Journal Work: Trying to Understand Myself

Reading Rob Bell about Jesus:  “Over and over again we see him going to the edges, to the margins, to those in trouble, those despised, those no one else would touch, those who were ignored, the weak, the blind, the lame, the lost, the losers.”  p141

Bell talks about going to an AA meeting and how he was struck by everyone telling the truth — “a bullshit free zone.”   p138   They had come to the end of their resources, and could no longer hold up a front to show how together they were.  “It’s here, in that place — naming it and owning it and facing it and going around the room admitting our powerlessness — that we discover the God who has been for us the whole time.” p141

Thinking about this, I’m wondering how much effort I put into “making sure that everybody knows how strong, smart, quick, competent, capable, together and good” I am.    p139

I know that I’ve certainly put up a front, hidden my weaknesses as best I could, never let anyone see me cry —but I always felt crippled, defective, not good enough.  My mother was never pleased with anything I did, so I stopped trying to please.  I was never popular with my classmates, especially in high school where it really matters.  I was the last one chosen for the team in sports.  I was rarely chosen to dance with at dancing school and parties.  It wasn’t until I was in high school that I learned that not everyone got good grades.  I never saw good grades as something that made me better than others.  Actually, I was lucky.  I was intelligent in the way school was designed for, it was the only part of my life where the rules were clear and the rewards matched my effort.

I don’t think I put any effort into “making sure everybody knows how strong, smart, etc.” I am.  I know I thought I ought to be able to do things, take on responsibilities, that I really wasn’t capable of.  I had learned this in my family of origin where I was given too much responsibility for my younger siblings.  That left me with a sense of inadequacy that I still live with.  I’ve also tried to make things happen that I really wanted to happen, but failed because I had no idea of my limitations, and couldn’t ask for help.

I never made much of an effort to construct a front, I was focussed on what I ought to do to prove that I deserved to live.  I’m not sure who I was trying to convince — my parents at first but I soon learned that I would never be good enough for them.  I did still try to not do anything wrong, because I was afraid that if I made a mistake, I would be thrown out to fend for myself.  Or even, as my mother told me, “sent back to Sears & Roebucks.”  So then I must have been trying to prove myself to the great ubiquitous “They” or possibly a vague form of God.

It wasn’t til the words came out of my mouth, at age 53, “If I publish a book, that will prove that I deserve to live, even though my parents were disappointed in me,” that I understood that the mainspring of my life was to “prove that I deserve to live.”  I crashed pretty badly at that time.

Once, at a college reunion, my classmates talked about how they felt like impostors, that someday someone would see that they weren’t as smart as they appeared.  I was dumbfounded.  I thought, if Wellesley accepted me, that proved that I was smart enough.  That conversation baffled me, which is why I’m still trying to figure it out.

But in a way, it doesn’t matter at all.  I found my way to the God who said “Whatever you have done or not done, WELCOME!” and to the God that Rob Bell describes, the one that’s with me in my pain.  O I am SO GRATEFUL that this God is becoming more and more real to me.

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