One of the ways I tried to be perfect was to see what was expected, exalted even, of folks who were considered to be "good people" by others. And I tried my best to do that. Get good grades, be active at church, don't mess with drugs or sex, etc. It was like a checklist. I was trying to act a part so others would place me on the "good" side of the human rankings. But inside I was miserable. I was sure that if people saw the real me they'd kick me out of the human race. I was positive that I was a horrible, despicable person. I was depressed and anxious and angry and knew things I shouldn't and felt things too deeply and was honestly one icky mess of a person stuck together with honor roll ribbons, Christian t-shirts, swim caps and goggles, Girl Scout badges, and medication. Oh, and books. Lots and lots and lots of books.
At church I learned the right things to say and I said them. I definitely felt God at work in my life in a huge way but I tried to keep a good arm's width away for good measure. I guess part of me thought I might even be able to fool God. Because inside I was sure that I was not what God wanted. I remember reading verses in the Bible that condemned certain types of people, I remember hearing sermons and Sunday school lessons that condemned people and I kept seeing myself, the real me that I kept hidden away, standing with the condemned. Or huddled in a ball, really. Wishing I didn't exist. Or that I could be someone different. I remember people at churches or who I knew were Christian, older people who I was sure knew exactly what God did and didn't want, who God did and didn't love, people who I thought were spokespeople for God, say things like, "God made you exactly how you are." And then later they would say that God wanted us as Christians to be a certain way, or even say that I needed to be more of something or less of something else and it didn't make sense to me. Because all I kept hearing with my child's understanding was, "You are wrong and need to change" and "God made you that way."
To be clear, not all adult Christians were condemning or made me feel like I was wrong, but enough did that it made an impact. And since I had the idea that all adults agreed on everything, especially if it came from God, I just assumed that they all felt the same way. In time those child's thoughts and understandings got buried and became a foundation with which I understood the world. They became subconscious beliefs and snuck around causing mischief.
In my late 20s I took a break from church. I developed my own relationship with God without anyone telling me what it should look like. I no longer saw God as an old man sitting on a cloud keeping track of wrongdoings. But still I kept a distance.
A few years later I was listening to a guided meditation. During the call the host led us into our "sacred space" where we were supposed to be able to most easily connect with the Divine. I was sitting there in this round golden room saying, "No, I don't want to. I'm afraid." I started to feel the presence of God even though I was fighting it hard. The host was saying how it was helping us connect with our deepest and truest selves, and I said, "I hate myself." And I heard, very loving and tender, "I know." And then I said, "And I hate you for making me this way." And again, before I could run away at the shock of what had just come out of me, I heard another very loving and tender, "I know." And I blubbered on (because at this point I was crying, which was huge for me because it's very difficult for me to cry), "I hate that you made me this way, in a way that isn't acceptable to you, so you made me so you could condemn me. . ." and I heard a very loud, "NO. Those people at church who said you were not acceptable did not understand me. You are here to help them see. When you allow my light to shine through you, you help them see the real me without the condemning. You are just as you need to be." And there was a relaxation and melting that flooded through my body.
After the experience I told a handful of people. I had a blog at that time but it was much too tender for me to write out at just yet. So I held the experience close. A few years later I felt the urge to paint what happened. So I could share with people who maybe have felt the same way. And so, while listening to Daring Greatly, I let out the image of what I had experienced, and I put it on paper. The act of painting it allowed me to revisit the experience and to process and grow and understand on an even deeper level than I had when it happened. Unfortunately, I used this really cool iridescent paint that didn't really dry, it stayed gummy and sticky. So once it was as dry as I thought it was going to get I put a piece of plastic wrap on top and put it in my drawer of paintings. Normally I would have scanned it first but because of the stickiness I didn't want to do that. I wasn't really sure what to do with it. Looking back I can see how the painting wasn't ready to be shared and neither was I, but it was the right time for me to dive back into the experience.
Fast forward to last week when the painting told me it was ready to come out of my drawer and live with someone it knew would understand it. I can see how it was ready, and how I was ready. I can see how I understand more fully the message, and how I needed to share the painting to understand even more deeply. I promise I will tell the story of the giving and what happened afterwards soon.
For right now, though, know that my experience is your experience if you will open yourself up for it. I know so deeply now that none of us are defective, none of us are "wrong." Just because the people around us may say so, just because the people who claim to speak for God may say so, it does not mean that it is truth. We were all made to come to this Earth to do important things. In order to do those things we have to come in different ways. None of us were created to be condemned. All of us were created to BE LOVE in our own unique ways and to SPREAD LOVE in a myriad of manners. Just because the way you do it doesn't look the same as the way someone else does it it does not mean that either of you are wrong. Just perfectly and uniquely made. Just because it hurts and you don't feel like you fit doesn't mean you're not meant to be here. You are meant to be here. SO MUCH.
Also, know that in your darkest of days, when you feel the most disgusting and inadequate and vile you are STILL being loved. There is no level of ick you can become that makes you unlovable. No matter how repulsive you feel you are, God will never drop you. Those hands can hold a million times the darkness that you can feel or create or let out. God does not only love us when we are happy and sunshine and roses and rainbows. Even if you tell God, "I HATE YOU" the love is still there. Tender and deep and always, always there. Always.