It happened again just the other day, a trigger that startled me. I thought this weapon had been disarmed, that it no longer carried power to bully me.
Having TSA pre-check status was supposed to prevent this problem: a quick step through the metal detector and I’d be on my way. But as I hurried to catch a flight home recently, I had to go through regular security screening at the airport, and like several times before, the scanner flagged me as a potential threat because of my birth defect.
I was born with a rare disorder, a genetic abnormality that left me with a huge birthmark and one side of my body larger than the other. I try not to think about my birth defect too often these days, but then I’m rudely reminded of it by something like a TSA scanner. Apparently the size difference between my right side and my left side fools the machine into thinking I’m trying to smuggle something nefarious onto the plane.
Nope. Just me, wishing I could pass through the checkpoint without incident.
With flaming face, I step aside and wait for a female guard to pat me down. Soon she realizes that I’m no threat to the security of my fellow passengers, and she waves me through to collect my bags and get to my gate.
I find a seat and breathe deeply. I remind myself of the truth I’ve learned. My heartrate slows to its normal rhythm. I am fine.
Just a few years ago, I was not fine. Scenarios like the TSA incident haunted me, reinforcing what I believed to be true: that I was defined by my defects.
Aware from the time I was a tiny girl that I did not look like anyone around me, I developed a habit of constantly comparing myself to everyone around me, trying desperately to measure up. The older I got, the more I became aware of the strengths of those to whom I compared myself — and more aware of my faults and failures. I weighed myself in the balance and always found myself wanting.
I wanted to be loved and accepted, but I judged myself unacceptable.
I’d spent my whole life in the church, but I found that my faith in God didn’t help me with my thoughts about myself. To be honest, though I knew that God loved the world, I had difficulty believing that He loved me. And though I was married to a wonderful man and had lots of friends, I struggled to believe that they really loved me.
Because I found myself unacceptable, I doubted that anyone truly accepted me.
I knew that God was perfect, and I knew that I was terribly imperfect. I imagined that God was perpetually angry with me or at least disappointed in me. And even when people seemed to love me, I found myself unworthy, so I doubted their love. In other words, I had projected my insecurities about myself onto God and other people.
How grateful I am for the life crisis that ended with me in the office of a counselor, crying my eyes out.
Slowly, slowly I began to understand what I had done. Formed in the difficulties of my childhood, bolstered by incidents like the scene at the TSA checkpoint, my understanding of myself was distorted. I saw and appreciated others’ strengths, but all I could see was my weaknesses.
I had to learn a new way to move through the world, a new way to see God, to see other people, and to see myself. But first I had to realize that the old way was wrong.
Countless times I had read Proverbs 3:5 to trust in the Lord with all my heart, but when it came to my opinion of myself, I relied completely on my own understanding.
My own understanding was that I was defined by my defects, unlovable and unacceptable. God’s truth is that I am His beloved child, dearly loved and completely accepted.
My own understanding was that I was unloved and alone. God’s truth is that not only am I His child, I am part of a huge family! Sisters and brothers surround me, all of them beloved children of God as well. We are all made in God’s image, all designed for relationship, all dependent upon God and one another. Yes, I am imperfect, but so are all my brothers and sisters, and God loves us no less.
Turns out that my own understanding was hard to overcome, but life is so much better when I’m not relying on it.
So now I can sit at my gate at the airport and remind myself of the truth. I repeat the words of Henri Nouwen: “I am not what I do. I am not what I have. I am not what others think of me. I am the beloved child of a loving Creator.”
Then I board the plane and fly home.
I am God's child, made in His image. Nothing can change that truth! -@RichellaParham: Click To Tweet