For the last two months, I’ve been working hard to deal with and let go of a deep rooted pain that I’ve been holding onto all of my life. It’s no secret that I’ve been battling the demons of low self-esteem and depression since I was a child. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t believe that I wasn’t a complete waste of flesh. All I knew was that I was defective and worthless and I would never do anything right or worthy of praise. I honestly believed that everything I touched or was involved in was doomed to fail. Nothing I loved or was good at was relevant and eventually everyone I knew would see I was a waste of their time, hurt and humiliate me, and finally abandon me. The love communicated, compliments given, and confidence expressed in my abilities by others just bounced off of the walls I’d built up and fell to the ground unheard because I couldn’t reconcile them to my terrible self-image. It’s awful to live your life like that and, were it not for God’s grace, I would have ended it long ago. While I have already experienced so much of God’s healing in many ways in my life thus far…this was the one place I hadn’t let him touch or go near until recently.
There is a story in John 5 about Jesus at the pool of Bethesda. Jesus singles out one man from a large crowd of the blind, lame and paralytic, an invalid for thirty-eight years, and asks him, “Do you want to get well?” I always thought that was odd. Why would Jesus ask that question? Wouldn’t anyone who’d been suffering most or all of their lives not want to be well, to be healed? Yet Jesus asks, “Do you want to get well?” After this week, I think I understand a little better why he asked the question. There is some healing that is just so extreme and so painful, that you have to want it – really want it. I have a friend who had a knee replacement some years ago. I can tell you that the pain after the surgery was just as excruciating, if not more, than before the surgery. And don’t we all know someone or about someone who has gone through chemo treatments for cancer. Tell me that doesn’t hurt. Some people put off treatments and surgery indefinitely for fear of the pain or that they may not gain the healing they are hoping for, and even for fear that they will lose the health they do have in the process.
Emotional healing is always painful which is why this week was so difficult for me. I had to face some very hard truths and as you know – sometimes the truth can hurt…a lot. My prison of misery and depression may have been created by someone else, but for a very long time now, I have voluntarily chosen to live my life like I am still in that terrible place that now exists only in my past. I made the choice to live in my pain by allowing myself to believe so strongly the lies of my worthlessness and deficiency that I couldn’t see things any differently. What I learned is that I can’t change the past and I can’t change anyone else but me. Most abusers have an excuse for their bad behavior, but at some point, they have to make their own decision - continue the cycle of abuse or stop it. Innocent children get hurt for no reason and as hard as one might try – there can be no sense made of it. And while my past may have had a hand in molding who I am today, I cannot, and don’t have to, allow it to define me as a person now. If I am to have the abundant life that Jesus intends for me, I need to start seeing myself through his eyes and not through the twisted lies of my past. I've allowed those lies to claim too much of my life already.
This week has been hard and painful and today there is still a small ache in my heart, but even now, I will tell you that it was worth it. Sometimes the truth hurts, but then God’s healing can take hold and renew your heart and your life. His healing brings the peace and joy we all long for and too often find allusive. Sometimes the truth hurts, but always, lies will eat away at you like a cancer until you don’t remember what it’s like to be happy, to be free, or to know the joyful and abundant life Jesus always meant for us to have.
What about you? What lies are you so sure are true in your life that you’ve stopped questioning them? If you take a hard look at your life, will you see your beliefs, your attitude, and your habits bringing you closer to Jesus and the abundant life he wants for you or farther away? Are you truly living the abundant life God has called you to or are you living a shallow reflection of it, resorting to those same old tired rationalizations to justify a less than thriving relationship with the Lord?