I Am Kind of In Love Right Now
I’m not sure where
the self-loathing came from.
They say it comes from all sorts of little bits and pieces of your childhood, usually. It begins when your best friend chooses a new one, a trusted adult picks you up late from school, or the first time someone calls you fat and you look down and know that you are. Those are the things that gather up in the corners of your heart.
They’re all so small, really, and there’s no one to blame.
Or maybe there is a figure that ties it all together; one entity who stole the you from you, before you even had a voice. Maybe there is one person who is responsible for closing in the walls of your space until there weren’t any corners left, just a small, round, ping-pong ball.
And then the church starts in with the fact that you’re a sinner.
You need saving, not because you’re drowning, but because you are crooked deep down. You are drowning in your self and selfishness, they say. But Jesus saved you, is saving you, will save you, in all the tenses. There is a cross bridge that will take you over the fiery chasm of yourself to the yellow glowing heaven.
Maybe. If you keep proving that he did and that you really believe.
But regardless, before you hit your first growth spurt, the loathing is inside your bones.
It stretches with you, leaving squiggly white lines on your skin. It sears through your heels when your feet grow too fast and your mama has to buy you new shoes even though the old ones aren’t worn out yet. It marks the back of your hands in twists of raw, scaly rash that they say are probably from the cold rain or the tomatoes you ate for supper last night, but you know it’s from the hate. It settles into your eyes and clouds your vision while you are marking them with too much of your grandma’s old blue eye shadow and wearing thrift store ball gowns to dance around the yard.
It’s so much of you that it becomes you. You and your self-loathing go everywhere together, even to all of the good places like school and church and summer camp and national championships and college. You coexist and depend, even while you hate each other. It’s like being alive, but mostly dead.
That was my story, or at least most of it. I didn’t like myself. I don’t know where it came from, but it seems like it’s been with me since before my memories were clear.
It didn’t matter how many times people told me I was smart, the men I loved told me I was beautiful, or someone laughed at my jokes. I didn’t believe them. I learned how to pretend I trusted, but those compliments just made me panic inside.
How could anyone love me when I was so dedicated to self-hatred with a minor in religious studies?
That’s why, when I started my spiritual implosion and recovery a few years ago, it felt like surgery all over my body. It was like cutting away the parts of me that believed and soaked in the lies about who I am, but it was like all of that without any anesthesia.
There is much more to say about all of that process, but right now I want to skip to the end or the middle or wherever I am right now.
Because, for the first time in twenty-something years, I actually like myself.
No, I am freaking in love with myself!
Like, love and adore and enjoy myself, my awkward faults and funny quirks and all.
Turns out that I’m smart, funny, beautiful, and so many other good and bad and complicated things. It turns out that I am human after all, and that is a very holy and precious and lovable sort of thing to be.
Self-love looks so different than self-loathing.
Self-love is a smirk at myself in the bathroom mirror just because or a giggle about a clever thought that only God and I (okay and probably Twitter) will ever know.
Self-love is letting myself off the Perfection Train, laughing at my mistakes, taking responsibility for my faults, and giving shame the finger every time it shows up. (That's what Jesus would do, right?)
Self-love is as personal and intricate and unique as every love affair ever is. It's being my own best friend and treating myself like I want to treat others. It's not waiting for anyone to tell me I'm worth it, because I suddenly know that I am.
Self-love is throwing a party because there was a light at the end of my tunnel. It is bright and so much stinking fun.
We can talk about what the tunnel was like later, and how there may be another one in my very human future, but right now, I want to talk about what Jesus did. And what I did. Because there's a lot of teamwork involved in self-love. Jesus didn't just show up and fix all of my problems or my self-image. I had to work on that, too.
But I’m worried about what Christians will say about this new revelation.
Christians have been the ones most likely to see this giddy new freedom of mine
and call it attention seeking, selfish, and warn me about, there’s that word
While I’m committed to other people having their own
opinions and all that, I think it reveals that we’ve made self-loathing some sort of
essential part of our religion. Either by intention or accident, we're evangelizing self-hatred along with our salvation. We call it "godly shame" or "the weight of conviction" or some other term that sounds important, but doesn't bring about any joy or life or freedom. And that concerns me. It makes me wonder if we'd even recognize the sort of Kingdom that Jesus talked about if it showed up.
Jesus talked about captives being freed, blind eyes seeing, and love overflowing, but I don't know if the church can really handle those things. I couldn't, and I was a committed part of the church, and I never heard anything different. When I look into my own eyes, they are sparkling with a new love that I never had before, even though I had twenty years of the “right” training and theology.
Maybe you had a different experience with religion or always knew that you were lovable within Christianity. That's amazing! But I haven't heard a majority of those stories.
I never got to holiness by way of self-hatred. It didn't make me love God to loathe myself or label myself a sinner. All the love came out together when when I was willing to look at myself, all of my mess and hurt and self-loathing, and hear the words of Jesus over me: You are my beloved Emily and you are hella okay. I've got this one, so you can just be you.
Okay, maybe that's not scripture, but it sure is one of the most astounding truths I've ever heard from God. And believing it? Absolutely changed my life. In the resurrection sort of way.