I oughta be ashamed of myself.
Because regardless of what else I have ever attempted to be – and I could list so many good words here like writer or friend or woman or daughter – the only thing I have ever fully been is simply Not Enough.
The problem with Not Enough is that Not Enough feels like Not Anything, and pretty soon, it starts feeling like Not Welcome.
The rule was: if I wasn’t interested in living up to my role in this family, I was free to leave. And if I was neither interested in keeping my role or leaving freely, I could be removed. Living up didn’t mean trying; it meant doing. It meant succeeding at meeting every expectation.
Not a day went by that I didn’t feel as if I was earning my keep.
Nor did I always earn it. In one rough time, I was no longer worth it. Everyone has their reasons, but to a girl who was starving for a place, what happened could not have been more painful. My parents packed me in the backseat of the car four times over 18 months (three in the middle of the night) and drove me away.
To leave me.
They walked me into these hospitals, explained to the staff that I was “not functioning well in the family environment,” and that they didn’t know what else to do. I remember vividly the first facility. After talking with me, the staff looked straight at my parents and said, “We don’t really have a reason to keep her.” My parents replied, “Well, we can’t take her home.” And they walked out.
There wasn’t a place for me. I was Not Enough. More than that, I was also Not Worth Fighting For and sadly, Not Worth Fighting With.
If I thought I was close to finding a place, there was always someone to pull me back.
When a community project I’d helped coordinate earned me an invite to Oregon – my first plane ride – dad insisted on chaperoning the already-chaperoned trip. He spent weeks beforehand and the entire first leg of the plane ride telling me he didn’t know what we were doing there; I couldn’t do this, and he didn’t know why he was letting me try. We deplaned at the only layover and he rented a car and drove me home, cussing most of the way.
When I was ready to move off to college, mom packed her car and drove behind me the hour or so to my new campus. Via cell phone, she spent the trip telling me she didn’t know why she was giving her day for this; we both knew I wasn’t going to stay there. And why were we even doing this again? There was no way I was going to make it at college, no way I would even try. I stayed.
Stuff like this. Here I was looking for a place to land, a place to be, and I couldn’t have it. (Seriously, in the case of the plane, a place to land. But I was looking forward to college, too, and the chance to really explore who I might be if people would stop telling me I wasn’t.)
It wasn’t just family, and in the case of family, it wasn’t malicious. It was just broken love, and that’s another story entirely. But I was the kid who ate lunch alone. I was the kid who worked on every group project alone. I was the kid who was Not Enough of a kid to bother being around.
The college I’d stayed at and was starting to find freedom in discovered my history as I wrestled with severe post-traumatic stress. They decided I was Not Pure Enough to be a part of their campus, purely because of my story, and there was no place for me there.
No place for me anywhere.
All I’ve ever wanted is a place to be. A place where I make sense.
Then one day, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and saw plainly Not Enough. I saw Not Anything. And I saw Not Welcome. Looking into my hollowed eyes, I couldn’t blame my world. There’s just not a place for this.
I longed to be something enough. Just a small shred of enough was enough. Let me be anything. Because if I’m anything, then maybe there’s a place for me.
I was thirsty for affirmation. Affirmation…but I would settle for appreciation. Maybe a little respect. Just notice me. Notice what I’m doing here. Notice something about me, anything about me, and tell me that I’ve done something. Tell me I can build on that and someday turn my something into enough.
I was performing, but if we’re being honest, I wasn’t even trying any more. I would never be enough.
Several years later, I caught another glimpse of myself in the mirror. I hadn’t planned on it, but there it was. One moving shadow that made me turn and look. There I was: Tired. Burdened. Entirely Not Enough.
I stood there for a second, then another. A minute passed. I just stared at myself, trying through clouding eyes to not see Not Enough. Trying, for just those few minutes, to see something more, or at least something different. “What are we doing here, God?” I spoke through tears to the mirror. “Who is she?”
She is you, He answered. She is everything I created in you. She is smart and funny and beautiful and gifted and blessed and forgiven and wholly Mine and so completely you.
But what does it matter, I asked Him, bawling by this point, if there’s not a place for me?
There’s a place for you, child. It is right here. In you. In Me.
Looking into my His hallowed eyes, I knew.
We’ve had a lot more moments like that. My God is faithful to answer me as many times as this fragile heart needs to hear Him.
These days, I’m all wrapped up in this mischievous sort of love. Because in God – in this love – is the place where I make sense. It’s the place where I’m landing. And I’m starting to live out of it and live it out of me.
More often than even I realize, I find myself sneaking around just to leave love for people. In secret, because I don’t need them to notice. When I’m caught loving, I just flash an impish grin, shrug my shoulders, and change the subject.
I was totally just lovin’ on you.
You oughta be ashamed of yourself, they smile back.
But I’m over being ashamed. I have my place. I know my place. And I’m loving it here. This is where I was meant to be. Not Enough is a myth.
Because that girl staring back at me in the mirror? She’s Aidan enough. And the God standing next to me? He’s God enough, too.
From Aidan: Please do not let this be the only piece of my story you read. Over on my blog, this week is story week because I have many other things to say about stuff like this. Today, in particular, I want to share more with you about what crazy, messed-up, broken love is. So please, come visit me at Ransomed and make sure you know the whole story.
Aidan is the author of Recess with Jesus and Prayse (coming in 2013), as well as the Ransomed blog. She is honored to share devotional thoughts with her congregation at Franklin Church of Christ, where she also coordinates a portion of the women’s ministry and a monthly newsletter, Within. In her spare time, Aidan enjoys woodworking, art, engineering, and loving on people, as well as music and dance. She believes that the greatest answer is asking better questions and the greatest example is simply living, and loving, out loud. Aidan is living in Indiana with her messed-up, “love you anyway” family and two dogs.
Affirmation. Isn’t that what we all want? Someone to say, “You’re doing a great job! We accept you here. We love you. Thank you!”
We want others to notice us; we want to feel we matter. We want to feel included.
I can identify with Aidan…I think we all can. There’s always something else you’d rather have or someone else you’d rather be. But, God didn’t make you to be someone else – or have what he/she has. He fearfully and wonderfully made you to be you. I often wish I had a quieter, gentler spirit. But, I don’t. While God can work miracles, I don’t think He ever intended me to have that kind of spirt. But, he’s taught me to admire it in others…to learn from it when I see how their quietness works for Him – instead of envying it.
Being around those who feel like life is a competition is draining. Don’t be that person. Don’t begrudge and envy others. We are all people, living in this world in the best way we know how. Lift others higher. Rejoice with them in their successes. Cry with them in their tragedy. It’s how God wants us to be…to love.
And, ultimately (as Aidan said), affirmation can truly be found in only one place: Christ.
Thanks for sharing, Aidan. I am thankful for your courage to verbalize what many only think and feel.