I have a confession to make.
I am not worthy of love.
I’ve never felt I was worth loving. Those who know me know I have a wonderful and loving wife, and she does love me. I know, undoubtedly, that there are people who love me, and who think the world of me. I think they’re wrong. I seriously only accept that God loves me, and sometimes, I even wonder whether that’s true.
No, I’m not looking for encouragement, or people to remind me that I’m loved. I don’t write this to get comfort, or sympathy. I’m simply admitting, publicly, for the first time, that this is the story that I’ve been telling myself, the narrative that has ruled my life for the longest time. And I write this because I wonder how many people feel the same way. And I want to say, it’s OK to feel this way. It’s not wrong. It just is how we feel.
This is the story that I’ve been telling myself constantly. I could blame others. I could look at my mum, and how I felt she could have loved me more. I could look at the way I didn’t fit in during primary school, always being gawky and unsure of myself. I could point to my secondary school life and how I had few good friends, and how others would like to tease just to see my reaction. I could point and point and point but, who is responsible for the story that I tell myself?
The problem isn’t that I need someone more to tell me that I’m loved. The Bible says so. My wife says so. My closest friend other than my wife says so. But I struggle to believe all of them because there is a deep part of me that keeps saying that they don’t know the whole story. And the whole story is… a lie.
See, there’s a part of me that looks inwards to the deep, dark side of me. The part that gets angry when things go wrong, the part that curses and swears, the part that glides under the surface of my emotions and my psyche, ready to lash out and hook and reel in another victim of the barbs that are studded into my terrible tongue. It exists, and it is terrible. Sorry, that should be Terrible. My Tongue deserves a capital T for how Terrible it is. My heart too. Terrible, Terrible heart. Terrible wishes I have, selfishness, desires that should never see the light.
But that’s only one side of myself. And it’s not true that it’s a side that no one sees. My wife sees it. My close friend sees it. My kids see it. And they. Still. Love. Me.
The thing about stories is that sometimes they come into conflict with each other. Was the Big Bad Wolf really that bad, or was Little Red Riding Hood just an irresponsible little girl who should have known better? Was Cinderella really abused by her stepmum or stepsisters, or was she a terrible young lady who never did as she was told, and kept coming up with fanciful stories, stealing a gown and shoes just so she could seduce a prince? There probably was a namecard in the shoe she left behind – I mean, no one else in the kingdom had the same size in shoes? We don’t know the other side of the story that’s missing, so we can’t really tell.
But for our own stories, why are we holding back even though we know both sides of the story? Heck we know ALL sides of the story. Why are we believing only one side?
Here’s a little experiment. Try saying, “I am worthy of love.” Now listen to all the voices of opposition that rush up within you, drowning out the words you just said. How much of those voices are voices of someone else who said those words to you?
“You’re too fat.” “You were an accident.” “You aren’t as successful as so-and-so.” “You’re not good enough.” “You’re supposed to already be here at this age, but you’re so far away.” “You’re not living up to your potential.” “You suck.” “Your scars make you ugly.”
Scars make you unique. All of us are unique, and special, and worthy of love. I know this for sure. I’d like to say that the simplest answer is that Christ died for you and me. He knows everything about us, and He still reaches out to us. But you may not like the Gospel or have some other issue with it. Another issue of what story you choose to believe.
But see, if you can find even one person who says they love you for who you are, then the question is – why are you rejecting that story for the story that keeps ringing in your head, all these negative voices? Why aren’t you listening to the good story? Because it’s too good to be true?
No. It’s because you find it scary to believe it. You can’t bring yourself to think, that it could be true, because it’d mean giving up everything you’ve believed about yourself. The fabric of life itself has to change for you to believe that new story, because you’ve gotten so used to the story that has ruled you for so long.
Here. Let me be the first then to say, that I know how it feels. That’s why I’m confessing this today, now. Because that is exactly how I feel. That even the magnificent story of the Gospel can’t overwrite the story that I hear in my own head, the piper’s music that leads to despair and hand wringing and tears. Stories that lead to other stories. “It’s too difficult to go on.” “Life would better if I just ended it here.” “She’d be better off without me.” “I don’t deserve happiness.” “I don’t deserve to be here doing this.”
Some people call that selfish. Or such introspection wimpy. Or that I’m weak. Too emotional. Too much of a girl (Why is this a bad thing again?) Really. Words like that have been used on me before. But you see… when these words are heaped up on us, when we start to believe them, we are again believing the stories that others are scripting for us.
Time to call a lie, a lie. Time to wake up to this simple and beautiful story.
“I can be loved. Whether I am worthy or not… is not the point. I am loved, I can be loved.”
This isn’t about ignoring our faults. We need to grow and change, to mature, to be of better service to others, to be better people. This also isn’t about some hippy effort to be positive and be strong. No. Also not about ignoring others completely because sometimes the feedback is real, and worth listening to. Instead, it’s a small and difficult step, to start looking forward with hope. To start drowning out the lies that have been drowning us, and instead listen to the truth that has always been there.
“I can be loved.”
Can you say that? Can you just repeat it, without allowing the negative voices to start voicing their doubts again? Try. Say it. Whisper it. Draw a hoodie over your head, put yourself under a blanket, and just hear yourself saying it.
“I can be loved.”
Believe it. We can be loved. The message of the Gospel hinges on that, the ones who love us – truly love us, not just say it and then abuse or use us – really see that we can be loved. God wants – they want – to tell us that we are precious. That it’s really ok to be who we are at our core, broken and miserable as we are. We can be loved. There’ll be growing up to do. There’ll be adjustments to make. But We. Can. Be. Loved.
We might not be worthy of that love, but we CAN be loved.
Say it with me. Believe it with me. This won’t be the start of a good story, it’s a continuation. It might be the start of the more enjoyable part though.
We can be loved.