During my undergraduate studies, I went from sharp-as-a-tack student to brainfog and chronic fatigue that warranted references to Rip Van Winkle. I went from a full-ride athletic scholarship to barely being able to walk a block. Three years and eleven doctors later and I was diagnosed with unsavory parasites and hormone imbalances. The treatments took a heavy toll, so I took a leave of absence from university. I felt a substantial dose of shame for my inability to perform and persevere. My body felt broken and my identity and self-worth shattered. Unknowingly, I had believed my lovability and acceptability were based on my ability to perform, earn, please. Here I was: a messy human unable to care for myself with nothing to offer others. Yet my family, a few friends, and my God were still beside me. Their remaining presence didn’t fit my formulaic understanding of how I thought the world worked.
But I was resistant to undeserving love, gripped by questions, and weighted in inexpressible emotion. So, I wandered from the faith of my upbringing for the next five years. In my wrestling with self-worth, I came across the quote, “Religion says, ‘I obey; therefore I am accepted.’ Christianity says, ‘I am accepted; therefore I obey.’”
My world flipped Acceptance comes first? It begins there? And indeed it does! Unearned acceptance and love is grace. And grace is what Jesus offers.
It’s been eight years now and I am still working through misguided beliefs on worth and identity. I still swing like a pendulum from perfectionism to procrastination. I struggle to find right motivation and right action amidst the pressures to perform. I struggle to remember that I am enough for who I am and not for what I do. Even so, healing is taking place as I rest a bit more in the incredibly counter-intuitive and completely free gift of grace. No amount of striving, no amount of rule following, no amount of good deeds can get us more love or forgiveness—it’s all abundantly there. We only open our hands and Jesus gives us more grace than we can hold.
Everyone is on their own unique journey, but I don’t think we are meant to navigate the search for belonging and worth alone. St. Peter’s Fireside is my first return to the church, and the space this community makes for questions and grappling has been critical to moving through some of my own hang-ups and doubts. Wherever you are at, all of you as you are: you are welcome here.