MY STORY OF THE LIFE CHANGING POWER OF KNOWING GOD’S FAVOR, AND EXPERIENCING HIS COMPASSION
The frustration, discouragement and pain I lived with from childhood well into my adult years centered in two experiences. The first was the disconnect between an instinctive belief that I was more valuable as a unique person and, therefore, worthy to be treated more favorably than this world and its people treated me, and my experience of continually being devalued. The second frustration was that I sensed there was more I was to do with my life than I found myself able to achieve. I found myself, too often, making choices that took or kept me in less desirable places or failing to make the choices that moved me toward the goals I hoped to achieve. These discouraging experiences eventually led to a crippling belief that, in some ways, I was inherently defective and would never be anything else.
These hurtful and disempowering beliefs began in how I was related to growing up. In mid-life I came to realize that the consistent message I received from my father was that I was a mistake; not a son he delighted in, but a problem he had to reluctantly manage. That devaluing, toxic message convinced me that I was a mistake and inherently defective. The other crippling message my parents gave me was that I never performed up to my potential. No matter what I accomplished, I should have been able to do more. My parents, also, did a poor job of helping me master the developmental tasks needed to become a successfully functioning adult. In too many ways, I raised myself and did a poor job of it. As any child would, I believed those damaging messages which resulted in years of underachieving. As a result my performances only reinforced the truth that I was a mistake and defective.
This view of myself and my ADHD put me at a competitive disadvantage with my classmates. What made this worse was that I started school a year too soon and, therefore, was a year younger than my classmates. This resulted in a lot of peer rejection. Socially, I did not do well at my school and continued to experience the rejection I was so used to experiencing. I continued to live not needing anyone else and became quite a loner. This pattern also continued through my first year of college. It was disheartening that my pattern of rejection from my peers never changed. Every time I thought I had a fresh start, the old patterns continued and I had to conclude the problem was inherently me.
There is an emotional toll attached to this journey. Like all of us, I instinctively knew I was worth more, was more valuable than this world treated me. I continually resented this treatment and reacted in anger. This characterized my interactions with the significant people in my life. Too often I reacted abusively or distanced myself withholding my love and support. My feelings of inadequacy and the accompanying fear of failure prevented me from providing what my family needed from me in numerous ways. Through these years, I did not like myself and my reactive, hurtful choices only reinforced that view of myself.
The paradox through these years of struggle was that I came into a personal relationship with the loving God of creation through Jesus Christ. In a life-saving way I came to experience the grace and love of the Lord. This began when I asked Jesus into my life at 14, and became a truly alive relationship with him at twenty when I surrendered control to Jesus as my Lord. This led to a new purpose and significance for me as I sought to serve him and his people. I was sold out to Jesus and he was the most important reality in my life.
Yet through all those years of ministry, my view of myself as a mistake and defective, my sense of inadequacy and fears persisted and limited my effectiveness and hurt my relationships. My family of origin had assigned me the role of a weak and problematic person and I acted too often out of that identity. What added to my frustration and despair was I came to thoroughly know the Bible, more so than just about anyone else I met. I extensively knew God’s life changing truth. This greatly shaped my values and goals. I wanted nothing more than to glorify God and serve him and his people, to make a lasting and positive difference in their lives. And often I did, thank God. Still, because my view of myself was so negative, my hurt and anger damaged my family and cut me off from others. Because I discounted myself and my abilities, I discounted those who believed in me. I was confused and distressed that my grasp of God’s life changing truths and his liberating love made so little difference in how I handled my life and the people in it. There was a significant disconnect in what I knew and how I acted. Often to make myself feel better, I discounted my anger and resulting actions. I saw myself as more together than I was, holding on to a fanciful and more positive self-image than my behavior warranted. This, consequently, caused me to also discount the people in my life and my negative impact on them. I needed to find a way to empower my relationship with Jesus and for his liberating truth to change me at the deepest core of my being.
As I evaluate all of this, what happened was that all those negative messages I believed, shaped my view of myself and continually strengthened in a persistent mindset that inherently I was a problem and defective. The only intervention that changed this is when I came to believe I am not defective and worthless. I developed a new mindset that goes to a better place. I received, played and came to believe a new set of tapes, God’s tapes rather than this world’s toxic tapes that have so damaged me and my relationships; tapes that tell me the truth about who I am.
This happened through my training as a relationship educator, coach and professional counselor. What became so powerful and life changing was that I was able to plug in all that God-given, biblical truth I knew so well into that new paradigm. I learned how to stop defeating behavior, all those reactive, resentful responses from the deep hurts I carried, and begin to make compassionate, long-term best interest choices for myself and those I love.
This new learning paradigm and the accompanying skill set freed me from all the hurt, fear and frustration that so characterized so much of my life. I experienced the joy that comes from accepting myself for who I am, that divine masterpiece. It allowed my wife to regain the godly man she fell in love with and believed in. Living without shame freed me from the need to distance and hide myself and come close to the people I love. As God’s truth now dwells in me richly [actually controlling how I lived], his peace rules in my heart [all the confusion and conflict put to rest]. At peace with my God and myself, I no longer was consumed with my issues and able to focus on the needs of those God gave to me. I could act compassionately. I can be there for them in all the ways they needed me, acting in their long-term best interest [Colossians 3: 12-17].
It all comes down to the experience of God acting in compassion toward me and believing he views me favorably. To embrace these two truths and live out from them is to be empowered to also act compassionately, being used by God, in meeting the long-term best interest needs of the people God gives me. I can become who he created me to be, and, therefore, do all he has called me to do. This adds value to my life and the lives of others, and glorifies my God in a way no other created being uniquely can.