I was born and raised in an environment that looked good and godly. But its “goodness” actually fostered a strong sense of inadequacy, remorse and frustration. I became defensive and pushed away the acceptance and love that I desired and needed.
This state of conflict made acknowledging my real need for love frightening, a “set up” for further wounding. That fear was based on the fact that this “good girl” had tried to get real needs met through false ways. I grew up in a sexually broken world where older ones, both male and female, drew me into their sex games. Intensely shameful, such abuse also provided rewards of notoriety, exclusivity and acclaim. Still, the shame prevailed. I knew the damage was deep; abuse disqualified me from offering myself as a pure gift to others.
Many are the temptations to run and hide, as did Adam and Eve in the garden story (Gn 3:7-8). Instead of confronting the facts of their sin and brokenness, they, like me, denied that state. I did not yet know that wholeness could only be found in the loving mercy of our Father and the unconditional, loving embrace of His community as we are accepted and learn to be ones who are being healed.
My life has been defined by attempts to belong, even in a highly “Christian” environment. The lack of loving acceptance from my father (my perception) wounded me deeply. I noticed that the females in my family (mother, grandmothers) were not honored or respected in ways that I thought appropriate. I came to believe that if I was going to be accepted and belong, I would have to work it out alone, by myself. It seemed like my family, and even the society around me, was incapable of recognizing and accepting this gift—me.
After all, I was a woman, and too dark with African features to succeed in a white, male-dominated environment. And a poor woman at that! Who would take me seriously?
Defending my right to “be” became a preoccupation. I overachieved in every area of my life. At home, I became a “good girl” whose obedience and compliance covered her disdain and contempt. At school, I was recognized with good grades, certificates, trophies and scholarships but remained a defensive loner. At church, I was a model Christian who served Jesus in many ways while still “not liking people.”
The challenge to “fit in” or belong has been be arduous for me. Most of my life I have felt like an alien who liked neither men nor women. I disliked people in general! Further complications developed because I was gifted in helping people. I learned that I could benefit the very ones who disquieted me while still remaining cut off from the good of these relationships.
In my busy life, I was still bound by deep shame and inadequacy. The people I knew did not know that I was trying to meet my needs apart from them in false ways. I hated my masturbation habit and my subtle emotional and sexual manipulation of others.
I asked myself: Why was I the giver of good things rather than the recipient of them? I would shrug off others’ efforts to love me: “I don’t need that; I’m fine, I’m good.” My wounds and emptiness led me to the point of confrontation. This whole conflict took place within the confines of a religious façade that had the appearance of godliness but not the heart (2 Cor 5:12).
Confrontation came while attending a Living Waters training. I went to learn how to more effectively help “them” (others), but it was me who ended up being helped and launched onto a road of healing that continues to this day. Every lesson presented during that training echoed in my ears and resounded in my heart to the point that I could no longer run and hide behind the false ways of being.
I was stripped of the titles and positions; others knew me only by my first name. Having to wear that name tag for those five days brought me back to the reality of who I was without the “coverings and coloring”; I was stripped before God and others. I came to know, in truth, that He was not impressed by my titles or accomplishments.
For perhaps the first time, I understood that I mattered to Him because He made me a good gift (Ps 139). It was not based on anything I had done or potentially could or would do or become. I knew in my heart that I was accepted by Him simply because He loved me (Jn 3:16, 1 Jn 4:19). Then came the shocking reality that exposed the denial and shined light on the truth: “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:20, 21).
What was I going to do with that bit of information? What would I do with Isaiah 53:6, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23? My conclusion was that I could do nothing alone, but that my Father wants me healed and restored to be that one He purposed me to be (Heb 4:13-16). I finally understood that I had a choice to live in the liberty and freedom of the grace of our Lord or to continue in the bondage of the false self; I chose the former and continue to pursue His grace.
As stated in chapter 2, “God is to be found in the center of our deep desires and antagonisms, our unacknowledged hopes and fears. . . . The inner sanctuary where God dwells is not to be found in the highly edited and idealized version of ourselves which we like to believe in and try to present to others.”