It always amazes me a little when people assume that because I’m a Christian that I’m somehow less human than others. Like believing in Jesus automatically sands off all of my rough edges. Honestly, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, I sometimes wonder if the reason Jesus got hold of me so early is because He knew how long it was going to take to work out all of my mess. And boy, is there a lot of mess.
Back around my 35th birthday at the end of January, I had a crisis of faith. Not that I didn’t believe in God anymore. I just really didn’t believe in me so much. I’ve spent the majority of my life trying to forgive abusers and get over the consequences of what they did to me. But in forgiving them and getting past those things, somehow, I never forgave me. You see, when people with twisted thinking and behaviors touch your life at such a young age, it can’t help but twist your own thinking and behaviors some. Things that other kids wouldn’t have been exposed to, I was. And so, things that they never would have thought or done, I did. So, while I could forgive the boy who showed me my first pornography at age eight, I couldn’t forgive myself for having looked at it. And while I could forgive the boys who touched me, I couldn’t forgive myself for “letting” them. And then, after the abuse ended and I began to seek out physical attention from other boys, I branded myself a harlot in my own heart and mind. And even after I walked away from those kinds of relationships, even after I entered my years of intense fear of men, I still carried the brand — at least when I looked in the mirror.
I hated myself.
I punished myself.
I neglected myself.
And then I hated myself more and punished myself more because of it.
My 35th birthday came and found me sick, in bed, looking into the mirror of my heart.
I think to myself, “What would you tell someone else who feels this way?” I can very easily answer that with a trite and supremely gooey answer about the depth of God’s love and the width and breadth of God’s grace. But somehow, when I’m looking at myself, those things never seem to apply.
A week after my birthday, when I was still so, so sick, I laid on the table in the acupuncturist’s office, beating myself up for having sought out treatment, because if I was a good enough Christian, I wouldn’t need to seek out treatment or ask for help, right? If anyone else said that about themselves, I’d correct them that it’s not weak to ask for help — that we all need help sometimes and that God puts doctors and pastors and counselors and acupuncturists in our lives to help us and to work healing in us. But somehow, when I’m the one asking for the help, I’m the exception to that rule, at least in my own mind.
From this place of brokeness — that I’m still crawling out of — I opened this chapter of Andy Stanley’s “The Grace of God,” and I found hope.
“Regardless of what you’ve done, regardless of how far you’ve strayed, regardless of how long it’s been since you’ve addressed God directly, regardless of what you’ve been told, regardless of how you feel, grace awaits you.”
Thank God, because oh, how I need it!
This post is part of our weekly book discussion on Andy Stanley’s “The Grace of God.” You don’t have to read the book to stick around and discuss it! If you have written a response, you’ll want to run over to my co-facilitator, Jason Stasyszen’s place, to link it up at the widget – and of course to see what he has to say.