The Work of Becoming Friends With Myself

“Compassion is maturity and maturity is acceptance. Maturity is precisely the acceptance of yourself with your own flaws, as well as others with their flaws.”

Jean Vanier

These words from my husband recently stopped me from spinning another sad story over myself,  “Charissa, God doesn’t punish.”

Really? Yes. Right. He’s right.

It took me a minute to believe it, to swallow it down into my soul.

God isn’t waving a finger at me, never has and never will. Oh, but I do it to myself. Naughty, Charissa, you have to stop doing this!

God isn’t furrowing his brow at me, wishing I’d get my act together. But I do it to myself. Come on, Charissa, you can do better than that.

God isn’t counting my sins against me, unleashing a steady drip of curses my way to keep me sober and humble. But I do it to myself. There you go again Charissa, doing your own ridiculous thing, as long as you keep that up, you will be excluded, exempt from the abundant life.  

Becoming friends with myself apparently takes a lifetime.

I’ve been my own worst enemy for as long as I can remember. Frankly, it saddens me to think about how much I have missed out on because I’ve dismissed myself from ever belonging, from ever having a seat at the table, a voice amidst the crowd.

I’ve essentially pushed myself into a corner with an uncomfortable little chair to sit in, tolerating her but not fully accepting her.

I know better than anyone of you just how far I am from where I’d like to be. I’m not even talking about some crazy standard of perfection I’m hoping to attain someday. No, I’m merely referring to how I wish I could at least feel like I’m taking a few steps forward in the right direction in few areas of my life.  

But truth be told, I rarely feel that way, and I sometimes beat myself up over that lack of visible progress, maturity, and success I witness.

By accident I started reading through old journals the other day in the spare bedroom I was supposed to be cleaning.

I couldn’t believe how much I haven’t changed. Oh my word, Charissa, you are still struggling with those thoughts and those obstacles? Still?

Do you hear it? There I was openly, violently, expressing my displeasure over myself. Why are you not further along by now? I muttered to my poor heart, shaming her for her probable lack of surrender or possible disobedience. It must be the reason why I wasn’t further along in this process of transformation.

I continued following the dirty, yet familiar path to isolation, back to my corner.

God loves me, but He can’t be happy with me. Like any good parent, he is probably going to punish me for my complacency, my unwilling spirit, my unsightly sins, and my ongoing rebellious nature.  

Powerful words shooting poison into my own veins.

Like a good parent?

God is going to punish me.

Unsightly sins.

Rebellious nature.

All phrases I unconsciously absorbed from the religion around me as I sought to attain the status of a good Christian girl most of my life.

I can’t tell you how many times a week I imagine God is going to zap me, in a natural consequence kind of way of course, for not listening to him or letting him have His way in my life. Maybe I’ll fall and break my leg. Maybe I’ll be in accident. Maybe I’ll be struck with nightmares or fall into deep depression. Even worse, maybe something will happen to one of my babies.

But he’s a good parent, right? He needs my attention, my devotion, my adherence to this supposed good news, and if he doesn’t receive those actions from me, then I’d better be on the lookout…  

I know I’m not the only one who holds up occasional images of God as a monster, or a weird uncle, or a crotchety old man.

The harsh and inhospitable ways we treat the sweet person staring back at us in the mirror are proof of the disturbing views we have of the nature of our Creator.

It takes time to stop the slew of trash talk we sometimes throw at ourselves. Essentially, it’s like learning to speak a new language. It’s an off-beat, rickety, but rousing process to be sure.

Who would have thought, it’s a learned skill to be able to pull up a chair for ourselves, listen to her concerns and desires with openness and interest, give her time and space to grow and flourish without any hint of a timeline.

It takes tenacity to woo her out from the cob-webbed corners and into the wildly radiant light.

However, I’m determined to tell myself, one million times a day if I can, that I am good, cherished, adored, desirable, fascinating, fun, loved, and beautiful.

A language I’ve forgotten. Perhaps you have too?   

God has only ever stood with me in solidarity, never has a thought of sabotage crossed his mind. And never will I tolerate it crossing my mind either.

The first step in becoming friends with ourselves is starting to notice how we’ve tried to keep our distance from her, believing somehow God was doing the same.

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