“You don’t remember that?” my brother asked incredulously the last time I was visiting my hometown. “At all?”
All the eyes at the dinner table turned toward me, and I simply shrugged my shoulders. “No,” was all I could say.
It’s a joke among my friends and family that I don’t remember much of my childhood. Maybe that’s not the right way to state that. I remember feelings and emotions and have some very clear memories of moments of my life that seem so commonplace, but I’ve come to think might be key moments—moments when I knew I was loved, felt deep disappointment, or changed my life in some way. But the usual memories of who dated whom in high school or the wallpaper in my room in the house we moved out of when I was 5 or 6? Yeah, it’s a big ol’ blank space.
But there are things I do remember, things that have gotten burned into my brain and have affected the way I think about myself.
Like standing in a dimly lit blue-tiled girls bathroom in my high school while my best friend told me that the guy I thought hung the moon was dating one of my good friends. She wanted me to know before I found out any other way. I remember feeling a little sick to my stomach, that pain born of fear and disappointment and the first time I remember thinking, Why wasn’t I good enough? What’s wrong with ME? I remember the shock and struggling to control my face from showing emotion, all while I loved this friend all the more for caring enough to do this privately. I remember setting my face and walking out of that door, already beginning to tell myself that I probably wasn’t worth that guy’s attention anyway.
I remember hateful words and taunts from other girls, words that taught me to think less of myself and my worth, to question and nitpick everything about my appearance.
I remember a teacher’s angry words, could repeat a college professor’s non-constructive criticism of my skill and writing word for word now 12 years later, and sometimes find myself of falling into the trap of berating myself with any and everything I’ve ever done that made me feel ashamed.
I remember the guy who made me feel that I’d been judged and come up lacking and the day I felt the same way in my job.
And in the past few years, the fact that I’ve hung on to so many of these memories has become something of a problem. Growing up, I heard about “your identity in Christ,” but I’m not sure I ever got what that really meant. Several years ago, I was doing a Beth Moore Bible study and one session dealt with who you are in Christ. She wanted us to write it down and believe it and put it on our mirrors and let it fall over us as she read the truth from Scripture on the video. I remember hearing the words and knowing and believing them to be true—but doubting them for myself. Sometimes, I think I’m just now beginning to understand what it means to find my identity in Christ and silence the lies about myself I’ve believed. Just this week, I’ve found myself returning to those patterns of thought, then asking God to renew my mind and help me to remember the words that bring life.
Like my dad’s assertion when I was 5 years old and didn’t make to the final round of the Little Miss Bernie pageant, when he told me that I was beautiful. The way he pats me on the shoulder and tells me, “I love you, kid.”
When my Grandma Polly, her head shaved from brain surgery following her first stroke and her speech a little slurred, told me I took her breath away.
My mom’s “I’m proud of you” and the card she sent with the words of 3 John 1:4: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”
A coworker’s assertion that I am good at what I do, a friend’s confidence in me and encouragement, and the smile on my nephew’s face when he sees me.
Maybe it’s time to forget the bad and focus on who I really am in Christ: beloved, beautiful, made new, and cherished.
Maybe it’s time for you to do the same.