Why would you even care? (Choosing me? Part 1)
No one ever really truly understands the full extent of how much life, people and circumstances have hurt them until they are faced with normal and healthy. You would think, after a life of abuse, shame, rejection and abandonment, that the idea of someone wanting you would be a relief. It should be a breath of fresh air for you to sink into and relax in. Well if you're honest, you'll admit that when you finally meet someone that claims to want you and appears to be genuine, you get uncomfortable. Every alarm of skepticism, hesitation and caution go off like an amber alert on your phone. What nobody told me was that the same is true in your relationship with God.
A couple of years, after I started spray painting, God started using my paintings to speak to me. Sometimes it would be through the finished product and sometimes it would be through the process of creation. At first, I was just learning how he flowed through me. Then, the conversations started to take a turn for the deep and psychological, an example of which would be Tainted.
The original plan was to stop at the colorful background, but when I got to the end, it just didn't feel finished. The piece felt like it needed some structure and a place of focus, so I decided to use tape, magazines and a roller to add a layer of black paint. When it was finished, I named it Tainted, thinking it was fitting since I had tainted the color with the black layer. Of course, God had another reason for my naming it Tainted.
He told me that this painting represented how Tainted my view of him was. He said I couldn't see the truth of his character (represented by the colorful background) because of all the things I had been through with my dad (represented by the black). My dad had spent much of my life bouncing in and out of it. We were locked in an endless cycle where he would show back up, I'd make it clear what I wanted, he'd start off keeping his promise and then would slowly fall back into inconsistency. After awhile, I'd get so mad, I'd confront him about it, we'd get into a blowout argument and then the relationship would be over for months to a year at a time.
Just before God showed me how I view him, I was becoming increasingly aware of how my relationship with my dad was affecting my day to day mindset. It hadn't really occurred to me that my relationship with my dad, as well as other people, were affecting my relationship with God. And to be honest, I didn't shy away from this revelation at all. I was already in the process of building a better relationship with God and had flat out told him, you can be anything! but Father. You can be my friend, my therapist, my Jiminy Cricket, my support system, my creative partner, or whatever else you want to be, but steer clear of the father role. That is not for you fam.
Sounds a bit crazy right? Especially since, one of the primary positions God wants to be seen in is Father. I understood that was his desire, but I called myself trying to preserve our budding relationship. As far as I was concerned, my logic was sound. I was starting to like these new pieces of God. I still didn't really know his true character, unbeknownst to me at the time, but the emerging bits of personality I was starting to see were safe, and quite frankly fascinating. I knew that if I allowed him anywhere near the Father role, he would come too close to, and be swallowed up by, the negative connotations already associated with the word Father. I had no interest in associating such negativity with God, but here's the funny part. After I told God he couldn't be Father, I, for whatever reason, actually thought that was going to be the end of the conversation. As you can see, I cuh-learly! hadn't met the fullness of God yet, if I thought I was going to successfully put baby in a corner, but I was about to.
Fast forward a few projects, and here comes God again, insisting that he wants a deeper relationship, except this time he added a new clause to his claim. This time he was claiming he wanted a deeper relationship with me beyond just my obedience...Stop. Pause. Flag on severals plays. *picture me looking at and talking to God* Ummm sir. I have questions. Who are you and what have you done with the God I have been hearing about my entire life? At the church house, all they said you wanted, or cared about, was my obedience. Nothing more. Nothing less. Now all of a sudden, after two decades, you want to stake a claim that you want more of me beyond my obedience. *narrows my skeptical eyes* ...Wait what? You want to show me? Show me what?...That you care? But you have to come in? Come in where?...In my house?!?! Fam...First of all, I thought I could only talk to you at your house.
Second of all, do you not see this house or should I say fortress? You don't see the moat with the electric eels or the motion sensor land mines before you get to the eels? You don't see the giant sign that says trespassers will be shot by precision snipers? Even if I let you in here voluntarily, the army that is my insecurities are all well trained in the black belt of over fourteen forms of martial arts. Come on fam, not even Jackie Chan would try this house. Matter fact, Genghis Khan wouldn't try this house. Why on earth should I believe that you want to come up in here? (For the record, yes, this is really how I picture my subconscious talking to God.)
Consciously, however, I was giving God the side eye because the dramatics that is my subconscious held a panel meeting and unanimously agreed that no such a God exists. So the more he insisted that he did indeed care about more than my obedience, the more I was triggered to finally ask my very first personal question to God:
Why would you even care?
Before I give you his answer, I want to give you the psychological context to why I reacted the way I did at the time. When I originally asked this question, I didn't know or understand why I was so bothered by his claim. I'm not exaggerating when I say I was a little frustrated at the thought of him claiming to want more of me beyond obedience. By sharing the psychology of my own thinking, I hope to inspire others to start digging into their psychology and the why's behind their feelings. *cracks my knuckles* Here we go.
At the time, my definition of love, as it was taught to me, was "if you behave and keep yourself in check, then I won't punish you." I had learned that love was directly connected to what I did, not who I was, and love might as well have been synonymous with fear. I remember, one of my parents claimed that I didn't love them because of something they thought I wouldn't have done for them. I very quickly objected, replying "are you kidding me? I am afraid of you." It took me a second to realize that I had said that I was afraid of that parent, not that I had loved that parent, leading me to realize that our relationship, and my definition of love was entirely based in the fear of persecution. So when the church claimed that God loved us, I never heard love beyond "obedience or else." His claim to care about the deeper things of me, like my emotions, was met with a hard wall of skepticism because I myself didn't think things like my emotions mattered. They never mattered to anyone else. Why should I believe that they matter to God, who, up until this point had been rather distant in my mind.
