Yesterday I talked about the feelings of worthlessness that occasionally arise from . . . I don’t know . . . things they shouldn’t arise from; things that have no real import or lasting significance; things that should have no real bearing on our confidence.
As I wrote, it occurred to me that sometimes those feelings come from someplace much more troubling. Sometimes they genuinely come from knowing we’ve been weak or unfair. Sometimes they come when we haven’t been true to ourselves or our beliefs. Sometimes they come from failing where it does matter.
Once during college I found myself up in my little bedroom in the top corner of our house (the office across from our attic that my dear dad had temporarily given up so his demanding daughters wouldn’t have to share rooms with each other) crying and wretched. I had shown nothing but pettiness and given nothing but judgment to someone I loved – someone who deserved understanding and a listening ear; someone who deserved loyalty and support as opposed to holier-than-thou standoffishness. I was so disappointed in myself. I was so aware of how . . . terrible I was. I was so ashamed. Fixing it seemed impossible -- all full of my wrongness and burdened with pride as I was. This wasn’t like feeling worthless because you didn’t get a part in the school play or because you were having an acne breakout. This was feeling worthless because you were lacking in your very soul – in the very things that DID matter.
I couldn’t even pray really. I was too embarrassed. Still, in my misery, I think I looked up and muttered a small “help” through my tears (feeling certain I didn’t deserve any). I hesitantly reached for my scriptures and then boldly flipped them open. In that moment it was almost as if someone had rather forcefully (and perhaps with a bit of frustration over how easily I’d given up on myself) grabbed my shoulder, pointed their finger to a verse and demanded, “Here. READ THIS.” I read it and was so shocked that it may as well have slammed into my mind carried by a semi-truck. It came with such force that I literally gasped and slammed the book shut. After a few wide-eyed moments of thinking, “Did that really just happen?” I tentatively opened the book again and leafed through ‘til I found the spot again.
And if men come into me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me: for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
I occasionally hesitate in sharing things so intimately connected with my faith and beliefs – not wanting to alienate any of my friends who read here and don’t share my same beliefs. I hope though that that isn’t the case. I hope that the things I say make sense even if seen from a different place, even for my friends who place nature or intuition or something else unknown where I squarely place God.
Anyway, at that moment I began to understand something that I have continued to feel more and more certainly as time has gone on. It is simply this: feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness are never the feelings that come from God or any other place true and good.
I don’t mean to suggest that we should go about feeling no sorrow or awareness for wrongs we may have done or weaknesses we may need to change. I don’t mean that at all. It is just that I hear a lot of talk about organized religion and the guilt it seems to heap upon its followers, and I – who come from about as organized of a religion as I suppose there is – believe that is folly from man.
We certainly need to realize our wrongs. We may need a healthy dose of guilt or a bit of chastisement. And humbling ourselves before our Savior is paramount. But I have found, time and again, that when I involve God in my weaknesses, the feelings He gives me are never feelings of trapped worthlessness. They are always feelings of hope. I think it goes against everything He wants for us to stay smashed down when we aren’t strong. Our eternal selves – our value and potential are much too great.
The feelings I get from Him are the same feelings I got that night – not that my actions are all equally fine and good, but that, when they have been poor, I need to recognize that that is not who I want to be. Not who I am. He gives me hope that it is not where I somehow deserve to remain; certainty that I can improve and that I need not see myself as permanently tainted by my mistakes. We are human. We will make mistakes. Lots of them. But we also have the power to rise above them. If you believe in Christ at all, you must believe it is why he came – so that a full price was paid; so that we could keep rising – Phoenix like – from our places of darkness to something cleaner and brighter and better.
The failings I experienced on that night so many years ago? They are strengths now. Truly. I love to see that I am a wholly different person when it comes to those attributes. I think that it is rather easy to feel completely small and hardly worthwhile when we see our follies, but I also believe there is no good that comes in chaining ourselves to them or in falsely believing we have lost our value.
And now, after all my philosophizing, I am off to plant flowers while the little fellow pictured above is safely napping in his crib.