Thursday, January 7, 2016

a lesson from the ugly duckling

When I was nine years old, my dad told me I was going to be the ugliest of my four sisters. "But don't worry about that, Sarah," he said, "you'll have a great personality."

Thanks, Dad. That's all a nine-year-old could ever wish for: a great personality.

If you know my dad, you know that he didn't say it to hurt me. He was sharing an observation, be it as terrible as it was.

What he didn't know--and still doesn't to this day--is that that single conversation changed the course of my life:
How I saw myself.
What I thought of myself.
The person I would become.

That single conversation at such a vulnerable season in life planted a dark seed that grew and embedded itself in my heart1. Dad said that I wasn't gonna be pretty. But I heard that I wasn't ever gonna be good enough. I heard that I was gonna be the last pick for the rest of my life.

To top it off, it seemed that other people agreed with him. My heart hit lower than rock bottom. Believing your future looks that dismal kinda crushes you when you're nine.

It was only natural, then, to take some precautions. If no one was gonna look out for the ugly duckling, she was gonna have to look out for herself.

From then on, it was me against the world. It was me--who was never gonna be good enough--out to prove she was good enough. It was me--whom no one would ever care for--out to prove she was worthy of being treasured. It was me--just me--fighting for myself.

This ugly duckling was gonna fight her heart out to make sure she always came out on top. Because life at the bottom was hell.

So nearly everything I did for the next thirteen years was a competition. I wanted to be the best I could be--so well-rounded I made circles look bad. I didn't want to just shine, I wanted to blind people. So that the only thing they could see was how well I swam and not that I was an ugly duckling.

I didn't do well. I kicked butt. I was so good at being perfect. It was easy.

And then I got married (oh, all of the stories that can start that way!).

I married my husband thinking I had married the person I had been waiting for all my life: my knight in shining armor. Someone who noticed me. Someone who picked me first. Someone who would fight for me.

But he didn't. (New flash for the newly-weds or to-be-weds: your beloved is human. Yes, it sucks sometimes...a lot of times; but it takes iron to sharpen iron.)

That realization crushed me. My heart couldn't handle my husband in my life if he was just another person I against whom I had to defend myself. He was supposed to protect me, not himself.

The truth was, I was so tired of sticking up for myself. I didn't want to fight any more battles. I just wanted to win, to win that someone who would cherish this ugly duckling as if she was the swan princess herself.

This was all wrong.

Or so I thought.

At one point during my sulking, I finally stopped fuming long enough to hear what Jesus had been whispering the whole time.
Sarah, I love you. Don't you know what that means?
I did. Once upon a time. But I had forgotten. Lies are so painful it's easy to think they're more true than the truth.

If, like me, you've been hurt along the way and grown calloused to the truth, let this reminder be for the both of us: Jesus wants to fight for you. More than that: Jesus will fight for you.
Jesus WILL fight for you. [tweet]

I don't know how long you've been struggling to keep your head above the water: if you surrender whatever your problem is to Jesus right now, He will take care of it for you.

I don't care if you're the ugliest ugly duckling there's ever been or Barbie's very own Swan Princess: Jesus loves you.

The Creator of the world thinks I'm a big deal? I don't know about you, but that's definitely a win in my book.

There's nothing to prove but that God loves you--and that can't happen until you let Him love you--which means letting down your defenses and trusting that if you jump, Jesus will catch you.
God can't prove He loves you until you let Him love you. [tweet]
You are worth every fight, every second, every sacrifice because you are loved--by a God who will not stop trying to get you to notice Him.

You are loved not because you're good enough (let's be honest: no one is) but because God's love is enough. Enough for this ugly duckling, which surely means enough for you.
You are loved because God's love is enough. [tweet]
"You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you." 2 Chronicles 20:17

"The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still." Exodus 14:14

with much love,

1 It truly was horrible timing: adolescent development is such a fragile stage of growth. Comments referring to physical appearance are especially hurtful during this time of crazy bodily changes. Plant seeds of life during this hormone-infested time.