When You Get The Love You Think You Deserve.

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A break from our regularly scheduled programming to talk about courage.

If I must confess, I was a low self-esteem junkie. You get a strange sort of rush acknowledging the hate that surrounds you in catacomb mouths of taunting children. While the optimistic may deem this nervousness fight or flight, I prefer to think of it as eat or be eaten. I remember being pitted against other girls in gladiator-esque fights while a patron older girl laughed, repeated kicks to the stomach just to see if I would succumb to pain and the ever present fear of being deserted. Attack or risk broken bones and bruised flesh, the metallic tang of defeat against your teeth. I don’t remember ever feeling completely comfortable in my skin as a child.

I grew up in corn fields and plains flatter than roads can reach. Kansas, Iowa, then an oasis gap in Maryland before moving down south to Arkansas. Coveted beauty reflected the rustic scenery, with flaxen-haired girls batting cyan irises.  A visitor once asked why the people weren’t as nice and kind as the churches looked. A peer once asked a teacher to tell me my outfits were hideous. A girl wouldn’t stop laughing and mocked me as I wept from bullying. (The teacher did nothing.) People announced I would never attract a lover– far too hideous, too nerdy, too squinty-eyed and yellow. Hours spent huddled in reading nooks away from lunchrooms. The click of cameras and snickers in noisy gym changing rooms, the resultant shame in my own body, my own skin. Pleasure in binge-eating, hours of television, running…anything to block out the sound of just not belonging.

“Chink.”
“Fugly. Mugly, even, she needs a muzzle.”
“Go home.”

Hate is not something you can run away from. After a near breakdown in middle school, it was difficult to distinguish reality from paranoia. I thought people in the hallway were talking behind my back. What made my suspicions worse was when reality actually cut in–many of my paranoid thoughts came true. “Friends” who told me I could never amount to anything. Bullies who dared to only whisper behind seats in architecture class. “Fugly hermaphrodite toad.” Of course, never forget the body shaming. “Have you seen her eyes? She looks like she’s been punched…permanently.” It’s funny, despite being in my dream job in a faraway location, how stubbornly these memories stick to you. At the time, death sounded like it would become me.

Silence. Stillness. Not even pleasure, I gave up hope for that, but just hung onto the the thought of not being bullied. I entertained jumping, electrocution and choking. Drowning, downing pills or simply wasting away. My mind became a bizarre factory for frantic nightmares. Household items morphed into possible weapons.No place was safe, especially in my mind.

Then, there was God. I know my story is not special or alienated by extremity or type… but God. I was so downtrodden and ready to die…but God. No one loved me…but God. It was all hopeless…but God. I wish I could do this story more justice, to tell you what it was like to actually have an encounter with Christ, yet I do believe it’s one of those things you have to see for yourself. Perhaps, for you, it won’t be bright lights or sunrises. Perhaps for you, like me, it will be a struggle through dark tunnels and caves, yearning for a glimpse of light as faint as a distant star.

If God can speak through broken hearts and the broken body of Christ, what makes you think he wouldn’t speak through yours? (Credits to Oswald Chambers for that one.)

The best part is that the Christian life doesn’t end in brokenness, at least not mine. It’s more of an ongoing mending. I rip, I tear, I mess up things. Then, God.

When people scoff about how antiquated they think Christianity is or how dumb Christians are, I want to tell them that if I didn’t read the Bible, I would have killed myself. If I didn’t know how to pray, I would have taken that bottle of painkillers or worse. If God didn’t reach into my life and comfort me, I would have completely shut down. You see, most people don’t realize that God’s love is made to last and all Christians are sinners of all sorts. Liars, cheaters, prostitutes, pimps and drug dealers. Imperfect people worshiping a perfect God, so no wonder the view gets distorted sometimes. We were made to reflect Perfect Love as fallen people.

When you get the love you think you deserve, you tend to get less. I believed I didn’t deserve any love, so I received nothing. I didn’t even want to look at myself, let alone like anything.

When you gain the love you don’t deserve, everything changes. Perhaps heaven opening up for you is just one day of no negative thoughts. One day of no discrimination or racial slurs. One day of no domestic violence. One moment of peace.

For me, God is all of those things. When you gain the love you don’t deserve, you gain God.

Nothing’s better than that.

Psalm 136:1-16ESV

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

to him who alone does great wonders,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who by understanding made the heavens,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who made the great lights,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
the sun to rule over the day,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
the moon and stars to rule over the night,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
11 and brought Israel out from among them,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
12 with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
13 to him who divided the Red Sea in two,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
14 and made Israel pass through the midst of it,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
15 but overthrew[a] Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
16 to him who led his people through the wilderness,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

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