So, after God claimed he wanted me beyond obedience, the one original question snowballed into me demanding to know why God even cared at all, across the board. The church loves to preach that God so loved the world that he gave his only son to die on the cross for our sins. I wanted to know why. Why love us at all? You're supposed to be Alpha and Omega. You're supposed to be all knowing. We are insignificant and tiny in the face of you. Why do we supposedly matter so much to you? Why do you supposedly work so hard to get us to turn to you? Why bother at all? Yal, I spent three days demanding an answer from God.
Welp! You challenge God long enough, eventually he'll answer you. I was standing in my shower, once again questioning his pursuit of us, when he instantly downloaded me with the concept of parenting. The concept was so simple and clean, that I could do nothing but laugh at the simplicity in it. The concept was from the perspective of a parent who pre-plans to have a child. Parents who preplan to have a child have a strong desire for that child. They spend a great amount of time preparing for them. Some mothers change their diets to be healthier during the pregnancy. Fathers start setting their minds to being whatever help they need to be for their wives during the pregnancy. They spend time getting the nursery ready and often fantasize about who and how their child might be. And, most importantly, they try and get as prepared, as any new parent can be, for the ups and downs of parenting, especially the downs.
They know there will be periods lacking in sleep. They know and are "prepared" for the diapers, the crying and the decline in sex and attention towards each other. They know their child will be expensive over the years. They know about the stress that comes with having a child, including the fact that their will be several points in their lives where their child will lose their minds and stray from the teachings of their parents. They knew all of this upfront and yet...they still wanted to have a child. It was the word wanted that stood out for me.
I'd never really felt wanted by anyone before. I emphasize the word felt because what I'm about to share, and will share in the future, is the reiteration of my experiences from my perspective. I had one dad who was in and out of my life, never staying long enough to heal through a fight. My other dad constantly fussed about the inconveniences of parenting, how expensive we were and how much he didn't get to do because of us. Plus, I grew up convinced my mom didn't like me as a person because of how much time she spent criticizing me, especially as it related to family and her friends. This, along with life's dedication to reinforcing the seeds planted by my upbringing, eventually led to me to the subconscious conclusion that I was an unliked and unwanted burden. Now don't get me wrong, my parents did the best they could do for what they knew how to do. Each one has taught me a lot of great things and I can honestly say, if anyone of them had done anything different, I wouldn't be who I am today. Still, despite their efforts, the pains of their past became the pain of my present and led me to believe I was unwanted.
Sure, people love my wisdom, talent and relationship with God. They tell me all the time how much I inspire them. But I have always been hyper aware that people didn't actually love me, Sanese the smurff, beyond what they needed from me. In some ways, I was probably glad people didn't know the real me because I honest to God didn't think people would like the real me if they tried to get in close.
I lived my life thinking I'd never be good enough because of how often I was criticized or met with extreme consequences everytime I made a mistake or fell short of a standard that was ever changing. To make matters worse, by the time I was an adult I realized my self-image had always been that of the villian and a disrespectful bastard. The source of such an image came from the math of how often I was rejected and abandoned, both physically and emotionally, for being unable to keep the complexity of my emotions suppressed under false optimism and for also being unable to keep my mouth shut in the face of injustice or manipulation. I am, first and foremost, a realest. Too many key people abandoned or reprimanded me for the way I was. By the time I subconsciously added it all together, I was the common denominator which meant I had to be the problem in my relationships.
The point I'm trying to make, is there was never a moment, until recently, where I wasn't on some level asking, "who would want me beyond my obedience or what I can do for them?" If the above was the image I had of myself, you can imagine how easy it was to be skeptical that some all powerful God, who was more aware of my faults than even I was, actually wanted the real me. Now imagine what it did to me to understand, for the first time, that that all powerful God knew, up front, choosing to create me meant he was choosing all of the negative aspects of my personality as well. That list includes my resting bitch face and the temper he planned to, one day, rework into a gift of grace. He was also ready for the fact that I wouldn't be able to control my mouth because he knew one day my mouth would be used to speak out and set other people free. He was even prepared for me to be anti-social because he planned to exercise all of the anti right out of my system. Trust me, I'm still shocked by this one. When I was younger you couldn't pay me to talk to people I didn't know or didn't want to talk to. Now I can't seem to stop talking to people, but I digress.
His concept of pre-planned parenthood proved that his desire for me could not be based on obedience alone. How could it if he knew there would be numerous times that I would move in the clear opposite direction of the word. As the conversation went deeper, he made a point to show me that if he pre-planned to create me that automatically meant that at no point could I be seen as a burden, hinderance or inconvenience to God. I think of it, now, like God saw me as a long term investment, who's love for me could not be deterred by the challenges in my personality.
Understanding that alone, was enough to get me to open up to the idea that he actually cared about me and eventually led to the intimacy we have now. As powerful as the pre-planned parenthood revelation was then, it still took years for God to start earning my trust. Yes. God had to earn my trust. That sounds controversial because we are often taught that we should have faith in God just because he's God but think about it. God wants a relationship with us. There is no relationship under the sun where both parties don't have to earn the other person's trust because, as you know, trust is not something that can be forced, no matter who it is. God made us, which means he also knows our individual psychology. He knows that entering into a relationship with us, on any level, also means he has to engage with the traumas of our past which is why he extends so much grace and patience. It takes time to heal. He'd just rather we heal in the process of building a relationship with him as opposed to trying to go through that healing journey alone, which honestly isn't really possible if you want to get healed in full.
Now, I know that was a lot, so take a breath because this was just part one of the discussion of "Choosing me?" In part 2, we'll be discussing the question that came up while I was typing the original version of this article, which was: Do you want me or do you want my gifts and the purpose you put in me?
In the meantime, I'd love to hear from you guys. What struggles have you had in the process of letting God in? Do you trust God's place in your life? If not, what are your reservations? Comment below and let's talk about it!