I remember so vividly the moment I first realized that my worth as a human being had nothing to do with my performance as one. It was a moment that changed everything.
Growing up in a volatile religious household, I’d been taught that a person was only as good as their next “A,” their next blue ribbon, their next superb performance. Achievement and behavior were given the highest priority in our world. So I excelled at school, and in sports (as much as my non-Olympic body let me), and in music, and I was the most obedient child you’ve ever seen.
But it was still never good enough, as I heard repeatedly, relentlessly. Not by a country mile. So at 18 I got married, and moved across the country, and promptly went to pieces.
After spending a couple of years in a suffocating black depression, during which I cried nearly every day (sometimes for hours), I emerged into a kind of spiritual no-man’s-land.
I’d believed in God all my life but had never felt connected to Him. My concept of God was (as Anne Lamott perfectly put it): “God as high school principal in a gray suit who never remembered your name but is always leafing unhappily through your files.”
Even prayer had become a chore for me, a mental battering of fists against a solid barricade. Finally, I couldn’t take it any more. You’ve given me no choice, God. I thought. I’m going to run in the opposite direction.
By 1997, at just 26 years old, I’d reached the tattered end of my rope. I’d become so dead inside I never cried anymore, not even when I had reason to. My marriage was virtually over. “Running in the opposite direction” had worked – I’d screwed up so badly, I’d been asked to step down from my position as church pianist, the only activity for which I still felt any passion at all.
No longer caring what happened to me, I stopped wearing my seatbelt, a small act of listless defiance. Speeding along the Atlanta freeways at 90 miles an hour, I played a cosmic game of chicken with God. Take me, don’t take me, I thought. It doesn’t matter.
One evening at home, I walked into our spare bedroom looking for some papers I needed. Rifling through boxes, I came across a book I’d been given years earlier during counseling sessions – a book I’d never bothered to read. It was titled The Search for Significance, by Robert McGee.
Sitting on the beige carpet in that cluttered room, I opened the book up and started to read. And when I got to Chapter 6, all Heaven broke loose.
“I have great worth” (I read) “apart from my performance, because Christ gave his life for me, and imparted great value to me.”
Say what? I read it again. I have great worth apart from my performance…
Completely stunned, I read that sentence at least a dozen times. Tears started to pool in my eyes, then spill down my cheeks. Eventually, I moved on to the next sentence.
“I am deeply loved, fully pleasing, totally forgiven, accepted and complete in Christ.”
Deeply loved? Fully pleasing? I had never heard such a thing. I read the words over and over – I would have scraped them off the page and eaten them, if I could have. They shook me to my core.
Before long I was curled up on the floor, sobbing. I lay there for a long time, holding the book sideways on the carpet, next to my face, so I could re-read those mind-bending, heart-mending words whenever the tears eased up. This wasn’t Grace soft and demure – this was Grace as a tidal wave, Grace that bellowed, Grace that smashed through the ugly lies that had paralyzed me, the lies that said that I was worthless. Not good enough. Unloved.
Over the next few months, I repeated those two sentences to myself hundreds of times, until the message was chiseled into my heart: My fundamental worth had absolutely nothing to do with my behavior, and everything to do with a beautiful God nailed to a rugged beam over two thousand years ago.
With his death, Christ had absorbed every worthless thing about me, and from his ruin, I’d gathered the only descriptions of myself I had ever needed, would ever need.
Worthy. Accepted. Loved.
I do not just believe this to be true – I know it. I would die for it. It is the revelation that has let me finally, truly live.
This post was originally published for my friend, the fabulous fellow writer/blogger/runner/pianist/Mommy/Christian Alise Wright. You can find it by clicking here!