Two weeks ago I found myself surrounded by familiar fire, consumed with familiar pain. But instead of facing it, I chose to ignore it. I did everything except slow down. I ran from the discomfort that I remembered so vividly, yet felt as though I still lacked the courage to finally overcome.
And then late one night, while I laid in my bed and stared at the ceiling, unable to sleep, I couldn’t run anymore. I picked up my phone to ask a friend for help, and I heard the whispered request that I reluctantly obliged: talk to me.
I felt the fingers of grace caress my face, the Holy Spirit reminding me that I was not alone.
Tears began to stream down the sides of my face back onto my pillow. The dam of fearfulness broke as love poured into my room, my chest exploding with the grandeur of it.
In that moment, as Love led me to the mirror, I found the courage to finally stand before an old giant.
For days I had been struggling against not liking myself.
Culture is constantly pushing self-love, self-appreciation, self-esteem. These are all great things, but sometimes I can love myself but still not like myself. Sometimes I wish I was someone else, sometimes I fail to see the significance of my own gifts, and I fail to appreciate my own talents, quirks, and personality traits. Sometimes I wish my skill set was more flagrant, more robust, more respected. Sometimes I wish I could be as social as her, or as outspoken as him, or as confident as them.
Sometimes I don’t think that Daniah is enough.
I get so caught up comparing myself and who I am to other people, and eventually seeing who they are as better than who I am. It’s sneaky. It slides in – a little twinge of jealousy here, a little pang of insignificance there, seemingly isolated and small moments that become more frequent, and stronger.
Comparison begins to cloud my view of myself, corroding the confidence that Yahweh has built up in me. I begin to resent my difference. I begin to pine after the gifts and likenesses of others. Adoration morphs into idolatry, my own self-loathing growing stronger and stronger. I begin to shrink in light of their preferred uniqueness.
I slide down the slippery slope of shame until I reach rock bottom. Now I must pretend that I am everything when I feel as though I am nothing. I have to fake it until I feel it. But I’ll never feel it until I’m honest about the fact that in that moment, I don’t believe it.
I used to fight this battle often, and I have to admit that it’s been a long while since I’ve felt my personality was inferior to someone else’s. When I was a teenager I was constantly consumed with it. I did not like who I was, I didn’t think I had anything to offer, I constantly wished I was someone else, someone better than I was. My sense of self was so susceptible to the opinions of others that I began to thrive on outside validation. It’s a cheap thrill, a high that doesn’t last. Compliments got me through the day, but there was no one around at night when I wanted to unzip my skin and escape the shame I felt at needing people to make me strong, of morphing into someone I was uncomfortable being just to hear the words I needed so badly. I almost hated myself.
Memories of my feigned confidence came flooding back two weeks ago, and I realized that the Holy Spirit had pulled the rug back on yet another area of my life that needed healing.
I am grateful for a Father that cares about what is hurting me.
I prayed that night. There were more tears than words, and more sob sounds than coherent sentences, but I poured out a decade of concealed shame and pain on my bedroom floor. Once I opened the flood gates I couldn’t hold back.
Yahweh isn’t interested in who we pretend to be. He’s concerned with the way we see ourselves, with what we allow to define us, with who we are beneath the façade and when the lights dim and the curtain closes. Yahweh is constantly seeking to love us into the darkest places of our soul and bring light.
The Bible says that perfect love casts out all fear. I’ve known this verse for years, but I never understood what it meant until that moment. The thing that kept me from facing my truth was fear. I was afraid of what I would feel, what I would remember, the pain that would come. But Yahweh didn’t push me into the dark; He held my hand and reminded me that I was loved.
He reminded me that no matter what I found in the dark, no matter how ugly this part of me was, no matter how disgusting, shameful, or wrong I felt, that He would still love me anyway.
The reason my fear left is because I was surrounded by the assurance of unconditional, unwavering, immovable love. With love at my back, what did I really have to be afraid of? His love is more powerful than anything I could ever fear.
Even now I feel the fear of vulnerability being stripped away as I fight to be honest with myself and with you. It’s absolutely amazing to me that I am loved like this, that the King of the Universe loves me so much that it makes me brave enough to face all my fears.
In the peace that followed my surrender, Yahweh reminded me of my identity, He reminded me of who I am. I am fully defined by His love, and in spite of everything that has ever happened or will ever happen to me, I am a daughter of Yahweh. That is who I am, I am a loved daughter of Yahweh. This has nothing to do with what I can do or what I will accomplish, and everything to do with the fact that I am a human being. I am a loved daughter of Yahweh, no strings, no attachments, nothing.
All those years I struggled with not liking myself because I didn’t understand how unconditional this love was. I don’t think I believed that Yahweh could love me so much because I thought so much was wrong with me. But I was created intentionally. The way I walk, the way I speak, my interests and inclinations, my nature and sense of humor, the way my mind works and the way I see the world, what fascinates and excites me, what makes me me, Yahweh took His time and painstakingly assigned them to me.
I am art.
I am one of a kind.
And I am completely loved.
That helped me find myself again in the midst of all the lies, and it’s amazing to me how one encounter with Yahweh can change the trajectory of a person’s life.
He slayed my giant with identity. And because of that, I am free to not just love myself, but to like myself, to appreciate my uniqueness, to fully understand that nothing about me is a mistake or is inferior to the traits of anyone else.
And dear reader, nothing about you is a mistake either. Sin has corrupted our makeup and attached so many burdensome, unsavory habits and desires to our beings. We make the worst parts about ourselves the biggest identifiers in our lives. We define ourselves by what we crave, what we lack, what we have done, and what we can do.
Can I tell you that when you are embraced by pure love, the separation between who you are and your flawed humanity is made so clear? You are able to confront your shortcomings and overcome the obstacles you face without being destroyed by your own imperfection. Because love is at your back, love defines you, not other people, not even you. Yahweh defines you, and His definition of you is always based on perfect love. His correction is bathed in love. His commands are fueled by love. His requests, and His preferred plans for your life are all based on the love He has for you.
That kind of love has to drive away ALL fear.
Don’t ignore familiar pain. Don’t hide from your hurt. He knows it’s there, and He wants to love you so much that you’re brave enough to face and fix it. He loves you that much.