I thought I'd return to the world of blogging by sharing a personal story about an issue I've faced most of my life and up until a year ago, never truly realized it.
My very abusive father deserted us just before I entered middle school. Although sad and feeling abandoned, it was somewhat a relief. However, whether it was that or the delicate age of being a tween... I went on a mission to find myself- through other people. The easiest group to get into in the 6th grade was what we called the 'stoner' group. All you had to do was act 'bad', skip class every so often and smoke cigarettes (which I had found a way to do so convincingly without inhaling - big accomplishment since we were all only 11 years old). I had made some friends in that group but they never expressed the qualities of true, meaningful relationships I seemed to be searching for. At the end of the year, I was -in turn- hazed out of the group by being picked on and even physically kicked. I was heartbroken even though I knew that is where I didn't belong.
The next year, I entered 7th grade alone. I had no friends and decided to continue the year that way... a loner. Everybody seemed to leave me be and that's how I liked it. "I don't need anyone." seemed to be the thought of getting through... by the end of the year, however, alone is what I certainly was - and I felt the repercussions of it. I wanted some friends desperately.
I made the decision to try to have as many friends in the 8th grade as I possibly could, so I transformed my mind and image to become what we called the ‘preps’. I had big hair and a lot of poorly applied make up, tried out for cheerleading and hung out with the cool people. I attended dances and basketball games and finally felt ‘in’. I should have been happy, then, right? I wasn’t. Something was still missing within myself.
During my first two years of high school, I had a couple of good friends but they all seemed to be short lived only lasting that specific school year. I began to wonder... “what’s wrong with me?”
The conscious decision with a little help from purposely rebelling against my mom led me to a path of thinking... “If I pretend to be like who ever I am with, there is no reason why that person wouldn’t like me... after all, nobody really hates themselves.” This was, unknowingly to me at that time, a destructive path.
The summer before my 11th grade year, I met my boyfriend and carelessly became pregnant after only 3 months. I went through the rest of my junior year so obviously pregnant and endured the turned down and shaking heads, pointing and staring of my teachers and peers, even family.
My original plan to just act like everyone else went into overdrive the moment I had my son. I had just turned 17 but the overwhelming feeling consumed me that I didn’t want to be viewed as a careless teen, I wanted, needed to be viewed as a responsible adult, a mother. I, now, had more than ever to prove to everyone.
I graduated with my class in May of 1997 and moved on to work odd, but full time jobs to get out on my own. My plan to make everyone like me continued except by now it was more natural and more on an unconscious level. It had become ‘me’. That’s who I was now. When I got married and had 2 more children, it strengthened even more. I was more reserved around the reserved, goofy around the goofy, brash around the brash, wholesome around the wholesome, giving around the giving -- a self proclaimed chameleon.
However, the way I was leading my life started surfacing and biting me whenever I would get two or more people together that had the oppositely strong personalities. Having my quiet Christian friends around my out spoken family... or even hanging out with my two sisters, one who is more sophisticated and reserved while the other, off the wall goofy without a care in the world of what people thought of it. I appreciated and respected the personalities of all these people - the problem was... I didn’t know who to act like without the other judging me. It got so bad that I avoided any of these situations.
Even through my years in church and a local bible study, it never occurred to me what I was actually doing. I felt an emptiness inside that people just couldn’t fill. I had so many things to share with others but fear of judgment or just having one person not like me prevented me from contributing things that God had put me through to help others.
The last few years seemed to crumble around me with the very complicated and bitter divorce of my in-laws, which seemed to involve us all, relationship and family struggles and several deaths in the family. Although, these times tend to weaken us... something woke up inside of me. I realized one day, all of these years I pretended to be like everyone else, I had lost something great... myself, my individuality. I didn’t know who I was. I realized something grander... that emptiness that I had felt over the years which I had tried to fill with people was never filled for a reason. It WAS acceptance, love, feeling wanted and needed that I was longing for but I was looking for it in the wrong places. The only one that could fill that void is Jesus Christ.
This revelation struck me. I suddenly felt like an infant having to start over with my life. I decided to start with my personal relationship with God. All of these struggles that had plagued my life, child abuse, teen pregnancy, my less than perfect marriage, how I’ve chosen to raise my children and the personality of mine that wanted to shine through because of all of this... had been hidden from others to protect myself from not being liked. They were actually a gift from God. He put me through these struggles not to weaken me but to strengthen me and to prepare me to help others when He felt the time was right.
I am me and I now know that I cannot please everyone. God loves me for who I am and wants me to be just that. Although some may still turn their noses down on me and wrongfully judge me, God wants me to focus on Him and what he has bestowed upon me to help others. If we all can shine and help even one person get through something we have gone through, that overthrows the five, ten or hundreds of people who do not agree and may form their own judgment upon you.
God is our only judge and He wants our faith, our trust, our friendship and our love. If we give all of ourselves to Him, everything else will follow.
1 Peter 3: 13-17
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.