Tuesday, September 9, 2008

a big gift

Recently I was working on some Beth Moore homework for the Daniel Bible study, when I came to some questions I had a hard time answering—but not in the way you would expect. This particular lesson was focusing on the driving force that our culture can have on our sense of self-worth, and each question was designed to illuminate how a low opinion of yourself can cause you to steer off course without even realizing why. I completed the lesson and I was definitely impacted—just not in the way Mrs. Beth had probably intended!

The big eye-opener came as I considered these questions, flipping back through the card catalog of my memory to try to come up with concrete memories of feeling insignificant, unloved, or of little value. I scanned early-childhood to the present and, shockingly, came up empty handed. Until being pressed to write something down on paper, I hadn’t really considered it, but as I sat there in my chair, armed with my pen and ready to write a novel, I found I had no material to work with.

Wow.

How had I managed to get through my life with a firm, conscious, unshaken belief that I was instinsically worth something, that I was loved unconditionally, that while definitely not perfect, I was valuable? I say all of that at risk of being thought down right, stinking prideful, but I hope you see what I’m getting at. It’s not that I’ve gone through life thinking I’m God’s gift to mankind! Goodness sakes, God forbid I ever take the first step to even begin down that road. Rather, what I’m saying is that I have lived my life feeling secure in who I am, without being plagued by feelings of low value or worthlessness.

Of course the big question is, WHY?

Before thinking of it for even 5 seconds, I knew the answer. My family. Most notably my mom. I grew up in an environment where love was not doled out based on performance, talents, intellect, or anything else. I was simply loved for who I was, and that love and acceptance was infused into everything I did. My days were filled with affirmation, not only on what I could do, but on who I was as a person. Never did I feel my personality needed molding, my shape needed altering, or my abilities needed honing in order to gain love. Instead, I grew up believing it was okay to be me, just as I was, because my mom loved me, my family loved me, and most importantly, God loved me.

Examples popped into my head, one right after another, allowing me to see how intentionally my mom and others had fought to instill in me the sense of my God-given worth in the face of a culture that seeks to demean and belittle. I remember mom and others showing an interest in the things I enjoyed, praising me for any abilities I had, without criticizing those I was lacking. I remember her telling me, a chubby little second grader, that I was the perfect size. I remember her screaming wildly in the stands as I played basketball, cheering my heart and determination when there was very little skill worth mentioning. I remember her encouraging spouts of individualism as I overtook attempts to do my own hair and pick out my own clothes, believing all the while that I had accomplished both with raving success, with only old photographs left to belie that reality. Just a few memories in a pool with a myriad of others, yet I hope you see what I’m saying: I didn’t walk around thinking I was the hottest thing on the block. I simply believed that it was okay to be me because of all of the encouragement I received doing exactly that.

I don’t think I have ever recognized the value of that gift until now—the priceless value of self-worth, acceptance, and love. And the more I think about, the more I realize that’s probably one of the greatest gifts my mom and family ever gave to me. They gave me the freedom to accept myself and to feel secure and loved in who God created me to be. I never had a hard time questioning God’s unconditional love for me, flawed as I am, because my family had already lavished their unconditional love all over my life, faults and all. They taught me that we are all valuable, not because of what we do or how smart we are, but because we loved by God. It is HIS love that gives us value.

So what’s the point?

I walked away from that study, not only with a sense of deep gratitude and humility, but also filled with a passionate desire to do everything in my power to instill a sense of self-worth and value into my girls. I don’t want them growing up feeling that they only have value if they are pretty, talented, popular, intelligent—just fill in the blank because the list doesn’t end! I want them to grow up knowing that they are valuable because the God of the universe created them, and loves them, and wants them to be His. I want them to know that no matter what tv, music, movies, friends, or anyone else tells them, they have self-worth just as they are. I know that it’s not a one-man job, but I also know that my mom made an impact on my life too big to be put into words. All I’m saying is that I want to do everything I can to show them through words and actions that they are special. I want them to grow up believing that God has a purpose, bigger than anyone’s foresight or vision, to use them to make a difference for Him. It’s no small order, but then again, I don’t have a small God. I pray that with His help, He can show me how to be a mom to my girls, just as my mom was to me. What bigger purpose could God call me to than that?

