A young mom, I laid sobbing on our couch in our basement. It was my reaction to a comment I received that day which validated feelings of unworthiness and unacceptability.
I laid there, loathing myself. It triggered feelings I had as a teenager with an eating disorder who hated most things about herself.
“Why did you make me this way?” I asked God.
I don’t know how God speaks to you, but in my spirit I heard, “I made you just the way you are. I know your weaknesses, and they’re not a mistake. I see them.You are mine, perfectly created. Will you accept that?”
God’s truth settled deep in my soul. It was opposite of what I believed about myself. Since fourteen, I honestly believed I was unacceptable “as is.” Faulty thinking told me there was always something I had to fix about myself.
I’ve spent a large part of my life striving to figure out who I am, where I belong, and how to be better. I’ve constantly tried to be more acceptable. I wonder if you have, too.
That ugly-cry-on-the-couch moment didn’t change my self-esteem. But It began a journey of understanding of God’s grace. Grace is underserved kindness. Extending grace to myself was something I searched for, but didn’t now how to receive.
A few years later, another moment defined God’s grace. While in graduate school for counseling, I sat in a room full of strangers who called out weaknesses and faults they perceived about me. I felt vulnerable and exposed in an uncaring environment. The experience was traumatizing to an already fragile self-image.
Driving home that day, again, I sobbed. Tears flooded my vision, mirroring the rain on the windshield. I found a CD of old hymns and put it in the CD player. One song, in particular, spoke directly to my pain. Its title is When I Can Read My Title Clear. The song’s message is that God’s eyes are on us, seeing every part of us. It was a personal message to me from God that day. He told me He saw my pain.
He also saw the weaknesses the others did, and still loved me.
The song’s message taught me more of God’s grace as I persevered through graduate school, not giving up when my emotions said I should. I had to choose to believe what God said about me rather than what other people said. It’s a principle that’s essential for our emotional and mental health.
Receiving God’s grace has been healing. I’m learning I don’t have to be fixed. I’m learning to give myself grace, define weaknesses as “lesser-strengths,” a term coined by Kenn Gividend.
Grace is accepting the extra pounds on my frame, instead of striving for a smaller size. Grace is surrounding myself with peers who accept one another for who we are. Grace is working in my strengths, rather than fixing my weaknesses. Grace is receiving God’s mercy when I mess up.
Giving yourself grace is a hard thing. Kathy Collard Miller says, “There’s nothing we can do to make God love us more, and there’s nothing we can do to make Him love us less.” That is grace. When we accept ourselves, then we can pass on the gift to others.
This article was first printed in The Purpose magazine published by Menno Media, now out of print.