Unconditional

A little over a year ago, I started going to a new church. From the very beginning, I could tell that there was something different about this church, I just couldn’t explain it in words. And then, about a month ago, I heard someone else explain it perfectly: “This is a church where it’s okay that I’m broken.”

I’ve always had a wrong perception of the church. But that perception got skewed early on – every Sunday that our family would have a brawl at home, then paste on smiles, go to church, and tell everybody that we were happy and well. Or every time a church person would tell me, “Good girls don’t do/say/think/feel that.” Or when I would mess up, only to be told, “And I thought you were a Christian!” Even now, at age thirty-six, I’ve woken many times during the night exclaiming, “What do you want from me?” Because the reality is that I expect everybody to want something from me, and I want to be whomever or whatever it is that they want me to be.

My friend, Nick, has taught me so much about how to love others. And the deeper truth is that he also taught me how to begin to love myself. I had spent years in a world where all of life was about conforming to others’ criteria, and then I met Nick, who is the complete antithesis of that. Not that he tries to upset people. He just is himself, and if that doesn’t work for you, then it’s your loss. He’s moving on. I just stood back and watched him with my mouth open (and my hand over my mouth, so that nobody would see my amazement), and realized that I had met a person who is truly unique – and that there was nothing wrong with that, and that he is okay with being unique. And that if he’s unique, and it’s okay, then maybe it’s okay for me to be who I am (a unique person), too.

Last week, I announced my PTSD to the blogosphere. But truth be told, I’d been suffering from it for a long time, and nobody knew, because I was covering it up. Announcing here last week was a big step, but honestly, the bigger step was calling my parents, and telling them. When I discussed it with my counselor, I heard myself say: “I feel like I’ve been living two lives – the real me that I am, and then the carefully-crafted me that I let others see.” It’s not that I wake up every day and say, “Let me be a two-faced hypocrite.” Not at all. It’s about protection. I’m protecting myself from the rejection that I’m convinced others will feel when I don’t meet the expectations that I expect them to have.

I have believed that if people saw the real, unique me – which I always through of as the bad parts of me – I have believed that they would love me less. That they would realize that I’m less worthy of love. But Chapter 6 of “The Cure” poses this theory:

“But what if instead, there was a friend so safe that the worst aspects of me could be known? I would not be loved less, but actually loved more by opening up.”

Lately, I’ve started seeing that theory turn into reality. I’ve found friends – both churched and unchurched, Christian and not Christian, who have so completely embraced every ugly piece of me that they’ve been faced with. And whether I’m sobbing into a couch pillow or beaming in a church pew, I don’t have to reach far to find that “friend who is closer than a brother.” And the more real I am – even with the ugly parts – the more loved I feel.

Have you seen this reality in your life? Or is this a theory that you’re still hoping to see proven?

This post is part of a weekly discussion on Lynch, McNicol, and Thrall’s book, “The Cure.” You don’t have to read the book to participate in the discussion. If you have written a response to this chapter, please feel free to link it up at the widget below. Then, go visit my co-facilitator to get his perspective on the chapter.

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About Sarah Salter

Comments

  1. You have found what church is suppose to be…. and truly seem to have friends that do “stick closer than a brother”… Bottom line is be real, and its working.. I like what Pastor Chads church says ( Methodist), “I am an example of a christian, not a perfect example, but a living one”…Love ya Sista..

  2. Thanks for your honesty. I’m glad that I’m getting to know you better and I appreciate you sharing, it’s brave.

    A good friend is a blessing. There have been times that I’ve sought friends only to have God remove them from me. I realized He was wanting me to turn to HIM at that time. Other times I’ve been seeking Him and He provides His love through friends.
    I’m learning He works in mysterious and different ways that I expect or even sometimes want.

  3. Good stuff! I don’t share everything with everyone because I know some can’t handle it. As scary as it is though, I’ve been able to trust the Holy Spirit when He says, “go ahead and talk to them about it” and I share the ugliest things. And yes, I have experienced deep and incredible love and acceptance as a result. I think one of the biggest “revelations” I’ve had from this book is that the reason we never fully feel loved until we share these ugly things is because we don’t know whether they love us for all our parts or just for the parts they see or don’t see. It’s freedom when you can share the ugliness you’ve experienced in a broken world and have someone still look at you the same and love you. God is so good to us! 🙂 Thanks Sarah.

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