Even as a child, I struggled to see my value, although I wanted very much to feel valued by something deeper than the people around me provided. This unmet desire started to grow into my thoughts and morphed into the giant lie that I was “unwanted” and affected how I viewed myself. In middle school, I remember being so sensitive to the idea that I was unwanted that I started to hate myself. I hated my personality, hated the way I looked, how I dressed, the way I talked, hated the fact that in a group of people I became as timid as a baby doll and as insecure as an ice cube on a stove top. I was bitter inside and outside at the fact that I was no one’s first choice.
I went to University, still not understanding how to connect with God, but wanting to. My first few months of college magnified the worst of the lies that were built up in my mind during the first 18 years of my life. I was too stubborn and quiet to make friends, assuming no one wanted to connect with me. There had to have been something wrong with me, right?.
“No one cares about you. Seriously, look around. Not one person on this campus cares about you.”
“Eating alone…again? There’s something wrong with you.”
“If God loved you, don’t you think you would have heard from him by now?”
If there was ever a point in my life when I felt empty or value-less, it was that first semester of college. By mid November, I hated myself to the point that I wished that I could die. Something that looked like total darkness and felt an awful lot like depression took over my thoughts. I spent nights thinking about how I could hurt myself or worse without my family finding out.
Over time, I knew that I was supposed to be searching for Christians. Our family had gone to church and I knew we believed in God as as family unit. When I got up the courage to go to a bible study in one of the dorms, one of the leaders sought me out and started meeting with me. She invited me to a regional conference after Christmas. Honestly, I don’t know why I went. But I did.
The people at the conference were…warm, joyful, genuine, and REAL. The speaker was very upfront about sin, and our sinfulness and God’s holiness. I had never seen myself as a “sinful” person before. I had never been drunk. I could count on one hand the number of times I had swore in my life (I wish I was joking). I strove for the good grades and I never broke curfew. But yet, God was more than cussing and a few under-aged beers. His line was perfection, and I knew I wasn’t there.
By the middle of the conference, I was wrapped up in this tight blanket of worship music and belonging and safety. But it felt like I was only experiencing portions of the conference. Something was just missing.
The speaker invited us to worship, really worship God that night.
“Get on the ground and worship your God the way he deserves to be worshipped.” There was authority behind his voice, and I went obediently, still thinking this Christian thing was kind of weird, but going anyway.
Face was to the ground, eyes closed, I heard this still, gentle voice call me out. It was God. And he convicted my heart and he convicted it good.
In the midst of 2,000 mid-western college students, God specifically said to me, “Do you know how much it hurts me when you think those thoughts? Do you know how much I hate it when you think about destroying what I created?”
Of course I lost it, but the emotions weren’t what affected me. It was the fact that this God saw all of me. My body. My time. My thoughts. He saw me in the dark while I brainstormed ways to get ahold of razor blades. He saw me fall to the ground as a 17 year old, desperate for a relationship with God.
For the first time in my life, I had value. God had called me valuable. Righteous anger; God was rightfully angry with how I viewed myself. Who knew I was valuable! It wasn’t just one single night that God called me valuable, but it was every time I was reading the bible after that. Every time I thought about Jesus’ death on the cross, I was reminded that Jesus took the penalty for every life, for every sin.
My relationship with God started a few weeks after that conference, when my friend showed me in the bible that apart from Jesus, we cannot have a relationship with God (John 14:6). It was freeing to feel grace, and that I no longer needed to strive for perfection. I meerly needed to start reading about Jesus and following his teachings, and have faith each day that Jesus values me and God is not a cold, blind God. In fact, he even gave me his Holy Spirit to dwell inside of me as a deposit! The same Spirit that dwelled inside of Jesus, dwells inside of me!
Every now and again, I battle with feelings of self-hatred when I am not walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. My soul may be sealed for eternity, but my brain and body are still broken. But as my knowledge of God grows and I walk steadfastly with Him, the focus on myself ceases, and my view of him increases.
If you struggle with feelings of self-hate, please don’t keep them locked away. Satan uses whatever he can, especially what we refuse to bring into the light of community.
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