Truth or Fear?
On September 11th. I am remembering. Praying. Hoping. And blogging. Not about national security or fallen heroes or even the importance of remembering. In the midst of this important day, I’m writing again about believing. Thinking. Choosing the Truth.
In my middle school years, before my father would leave on a business trip, he would often pull me aside and exhort me to “Only eat what Mom puts on your plate.” “Don’t eat seconds.” He said, “No boy will love you if you’re fat.”
I thought my father was telling me that if I were fat, I would not be worth loving. That’s a message that runs deep in my bones and in the world. But I've realized that my father wasn't saying that. He was saying that if I were fat, I would be dismissed well before being given the opportunity to be known and loved.
My parents understood the skin-deep world we live in and that failing to reach my culture's criteria of beauty would cause me pain. All their efforts to have me look a certain way (small), participate in the “right” activities, and join the clubs they favored flowed from their fear. Fear that if I didn't _________ or wasn't __________, I would be rejected, unhappy and alone. Those are things that no parent wants for their child. And okay, they had a point.
I recently found a poem I wrote when I was fifteen years old, perhaps while my father was on a business trip. Here she is:
I wear a wig.
My clothes never clash.
I paint my nails.
Oh gawd…I lost an eyelash.
I use make-up.
I wear a five-inch heel.
I had a face-lift.
Only my loneliness is real.
Okay, so I’m not going to win any prizes, but still. I understood something then that we all know well now. We can try to squeeze ourselves into a more culturally acceptable shape, but when we are living out of fear, we are living a lie. We can try to “fit” but our souls cannot be masked. The truth of who we are does not conform to the one-size-fits-all images this world prescribes. A true heart, a joy-filled spirit, a soul at rest is born out of acceptance and love. There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear…(1John 4:18)
I've been repenting lately of believing the lie that my worth is tied to the number on the scale. The number creeps up and the lie from below creeps in. I’m breaking agreements with it AGAIN, agreements whose root is found in fear. Fear of rejection. When the fear of everything bad I don’t want to experience seeps in, I find myself under the relentless grip of soul spanx. But God is not a God of form fitting one-size-fits-all hearts. Nor is He a God of fear but of love.
My parents loved me, but left unchecked, fear will have its way. It is not a good way. I don’t want to parent my children out of fear for them nor to live in it myself. Fear-based living doesn't work. It doesn't bring life! Never has, never will. Shaping my life into society’s values de jour does not bring approval, happiness or a deep sense of belonging. (Cue Miley Cyrus, Lindsay Lohan, or your high school prom queen.)
My parents wanted to shield me from unnecessary suffering. I understand that. They wanted me to have a full and happy life. I thank them. I want my children to have a full and happy life—heck, I want one myself! But I am not going to have that, nor are my children, and neither are you, when the price to possess one includes handing over our dignity and value to the standards of a godless world. Fitting into a size four won’t do it. Being in the sisterhood of the Phi Beta Kappa Epsilon Delta Woohoos won’t either.
Living an honest life in vulnerable response to and pursuit of the Living God. Increasingly believing that what HE says about me is True. Growing in knowing Jesus and living in the truth of his infinite approval, grace and Love. And that truth…well, that truth fits everyone.
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