We are officially moved into our new home and feeling very settled. We are down to those last few boxes filled with random things like pictures and memories and VHS tapes and other items we want to keep but aren’t sure where to put. Our kids are making messes in every square inch of the place and it really feels like home. After months and months (and months!) of feeling unsettled, it’s a really great feeling.
Over the weekend I opened another neglected box and found two folders stuffed with papers. One folder contained my high school and college transcripts, scholarship letters, college acceptance and transfer letters, and seemingly every single awards certificate I received from junior high through college.
The other folder consisted of essays, papers, and exams from my senior AP English class. I really hated that class. My teacher was very tough and hard to please. I’m sure she made sure I was well-prepared for college and I should be grateful, but I’ll sheepishly admit that I’m not. I read through some of my papers and her comments in the margins. They were brutal and honest and (in my humble opinion) nit-picky. Apparently I missed the tone of every poem we analyzed. I failed to grasp the main points of our authors. I neglected to recognize hyperbole.
As I read through the stack of papers written in my bubbly high school script, I sympathized with the girl who wrote them. My feelings were hurt for the girl who surely had worked her hardest and tried her best on each assignment. I also hurt for the 34-year-old woman who read those words and still felt stung by them. I was frustrated for feeling like the words of my teacher made an ounce of difference in my worth, my standing, or my purpose.
I found one last essay from one of the last months of senior year. It had very few notes in the margins and two lovely sentences at the top: “What a fantastic essay. You are so prepared for college.” My chest swelled with pride and my eyes welled with tears. I had done it. I had finally pleased her. I was good enough, I was smart enough, and dog-gone-it, people liked me.
I snapped out of it. I asked myself why on earth this validation meant so much to me. And, as is my tendency, I beat myself up about it. “Seriously, Keely? You’re still struggling with this? Why do you need others to tell you you’ve done a good job? Why do you need to hear you’ve made someone proud? Do the words of Mrs. G really make a difference one way or another for the woman, wife, mother, and person you are today?”
In another breath I was reminded of these words from Scott Sauls’ book, “Regardless of whether [words of affirmation] is your love language, this desire is in us all, and we never outgrow it. We want to be praised and noticed. In its purest form, this is good and even godlike.”
I am so quick to find fault in myself and pretty much each and every natural tendency I have, that I often fail to see the goodness of Christ in me. Does not Genesis tell me that God declared all of his creation good? And am I not his beloved creation?
So yes, while I can and do twist the good things and fall into sin and seek my worth and find my validation in the words of others, I am not a hopeless case. My task is to continually speak the truth of the gospel to my wandering heart. To remember that I do have worth. I have a stamp of approval from the all-powerful creator of the universe. I am my beloved’s and he is mine. I can rest in the finished work of Christ instead of hustling and trying harder.
I threw away all of the papers and all of the awards. There are eternal words for me to cling to.