High self-esteem hasn't been my strong suit. Over the years, however, nothing has enlightened me more than learning more about my inherent worth as a daughter of God. This ongoing lesson continues to transform the way I look at myself and others.
At times, though, I still question my value, and a recent struggle unearthed a memory from my childhood that led to new light.
Sometimes when I misbehaved, my mother threatened to take me to a home where "bad children" lived. We passed this home on the drive to my grandmother's house. My mother would point it out, and I remember looking out the car window, wondering what it would be like to live there. It was a big ivory-colored brick building that did not look fun. There was a huge lawn out front but no playground. I thought she couldn't be serious, but I still hated hearing the threat.
Then one day, when I was 8 or 9, I must have done something pretty bad. I was sitting on my bed, and my mother came into the room and started taking my clothes out of the closet. She told me I was going to the children's home. She may have never realized how seriously I took this. And I now know that she wouldn't have taken me there, but at the time, I was terrified.
I don't remember what happened next. Maybe she said she'd give me another chance. I do remember telling my dad about it that night. He assured me that it would never happen. I was so relieved. His reassurance comforted me. I knew it was a promise I could trust.
Maybe he talked to my mother about the situation later, because I never heard about the children's home again. There weren't any more threats.
This scene had troubled me from time to time over the years, but remembering it so vividly this time made me wonder whether it had left a scar of unworthiness. As I thought more about it, I realized I could change the focus of my memory of that day.
Instead of fixating on my mother's threat, how much more useful it would be to rejoice in my father's promise. And to let that point to my Father's promise - that I am never unworthy, never unloved, never away from being at home with Him.
The Bible confirms this. "Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee" (Jer. 31:3), and "The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by him; and the Lord shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between his shoulders" (Deut. 33:12).
Focusing on the promise was refreshing. It was a new turn. It redeemed the memory. Just as my dad's words comforted and reassured me that night so long ago, I could find God's reassurance and His approval of my inherent goodness now and at any time.
There's a wonderful song by Mindy Jostyn called "In His Eyes," which talks about God's view of each of us as His loved children. It says: "There's never a story that ever could change/ The glory of you in His eyes."
How many "stories" darken our view of ourselves, driving us to self-condemnation? Sometimes these stories are woven from our impression of others' views of us. We then let these perceptions shape our view of ourselves. This can lead to self-doubt and to questioning our very reason for being.
I'm trying to get better at turning away from these thoughts before I let them plummet into their spiral of despair, with me as a willing passenger. It's this path that should be marked "CONDEMNED," not us. Like a dilapidated building, it's a dangerous place in thought that we should not enter.
How to avert the plunge? See yourself as approved, not condemned. God is the only consistently reliable, accurate source of information about you. And he approves of you because He knows how He made you; He knows what is actually true about you. Don't settle for others' perceptions of you.
God delights in you. "The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing" (Zeph. 3:17).
I'm grateful I had my father's promise to comfort me. But we all have our Father's promise. When threatened by thoughts of inadequacy, you can listen for that promise and hear the reassuring, "You are mine. You are loved."
Happiness consists in being and
in doing good; only what God gives, and what we give ourselves and others through His tenure, confers happiness: conscious worth satisfies the hungry heart, and nothing else can. Consult
thy every-day life; take its answer as to thy aims, motives, fondest purposes, and this oracle of years will put to flight all care for the world's soft flattery or its frown.
Mary Baker Eddy
(founder of the Monitor)