Some lessons take a long time to learn.
I have always believed that i don’t have to be productive to be valuable, or at least I claimed to believe it. I don’t know how many times I have heard that we are “human beings”, not “human doings”.
But we live in this culture that stresses achievement above all other qualities. Even the church says out of one side of our mouth, “You are valuable no matter what,” and on the other side, we sound frighteningly similar to the “do, do, do” mandate of our culture. If we are not producing, we question our worth. If we are not accomplishing something, we feel like our time has been wasted. If, heaven forbid, we watch an entire day lapse where we don’t crank out projects or achieve something, we thrash ourselves to a pulp and feel restless and pointless. At least, this is my experience.
For me, simply hearing that I am intrinsically valuable has not been sufficient for actual heart change. I still place unrealistic demands on myself . I get to the end of my day and tally up what I have accomplished. My self-worth often depends on the evidence of my productivity for the day.
Last week was one of those weeks that made me question the point of my life. My kids and husband went to VBS each evening, leaving me home, bed-bound, watching Netflix. My illnesses were flaring full-force, and I was unable to even think, let alone try to accomplish anything. I couldn’t manage to call a friend. I couldn’t even read or write. I couldn’t rest because I was in too much pain. I just vegged out in my bed, with the TV on, trying to distract myself from the pain.
In my highly driven, type-A brain, this was unacceptable. If I am not accomplishing something, reaching out to someone, writing a blog post, or enhancing someone else’s life in some way, I might as well not exist. I know this is extreme, but I have this driving need to “earn my keep”.
VBS spanned Monday through Friday. By Friday night, I was sobbing, stricken with self-hate and condemnation. I had a friend who was also stuck at home, recovering from a surgery, but I still felt too sick to even let my husband drive me to visit her. I felt like I failed her, my family, the rest of the world, and God.
If you are following this line of faulty beliefs, you have picked up on my distorted self-perception by now. Or, you can really relate with my works-based sense of self.
Last week, God said clearly that He had more to teach me through my illnesses. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to connect the dots here and realize that He has some major things to teach me about my value as His beloved child.
It is so easy to say that you are a precious daughter of God when you are “performing” in ways that seem appropriate. But what about when you are lying in bed, a couple days behind in hygiene, with dishes piled high in your sink, and a husband who is working like a horse taking care of your children? This is a situation where I have had to come to terms with my true sense of worth.
Am I just as valuable here, in 2017, with no job and no ability to physically serve others, as I was in 2013, when I was working, generating an income, helping to lead worship at our church, running five miles a day, and actively engaged in mutually beneficial relationships? It seems so counterintuitive to think that I still have a right to breathe the same air, take up space on this earth, and be loved by God and others. When I can’t contribute in the ways that I once did, am I still just as valuable?
And yet, God still whispers to my heart that He loves me, that He is delighted in me, that He has made me worthy and valuable. Can I grasp this? Can I accept it? Can I see that I am loved and accepted just as I am, with a brain that doesn’t function the way that it once functioned, with legs that don’t always work the way that they are supposed to, as a person on disability who is not actively contributing to the betterment of society in a quantifiable way?
My intrinsic value is one of the most difficult things for me to accept, and I don’t know that I would really be able to learn that God loves me for me if I were not so incapacitated. I am extremely stubborn and bull-headed. I obviously need dire situations to learn valuable lessons, and this lie of works-based self-worth needs to be extracted at it’s roots.
This week, if I am stuck in bed, I choose to lie in bed, resting in the awareness that I am loved and cherished for who I am, not for what I can accomplish. God created me fearfully and wonderfully, even when I am sick, even when I am stripped down to just me. There is no place for pretense or performance. Simply me. And God says, somehow, that He is proud to call me His child.
We are His masterpieces, no matter what our capacity. We are His beloved children every day, even on the days when we feel like a waste of space. He loves the able-bodied and the disabled equally, with His overwhelmingly unstoppable, unquenchable love. We know that His eye is on the tiniest sparrow. Our worth is determined by God’s name for us, not by the name that we make for ourselves.
So here I am, simply Megan, telling you that God loves me for me, and He loves you for you.