Now, I know that you are not all Christians out there, but at the heart of what I’d like to share in this post is that at times I hid my insecurity by taking a very legalistic view of myself—I tried to follow all the rules, dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s in order to live up to an unattainable standard of perfection. So for the rest of this post, wherever you see the word “Christian", put in whatever applies to you. I have had lots of contact over the years with people from different religions; I’m confident that like so many other aspects of covering up our insecurities, trying to live up to an impossible standard isn’t confined to people practicing any one religion, or none at all.
I was raised in a two religion home—Catholic and Methodist. I went to Catholic school during the week and to Methodist church on the weekends. My paternal grandma took me everywhere with her, and I saw many a gospel concert in my day! When I was seven years old, I was at a Christian rock concert and they held an altar call. I remember even then feeling the Lord speak to me, so I went up and was saved. From then on I learned and did everything it seemed to me a good little Christian girl should do. Before I go any further, I want to clear up something. I am not saying that I was faking being Christian. I loved the Lord and wanted to serve him. What I am referring to is the way I would go through all the motions without feeling the true joy of knowing the Lord within me in order to hide my insecurities and feed my need for acceptance. I learned all the Bible facts and all the rules and tried to follow them, but I did it to feel loved and needed. I wanted my grandma’s love. What better place to feel loved and accepted than in church?
In true Jenn fashion though, I went overboard. I started teaching when I was sixteen, I signed up for every committee and Bible study that was offered, and I immersed myself in a Christian fellowship group at college. These are all great things in and of themselves, but at home, I must confess my walk with the Lord left much to be desired. My prayer life was non-existent, and I hardly ever cracked open a Bible on my own—unless I was prepping to lead Bible study.
I walked through a sort of Christian haze of activity without experiencing the full joy of knowing Christ. Don't get me wrong, God and I had our moments—usually Him reprimanding and me repenting, but we also had some great times together. It’s just that during that season of my life Christianity was more of an ideal I ascribed to than a description of the real me.
Part of what kept me back from having that true relationship with Christ was that deep inside I truly did not feel that I deserved God's love. I saw myself as fat and ugly, and believed that was how God saw me, too. He could not possible think I was worthy of His blessings. I knew I was saved and would go to heaven, but I felt that I was just one of many; no way could I be as important or worthy of heaven as others. I could not figure out how God could want me with all my brokenness, sin and pain. I knew all the lingo and could pray out loud with the best of them, but inside I could not let go of the feeling that God just wasn't listening to me. On the outside I was trying to live the perfect Christian life, but on the inside I convinced myself that God did not have time for someone as imperfect as me. Can you relate?
At first I was really nervous about this post. I wondered what my Christian friends reading it would think of me. Over the months, I have learned that I need only be concerned with what God thinks. Whether I live up to my self-imposed standards of what it means to be a Christian or not, God finds me worthy. His love for me is not dependent on anything I do or don’t do. Once I got that through my stubborn head and into my heart, I was able to see being a Christian in a new light. By deciding I was not worthy of His love unless I was living up to some ideal, I was basically short changing God. Seeing myself through the lens of that kind of unconditional love has had a mind-blowing impact on my insecurities. It has allowed me to begin to emerge from behind the mask of the perfect Christian. I no longer need to hide my insecurities under a laundry list of good deeds and church activities. I choose what I will be involved in based on what I feel He wants me to do and what will bring joy and growth instead of just adding to my list of Christian accomplishments.
So this week, I’d like to challenge you to consider what it would be like to be loved solely for who you are, regardless of what you do or don’t do. Are you going through the motions, jumping through hoops to appear to be a perfect someone, or are you experiencing the joy of unconditional love?