Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Ever since I was a little girl, I had a rebellious response to hurt inflicted by those I love. Whether the hurt was intentional or not, if I felt it deeply, if it felt like an attack on my inherent worth as a person, I put up a wall fortified by rebellion.
Let me explain what I mean by that. When I was a child (I can't have been older than jr high age), my mom took me clothes shopping. We were having a good time, trying on clothes in the Kohl's dressing room when she made a small, offhand remark that I'm sure she immediately forgot.
"You'd look so cute if you lost five pounds!'
My poor mom. Mom, if you're reading this, don't worry- I'm not holding any of this against you, it's just my earliest memory of putting up rebellion-based walls.
Anyway. It was one short sentence, but it echoed throughout my heart like roaring thunder. I heard "You're not cute now. If you want anyone to love you, you need to lose weight. You're not good enough the way you are." And in my heart, I made a vow. It shouldn't matter if I lost five pounds. It shouldn't matter if I gained 50. If someone couldn't love me for who I am rather than how much I weigh or what I look like, they simply weren't worth my time, energy, or consideration. And that vow set me down a path of doing exactly the opposite of what my mom suggested. My weight is still, and probably always will be, a huge struggle for me because I spent so much of my young adult life rebelling against the sentiment that my value was measured by my weight or beauty. I gained weight and gained weight and gained weight but I didn't care. If the right guy couldn't love me despite that, he wasn't the right guy.
A wall fortified by rebellion.
I'm thirty one now, and I still do this. It's an incredibly unhealthy defense mechanism, but incredibly hard to break. It's playing out similarly, yet differently now.
I love my husband. Despite everything. I want to fight for our marriage. I want to do everything I can to make things better. But the fear... the fear is crazy. It says "What if he only decides to stay and fight for you because you were being a 'good little girl,' and the second you lose it, he will leave again?" It says, "He should love you and be committed to you no matter what! Screw him if he's not! How dare he expect you to be perfect when he has done so much damage!" The fear shakes my heart and yells that vulnerability is foolish. That he has no right to be angry because of my anger. And so, when I'm longing to be vulnerable in a tough moment, there's this battle going on inside of my heart. The old voices scream "If he can't love you when you're weak and depressed and exhausted... if he can't love you when you are struggling and need love and support, then he isn't worth it. Push him away. Make him show you his true colors. If he doesn't want to fight for you even when you are being a straight up crazy person, he's not worth your heart!"
So I put up walls. Fortified by rebellion.
And then... when my husband doesn't scale those walls, I'm left wondering if they had the desired outcome. Did they actually protect me? Or have I hurt myself further? Not my husband, but me. Have I hurt myself?
Here's the thing I'm coming to realize. My walls don't keep the pain out. They don't create a barrier that pain and hurt and disappointment simply bounce off. They keep it locked up with me. My walls give that pain no where to go. No where but deeper into my heart.
It's not been an easy lesson to learn. In fact, I'd say I've just barely begun to chip away at some pretty big, bad habits. All too often I respond to pain or fear with harsh words that are meant to push the man that I love away. Because I'm scared that if I try to draw him in and he rejects me, that I may not make it out whole. I'm scared to be real, and let my brokenness be seen, because I feel like it's part of the reason that we're in this mess in the first place. That my struggles and brokenness and depression were just too much to handle. A perfectly played assault by the devil, really. Get the girl who doesn't like to be weak to show her weakness, and then use that weakness to create cracks in her marriage due to various circumstances, and then deal the death-blow. Get her husband to reject her because of her weaknesses. Because of her brokenness. Because she simply couldn't be strong anymore.
Please understand- I'm far, far, far from perfect. I've inflicted as much pain as I've sustained. I totally know this. The difficult part of humanity is that we are only able to see our side of the story well. We can try to put ourselves in someone else's shoes and feel their pain, and understand why they acted the way they did, but it never sticks quite like our own pain. So hear me when I say that in my brokenness I was not a very good wife for the last part of our marriage. I was barely there. An anxiety-filled, exhausted, strangely rage-y person who should have taken herself to the doctor to talk about postpartum anxiety and depression way before I finally did. A story about the wounds I've inflicted I will save for another day or this post will never end.
What I'm getting at here is that I know my worth. With my head. But when those I love make me question it, it hurts. A lot. And I don't respond well. Instead of bringing that stuff to the Lord and asking Him to take it, I build up huge walls. But they have never actually protected me. They've never made me strong. In fact, they've weakened me because I'm so busy trying to keep those voices out, trying to shout over the din that "I AM worth it! No matter what you say!" that I have completely missed the still, small voice of the one that truly matters. I've been so angry and so adamant and so rebellious, that my heart is never still enough to hear the way He sees me. It's never quiet enough to hear Him tell me of my worth. And maybe that's the worst part of all.
How many times have I simply shushed the Lord when He wanted to tell me that I was beautiful, or kind, or precious? How many times have I stopped up my ears while He was whispering that sometimes strength is letting yourself be vulnerable even if it may hurt. How many times have I missed Him telling me that I am a daughter of the Most High King, and I am loved by the One who is not just good enough, but the best because I was too busy building up those walls?
Regret is a pretty debilitating force. And I have quite a lot to regret. All of those walls, all of the rebellious tantrums, and all of the times where I simply chose not to turn to the only source of truth, acceptance, love, and the only being in existence who truly, truly sees me and knows my worth. The thing is, I think I've chosen destructive coping mechanisms long enough. I'm not going to add regret to the list. At least I'm fighting not to. Just like I'm going to have to start tearing down the walls I've built, and fight against my urge to continue to build them in this situation. Which is going to be a huge struggle, and it has been.
I am trying to remind myself that when the people I love most in the world hurt me, it is probably because they have been hurt too. And I can add to both of our hurts, or I can ask the Lord to help me choose love and mercy and grace.
I want to choose the latter. I'm going to fail more times than I would like, but I really want to choose love. Not rebellion. Why would I want to rebel against a Daddy who has provided me with every good thing, and who loves me beyond what any mortal man is capable of?
Life is messy. And painful. And grief isn't rational. But God is bigger than all of that, and He's certainly not left me. I know that none of this is what He wants. That He grieves with me. And that's why I can say that I'll be ok, even if I don't build any walls and am still rejected. Eventually I will be ok. Because He loves me. He loves me, and my worth is in Him.
My worth is in Christ.