This post is a part of the UNCO synchroblog. April’s them is “UnEarthed”. You can read the other posts in the series here.
Therapy often feels like an archaeological dig. Well, it feels like how I imagine those digs go; you find a spot that seems reasonable to start digging, sometimes you don’t find anything and you move, other times you hit something. Now sometimes what you hit is some thing small. A piece of bone. A shard of a pot. The tip of a spear. Those things are valuable. But then there are other times when what you discover is a part of something much larger.
The larger thing I have been unearthing over the last few months has been my lack of self love. It’s been really important to acknowledge that facet of myself and to begin to look at all of the ways that it manifests in my life. The big discovery that I have been having as of late is the way that this has been reflected in my sense of call.
We clergy types talk a lot about our “calls”. We feel called to a particular place, a certain context, and/or a specific population. It is not merely a career choice, it is a Divine mandate on our lives and woe unto us if we do not heed the calling of God! We are Moses at the not-so-burning bush. We are the Peter and Andrew called to be fishers of men. Sometimes we are Saul blinded on our way to Damascus. Other times we are Jonah, covered in fish vomit and going reluctantly. No matter the circumstances, it is God’s call and we invest much of ourselves into pursuing it. It becomes our raison d’etre.
Maybe that’s me, but I doubt it.
I based a lot of my self worth on being a pastor. Too much. When I preached a good sermon or had a good visit at the hospital, I felt my life had worth. When things went poorly, it was easy for me to make the leap from “that didn’t go well” to “I am a failure”. In fact, that it is a road I know very well. I know it because I have been on it for a long time.
I have always been an introvert, but I have also always loved to be up in front of people. I did plays and skits as a younger kid. I did puppetry when I started getting more shy. I loved giving presentations in school. We did a trial in an American history class in high school where I was a lawyer. I don’t remember the case, but I totally hammed it up! My teacher loved it. I had a small role in a play my senior year. It was a very small role, but it got one of the biggest laughs of the play. Being a pastor guaranteed for me that at least once a week I would get a chance to perform. I don’t mean “perform” as in be inauthentic. When I say “perform”, I’m referring to the act of being publicly evaluated and deriving my worth from that evaluation. In my career, I have opportunities to speak in front of large groups of young people. If you can win over 600 middle schoolers, that’s pretty much undeniable proof that your life has merit!
Do you know what the irony of this post is? It’s another form of performance. I’m hoping that I will get some “likes”. Maybe a repost or two. Maybe even a retweet! Oh the sweet, sweet validation of being retweeted! I have this deep seated need to be seen and deemed worthy. This is what happens when your father opts out of your life. It is a thing I hope to never do to my kids. I would rather perform for them than have them perform for me.
My mother gave me a little laminated card when I was in my teens. It was something I think she picked up at church. I don’t remember everything that was on it, but it had this phrase that, oddly enough, has stuck with me: Despite my performance, I am deeply loved.
Despite my performance, I am deeply loved. It doesn’t matter what kind of work I do, it doesn’t matter how much recognition I receive. At my core, I am created in the Divine image and infinitely worthy of love. Not more worthy or less worthy than you, for we all have infinite worth. When I dig deep I can find that truth in me. It’s been covered up by years of rejection, trauma, fear, and failure, but it is down there, needing to be discovered again and again.
Despite my performance, I am deeply loved. Despite your performance, you are deeply loved. May we experience this as truth.