When I was a child, my parents made it abundantly clear that life was not about me. Their concern was not for me. Their needs were supreme. I existed to meet their needs and to make their life seem better. I was supposed to make them feel good, look good, appear more successful and to fulfill at least a few of their dreams. The better I was at this, the better the day would go. I was at their disposal. To clean the house, wash, then iron the clothes (an odd ritual we preformed to remove wrinkles from our dresses, skirts and blouses back in those long ago days), mow the lawn, dust, pick up, vacuum…and to perform whatever sexual act my father decided would appeal to him at any given moment when he found the opportunity to whisk me away in secrecy. Which happened all too often. I was to keep my mouth shut, keep the secrets, make the family look good and not need anything myself. Those were my sacred jobs. Failure was not an option. Performance was required, as was a smile. It was all about them. What they wanted, needed, cared about, dreamed of, lusted after and desired. It was never, ever, ever about me. Because I was nothing. Less than nothing. And nothings are not allowed to be a drain or burden. Nothings must do something to justify their use of air. Always.
When I married the man I was to spend the next 22 years with, I believed I had finally found love. Someone I could love; someone who loved me. Someone who had my back and who would do what they could to protect my heart. Who wanted to hear what I had to say, to know what I thought, to understand what I felt, to know the true me. I thought it was finally about me. Oh, not JUST about me. That would be selfish. But I thought what I felt for him was mutual. So while I would listen to, nurture, protect, love and cherish him, he would do the same for me. I would have a place in his heart as he would have a place in mine. A safe place. A home.
But I was wrong. I may never know why he married me. Perhaps it was only an act of obedience. Because he believed, as did I, that God was leading us to each other and that we were meant to be together. That we would have a divine edge because of this and our union would stand the test of time. For me, this wasn’t a burden. I fell in love with him. But he never fell in love with me.
He didn’t want to hear what I felt, thought, believed, wondered and dreamed about. He didn’t want to know the real me who dwelt deep inside, where I had learned to stay to protect myself. He had no desire to understand any of the things that made me who I was. He simply didn’t love me. He didn’t cherish me. In fact, he disdained me. I was never good enough. Never pretty enough. Never said or did the right things. Never performed quite well enough. He had needs. Requirements. Demands. I was once again in that place of performing to please another. Another who had no real concern for me. His needs were supreme. I existed to meet them and to make his life better. I was supposed to make him feel good, look good, appear successful and help him to find a way to fulfill his dreams. But I was not his dream partner. He couldn’t hide his deep disappointment. It dripped from him. Formed rivers that pushed me away and eventually drowned me.
As you know, I stayed. In spite of the fact that he didn’t love me and never pretended that he did. I stayed until he finally left me. For another woman. A woman he could love.
Our life together certainly wasn’t about me. I didn’t count. He counted. Even she – the other woman – counted. I failed to be a factor yet again.
Now that I’m alone, without a job or income, living on borrowed time in a borrowed house, desperately trying to find another position that won’t be so discouraging and horrible I want to kill myself when I wake up each day, the big question becomes, “How does God feel about me?” Does He care? Is He willing to help me? Will He provide a way for me to provide for myself? Because, you see, I’m out of resources and out of time. I don’t have options. And I don’t know if God is concerned about me in the least.
Do my feelings and needs (those things I’m not supposed to have) matter to Him…at all?
I’m told my view of God is broken. In my view, He has an agenda. He will use you to achieve His agenda. And if, in using you, good things come your way, you hit the jackpot. But if, as He uses you to achieve His ultimate goals, the world crashed down around you, smashing you like a stupid little bug, and nothing good comes your direction, that’s just the way it goes. You’re on your own. YOU don’t really matter. Because it’s not about you. At least, it’s not about me. Because I exist to perform, to meet the needs and fulfill the requirements of others. And I can’t even do that right.
I am intelligent enough to realize my picture of God has probably been tainted by the treatment of my parents and every significant person who has wandered into and through my life. But as I sit here…alone…without…hurting and needing and broken…having worked and prayed and tried and beaten on walls and read books and looked for answers and prayed some more, it’s very hard to believe the picture is wrong. In spite of the words in the Bible. In spite of the sermons telling me differently. Experience speaks so loudly and writes with indelible ink. Where I am and who I am weighs heavily on the side of proving I am nothing. Insignificant. Even to the loving God who created me. Just as I was to my parents who created me. A tool. A means to an end. A toy. A possession. A failure. Who just couldn’t perform. Unworthy.
I fear everyone has their own agenda and I don’t really fit any more. I’m too old and too broken. And it feels very much as if even God is tired of me and my continual failings. And so He has turned to another who won’t fail Him. Who will accomplish what needs to be accomplished and do the job that needs to be done. With a smile and joy. Who will shine light instead of bring darkness. Someone who is worth the time. Deserving. Deserving of the story being about them. Deserving of having their needs met and dreams fulfilled. Of actually having our Creator bestow on them great favor and riches. While I’m not even worthy of the scraps that fall from their table.
I pray I will have to eat my words someday. Someday soon. But since the story isn’t about me, that doesn’t appear likely. I will never be the star. The one who matters. I’m the insignificant extra who is lost as the hero saves the day. It’s not about me. It’s never about me. I exist to make the hero look better. The real people, the people who count…I’m supposed to meet their needs. And I can’t even do that right. So what use is there for me? What hope is there for me in this story that will never, ever, ever be about me?
My performance was not adequate. I have failed to justify my use of air.