Two years ago, on my birthday, my sister posted a picture of me from my early years of college when I had really long hair. This was the first time I can remember that she acknowledged my birthday. I can’t recall everything that she wrote in the post. I’m sure it said happy birthday and such, but what I am quite sure about is that it included the words:
‘growing up is hard to do.’
That was her post…on my 47th birthday.
Externally, this post seemed innocent enough and it was fun for people to see what I looked like 25+ years ago.
When I saw the picture…I laughed.
When I read those words...I was crushed.
For most of my adult life when I was blessed to be around my family, I never felt like I was enough. When I was with my family, any decision that I made from what wrapping paper I used, to what stores I shopped at, to my career choices, none of them were ever enough. My choices were never fancy enough, my positions/job choices were never prestigious enough…never powerful enough.
To them... (to her)... I never grew up.
I remember having someone snap a picture of me when I signed my contract to be an associate vice president of a university. I posted this achievement for all to see. Never heard anything about it from them. As a result, in my ‘successes’ I never felt ‘successful’.
Last year, I started to realize that all the things that I wanted, all the things I had achieved were mostly things that I really didn’t want to do, and not really what I wanted. I had never felt truly comfortable in any of it. All of it had been a façade and I had been running most of my adult life to achieve more and more to the detriment of who I truly was…who I truly am. The more positions and degrees I obtained, the more I lived in this fear of not being enough or of being less than in not just my career but in all aspects of my life.
I found that when someone loved someone else or complimented someone, or if someone was good at what they did, they were my competitors.
Why weren’t they complimenting me?
Why am I not good at that?
Why do they get that position when I don’t?
What’s wrong with me?
How could I love people ... how could I be truly successful when I saw everyone around me as my competition?
All of these positions, salaries, degrees, etc. were never enough and as it turns out they were never really me. I have realized that my family dysfunction, with its lack of true relationship and love, led me to build up this false self where I searched for love, affirmation, and acceptance in the wrong things.
Although I never knew it, every time in my life when I felt uncomfortable in the places I inhabited, it was the tender tap of God on my shoulder letting me know that He was proud, that He loved me, and that He wanted more for me…He wanted different for me. I never wanted to listen. I just wanted my family to see me successful. I just wanted them to see that I had grown up.
So, I commented on my sisters post just to respond…just to have contact. It was just a ‘ha-ha…funny...love you’ kind of response that didn’t reveal at all how much those words have hurt.
It turned out that that was the last interaction that me and my sister would ever have.
About a year later she succumbed to the cancer she had been battling for years.
I hate that that was the last interaction we had. It still hurts and I pray for the strength to forgive her.
‘But what if I should discover that they least among them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the most impudent of all the offenders, the very enemy himself – that these are within me and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness?’ (Seamands, referencing Jung, Ministry in the Image of God)
As I continue to grow (not grow up), this problem with self-acceptance is one of the largest challenges in my life. I need to find ways to turn to God in my search of acceptance. I need to turn to God for continued help in renouncing my false self, removing the seeds of self-rejection from my heart, receiving acceptance from Him, and embracing my weaknesses.
As one of my mentors Steve Seamands also wrote…
‘I need to rely on God so that I can get what God can do.
I need to define myself radically as one beloved by God.’