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Angie - What a wonderful post! I think your mom is pretty terrific too! What a wonderful way to thank her for this special gift she has given you. I grew up differently and I struggled with that for years. I have to admit I have failed with my own children at times in this. The world tears them down and especially as teenage girls they feel so unworthy. I will pray for you as you raise your sweet little girls and share this with them as I hope you will pray for me that I will always build my children up. I want my children to always know that when the world has worn them down that mom is always there cheering them on. Livona

Emily said...

Angie,
I want to thank you for this post. I check your blog everyday & have since before Poppy was born. Your post today spoke directly to me. I have 3 little boys & sometimes in the hustle & bustle I can forget what a role I will play in their self-worth & their future relationships. My boys are young, only 4, 2 & 11 weeks but I know that they need affirmation that they are perfectly fine the way they are. It's stressful sometimes. They don't always mind & they don't always listen but they are always precious to me.
Thank you for sharing this today. Your little girls are very lucky to have a mommy that loves them so much!
Emily

Laurie said...

This is beautiful Angie and such a precious tribute to your mom. I love reading that you were nurtured this way and I don't think for one second that it is prideful. Every child deserves a secure and loving childhood. No perfection is necessary when it comes to unconditional love. My childhood, as you know, was much different. I was able to heal my past by raising my sons with these values to the best of my ability. And now, I get to completely do this again with my grandchildren and watch them glow in the encouragement and love. It takes patience and lots of work but the flip side is that the world can tear them up in a moment of time. If they know they have a safe place, they know they can refuel their love tanks:) Gods purpose for mothers is a beautiful calling, and you have the most wonderful example. I love you Angie.

Laurie in Ca.

The Sanchez Family said...

What a great post! I hope, like you, to be able to instill in my children the same sense of self worth!

Josh_and_Lee said...

that is a really special testament to your home life. i think discouragement can play a major role in a person's life. what a tremendous blessing that you were encouraged so faithfully and within a biblical context that pointed you to Christ.

Allison said...

What a great post! I had a different upbringing than you. But, God chose the life He gave me to draw me closer to Him. Everything you wrote in this post resonated with me. I want the same for my children and I am able to give that to them, through Him. He has or is redeeming my past and teaching me so much!

I want to be the kind of mom you had. It is so important for our children to know who they are in Christ and BELIEVE it. Thank you for this post!

Love,
Allison

In Definition said...

angie. that was just what i needed to read this morning. thank you for sharing your thoughts. laura

jeweljannie said...

Wow, Angie. I am overwhelmed! I must say, you made the job of being a Mom quite a joy! Even during our darkest days, you gave me much comfort, even as a little girl. You are the greatest, and I love you more than you will ever know! Thanks for your wonderful words of affirmation. Mom

Julie said...

That Daniel Bible study is AWESOME! I'm on week 9 with a friend of mine from church and we have really gotten so much out of it.

Praying that we can keep from being distracted from what's really important because we live in "Babylon"...

Inkling said...

This is an awesome post. To this day at the age of 34, I still find my family trying to fit me into a mold that God did not make for me, making it very hard for me to be authentic when around them. Now that we are about to meet the first child we'll get to know this side of eternity, my prayer is that God helps me break from the hurtful cycles that went on in my family, including the idea that I had to fit my mom's mold and avoid embarrassing her at all costs. I don't ever want our child to feel that burden or carry his real self inside because he's afraid to let us really know him. I want to celebrate him for the little boy God made him to be, no matter what that looks like. So hearing how your family accomplished this is so incredibly helpful and encouraging. I know the outcome we want to have as parents, but hadn't any clue how to get that until this post gave me a good beginning to go on.

Thank you for sharing your heart.

The Ratliff Family said...

Wow...you are such an inspiration to me! Reading about Poppy Joy has given me a whole new perspective on life. I am so grateful for my son's good health, and you and Poppy Joy changed my mind on how I would handle a difficult diagnosis like trisomy 18. Poppy Joy was blessed to have you as her mother, and I aspire to be as wonderful of a mother as you!