Didn’t he see how I was helping him? I remember bursting into tears in a mexican restaurant after church one Sunday, saying, I need a vacation from my life! That was the crossroads for me. Somewhere in between bites of chips and salsa something had burst open inside me and it would never go back. Slowly, very kindly, God began to show me who I really was, why He needed to save me and where I would have been without Him.
Codependent, needy, fearful, prideful and outrageously, completely loved by Him. What? I hated it, kind of. You mean, I have to drop the belief that I have earned all this with my good behavior? Then what in the world have I been killing myself being so perfect for??!
Ah, but like a woman trapped in a suit of armor, every little part of my heart that God began restoring wanted to burst with the goodness of the truth: I was loved completely because of who God is, not who I am. It was like a freedom song I had been belting out from behind prison bars when the door flung open! It’s been a lot of years since that moment in the Mexican restaurant. I still get mad when I have to admit I’m not as good as I want to believe I am. Tonight I came home from work grumpy. I hid out in my bedroom and watched 5 episodes of Parenthood. Because sometimes I don’t like being 40 and having so much responsibility and I want something more exciting. And I know it’s petty and ungrateful and not at all like something Jesus would think or believe. And then I get mad when I have to admit, I’m not good. But oh, He is! He loves me in my pettiness and selfishness and insecurities. He loves me in my strength and gifting and healthiness too. The beautiful point is He doesn’t love me because of what I do or don’t do. He loves me because of what He did and who He is.