This is who I am - not...!
We're born into a world run by imperfect people, and into a home/family of imperfect people. However, we're unaware of the imperfection of it all at first. For a few years - if we're lucky enough, we remain ignorant to the imperfection of others and of the world. But, pretty soon, someone strikes out at us through their imperfection - be it through anger, rejection, abuse of some sort, and so on - and we have our little hearts broken. Suddenly, the world isn't perfect anymore, but in our innocence we don't blame the one who struck us, rather we are confronted with what we believe are our own imperfections and take that to heart. It's quite often a moment that we start to believe 'This is reality; This 'disappointment' is who I really am' and our identity starts to form - or, an image of who we believe we are starts to form.
It's as though we don't really become ourself until that moment of heartbreak, and that heartbreak becomes the foundation of who we are. But it doesn't stop there. Our environment adds to this - to our identity - also. If we are born into a loving home, the love given to us will help soothe the pain of that first wound, and, while we have become more attuned to sorrow and grief and what it is to disappoint others, we grow to understand that even in our imperfections we are loved.
However, not everyone is fortunate enough to live in such a loving environment. Some climb upon the foundation of their own broken heart and seek healing - and that usually in the form of love and acceptance. If that love and acceptance is not given, the broken heart continues to break and crumble and weaken, and wanders off as if in limbo, forever looking for that love and acceptance but never finding it - or never recognising it when they do find it, because there's still so many scars from childhood that won't allow the hand of love and acceptance through. We still identify with the broken child we once were. And that's hard to shake, especially when someone else, in their imperfections, strikes out at us in one way or another.
Other broken hearts are repeatedly broken and abused so much that they figure the only way they can survive is to harden. So they do. And anger becomes their wall of protection. They don't need anyone! They don't need love... At least, that's what they tell themselves in order to keep the longing and tears and brokenness at bay. They take on anger as their identity, declaring that anger to be their strength and the only strength/thing they need.
When that first heart break comes, we start the 'I identify with this' journey. We often use that first heartbreak and the love and acceptance, or the lack of love and acceptance that follows afterwards, to help us grow into who we become. Whatever we take in after that first heartbreak, whatever we take to heart from there on in, is what we build our character on - even if it is far removed from the loving, trusting soul we were prior to the heartbreak.
I believe it's the ones who do not find love and acceptance after that heartbreak - especially in not finding it where they need to find it most when a child: in their parent/s - that go on to be who they are not, either trying to be who they think everyone else wants them to be, in the hope of pleasing 'them', or go on to lose their own heart and the fullness of the love and tenderness and beauty and hope it was born with, and trading it in for a persona of anger.
I was the child who, upon receiving their first heartbreak, failed to find love and acceptance (as I needed it); who went on to identify myself as being a huge disappointment to those I loved, and believing I was not worthy of being loved.
I grew to believe that if I pleased 'this person' and 'that person', even if that meant living down to their expectations of me, then they would love me, and then I would be ok. I would be acceptable then. I would be worthy of love... But it never happened.
The scars caused by the broken heart carried me through my growing years, my teen years, and way into adulthood. I have, repeatedly, bowed to man in order to please them. I have bit my tongue, buried my dreams, denied my wants, settled for second best, and surrendered my identity to them. At times, in the midst of anger and frustration, I have, on occasion, snapped back in the hope of escaping 'their' grip, but once the anger had settled there remained a gentleness in my heart that welcomed in grief and had me bowing to man again - again declaring myself to be a disappointment and therefore unworthy of love.
When I cried out to Jesus for help, I was 26 years old (I am, at the time of writing this, soon to turn 48) and I was ready to suicide. I just did not want to live in a world without love anymore... However, at the time, I had a daughter whom I couldn't leave behind, and whom I dare not take with me [into death] and therefore felt there was nowhere else to turn, nothing else to do, nowhere else to go but to God... I cried out to Jesus to help me, and He did... Long story short: God came and met me in the gutter that was my life. He hugged me and held me as I released years of tears. He picked me up, dusted me off, set me on my feet and helped me start again. He filled my heart with hope, joy and peace, and He did so by offering me what I had been yearning for all my life: Love and acceptance - faults and all. He loved me, just the way I was... and He immediately started to heal my heart in order to free me of its brokenness and of the chains that bound me to feelings of unworthiness and unacceptance.
And while I cried many, many tears in the months following giving my heart to God - which I received through Jesus and all He did for me/us - there remained deep scars that He never touched until I was ready to trust Him with them - with those pieces of my old shattered heart...
Well, almost 22 years after I cried out to Him, I'm still being shown there are parts of my heart I haven't trusted Him with. That's not to say I haven't been healed of much - for I have. Nor is it to say I haven't been given a blessed life since coming to Him - for I have. Nor is it to say I haven't trusted some parts of my heart to Him - for I have; parts that have been set free. However, I still have my own will, and there is still sensitive parts of my heart that I have tried to deny, and, basically, I haven't wanted Him to go near them - and that because I either feared what would happen if He did, or because I buried it so deep inside me I had forgotten it was there.
