Most of my life, I have struggled with worthiness. I have lived with a silent fear of missing out and not measuring up. From this fractured, false foundation, I attempted to earn my way into the heart of others and God.
Just saying that sounds absurd, but when I look at my behaviors and decisions over the years, I see the evidence of striving. I see an insecure girl and woman believing she had to work harder and be smarter. If she did enough, it might earn her a place in the hearts of others.
If someone else in my circle won, it felt like my loss. It caused me to believe I was behind and missing the mark. I thought success would increase my worth.
My number one limiting belief was that I had nothing in the way of gifts and talents to bring to the table. This belief was embedded deep in the core of my personal theology. It wasn’t that I just needed to go Stuart Smalley on myself [if you don’t know, google it]. I didn’t need a list of personal daily affirmations. I didn’t need to work on my self-esteem. I needed to uproot a lie I held as truth.
What was the lie?
My brokenness disqualified me from purpose and worth and caused me to be forgotten and left out. This was fertile soil for a false narrative that became a constant hum in my journey. Work harder. Show them you have value. Do more. Do better. Even now, that pricks a place in my soul because that is an exhausting task with no criteria for when the job is complete.
My calendar was full; I was over-committed at work, with my friends, and at church. Even with my overused yes, I was empty. My value was not growing in proportion to my striving, and my faith was stagnant.
Because I felt unseen, I worked to be seen. Leaning into faith, I would later learn to believe a particular name of God–El Roi. But this was not an overnight process. There was so much I had to unlearn, to surrender, and to stop. I had to dismantle the lie I held as absolute truth. I had to step away as a volunteer. I had to surrender the things I thought I needed to do and reach for faith.
This is still a process for me. It can be exhausting to unlearn and replace old narratives. The work is hard, but I have learned that it is profitable to produce peace. I want to defer to faith over fear. In my morning reading yesterday, the following words penned by Paul David Tripp pierced my heart.
“For the believer, fear is always God-forgetful.”
God-forgetful. Yes, I recognized that in my worthiness battle. It was the fertilizer for unbelief to be the logical voice in my head. In his book, Fresh Faith, Jim Cymbala says, “Unbelief talks to itself instead of talking to God.” He goes on to say in that chapter, “Unbelief often clothes itself in ‘being smart.’ We use cleverness to cover the tracks of our lack of faith.”
The trauma in my life was real, and it had an impact on my outlook. As I began healing, I realized how much my striving to earn approval stemmed from unbelief. It was easy for me to be God-forgetful because I believed God had forgotten me. In my unbelief, I became my biggest ally. I reasoned things with myself, and I forgot to talk to God.
Because he is good and trust-worthy, God provided for me despite my lack of faith. He gave me wise mentors and access to opportunities that ultimately purged my heart and mind of the lies that comforted me. I know it is difficult to believe, but the intersection of my brokenness and healing is the place where I found freedom and purpose. I hadn’t earned anything; it was a gift from my Creator.
That is the thing about God–he accepts who others reject. He welcomes who others shun. He pursues his people. He establishes worth. He affirms purpose. He redeems the deeply broken pieces of our story.
The question for us is–will we believe it?