One of the parts of my heart that I had pushed down and aside, and out of His reach for 22 years now, was revealed to me recently. Upon stepping away from online activities more, and deciding to focus more on 'real life', I came face to face with part of my own heart. This part of my heart may very well be the hardest and ugliest part now, but may very well have been the most tender and beautiful part once upon a time...
You see, in my brokenness I learned to be a man-pleaser. In taking this on I learned to find my worth in the love and acceptance I didn't receive. As an adult I took on anger as a form of self-protection, but that wasn't until after I broke my own heart, around the age of 24, when I aborted my second child. Prior to that, I ran after love, using no anger to protect me. I looked for love and acceptance - as my dad once said, "in all the wrong faces..." I carried sadness in my heart since early childhood, and with that, along with never feeling good enough, wanted, acceptable, or worthy of love, I remained broken, and in that woe-is-me brokenness my identity was formed: I was a man-pleaser. I was worth less. I was not good enough. I was a disappointment. Not pretty enough. Not thin enough. Not smart enough. Not...enough...
I became 'Not enough...' or, more precisely, my identity was I am 'Not good enough...'
As a child, I knew my dad loved me. I didn't have to do anything to make him love me. He just did. But I never felt worthy of my mother's love. That's not to say she didn't love me - but I don't think she understood my personality type, and I didn't understand her love language. And, instead of finding my identity in my father's love, I found it in the love and acceptance I couldn't seem to find in my mum. I am so not blaming my mum, but, as a child, I took in that I wasn't good enough for her, and that's where my identity was formed - in the "I'm not good enough" thoughts. If I had found my worth in dad's love, I would've been a totally different person, I'm sure: Far more confident and capable, and far less fearful. But, I was a kid who was counselled by a kid (myself) and this is where I ended up...believing that I was "Not good enough." Again, not my mum's fault. Just the beliefs I took on after that first heartbreak I experienced.
"Not good enough" was who I was in all my relationship, in wanting this dream or that one, in studying, in living, in just being... I would pull back from competing (unless really ticked off and seeking to knock someone on their butt because of it) and I would give up on relationships, on people, on dreams, on wants, on myself, and open myself to jealousy and fear because I was "Not good enough"... and I longed for someone to prove me wrong.
Yet, upon coming to God, upon learning that He really loves and accepts me, I still carried the 'name' of "Not good enough." The voice softened over time, but, upon stepping offline lately, upon seeking a new direction, and upon losing my 'muse' to the point of giving up writing a novel I loved and have 15 chapters for already, I had to face this part of my heart that was still keeping God out. But I didn't realise it until I prayed, "God...I've been walking with you for well over twenty years now, and I still fear what others think. I still hold fear. I am not completely free. Why...?"
Actually, now I think about it, it was after I asked "...Why...?" that my muse vanished, that inspiration and passion vanished, that online lost its appeal, that everything I was fond of, and everything I delighted in finding my identity in, stopped. It all now seemed out of my reach. And there I was, standing alone with 'this part of my heart' and with all the things that were working to keep me locked in fear. And I did not like what I found! When I stood there, stripped of the 'good things' that I found my identity in, there remained that stubborn, smudged, dirty sign reflecting my identity back to me - the one that insisted that I was, and still are, 'Not good enough...' And I saw red! I had had enough of that voice. I wanted to be free of it... So back to God I went...
And that's when I realised that all this 'rubbish' was blocking me from finding greater freedom. And that was still in my heart and life because I hadn't allowed God to deal with it. I had buried the 'Not good enough' label beneath years of denial, forgetting it was there... I had become so adept at burying things, at bottling things up, at denying and killing dreams and wants, (and that because I thought that was what was expected of me; that that was the 'Christian' and 'right' thing to do) that I had been able to ignore it. Yet, though I had put it from my mind - and tried to over and over again when the need called for it - I would still respond to it when rejected, when overlooked, when denied, and so on and so forth. I had buried it, but it still had power over me. I told myself I was good enough for God, and knew that He loved me, but 'Not good enough' still worked to form my identity.
This foundation of my old character was still there. I was still identifying with 'Not good enough' even though, through Jesus, in God, the Holy Spirit was telling me I am good enough. It's like with my parents: I knew my Father loved me and accepted me as I am, and I didn't have to do anything to please Him, but I was, you could say, finding my identity in 'Mother Nature' - or to be more precise, the love and acceptance I didn't find in this world, and the love and acceptance I didn't find in my Father's House/Church.
However, my identity is now in Christ, not in my past...
To be continued... :)