Where there's smoke there must be fire?
“There may be a great fire in our soul, yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it, and the passers-by see only a wisp of smoke.” ~Vincent van Gogh
Growing up, the message that I wasn't good enough was pervasive. In my home, I competed for time and attention with things--music, crafts, other people. To my young, child's heart, this competition was interpreted simply that I was not good enough to merit first place in my mother's eye and time.
At school, I learned that attention was earned by being the best, achieving above the expectation. So long as you could stay ahead of the pack academically, even in the artistic merits, you were "good enough". But even then, the pressure to stay at the top, to surpass other's achievements was daunting. By middle school, the pressure to be the best at school was suffocating and oppressive. It wasn't until high school that I gave in, gave up, and succumbed to the idea that I wasn't "good enough".
In relationships, I learned the fine art of people pleasing. I didn't have to be the best in friendships so long as I was the most complacent, the most agreeable. And I became quite good at that role in many ways. Unfortunately, there has always been an element of my personality that puts off some people. And when someone didn't "like" me, I was again deeply wounded.
But as I aged, as I experienced life, and as I faced personal tragedies I learned that I had access to something that made me more than "good enough" and less than "too much" even. I had a relationship that had existed since I was old enough to remember.
I had a "Daddy" who loved me, always had time for me, didn't expect me to be the best, yet wanted me anyways. God had always been a part of my life. The one thing to this day I will say that my mother did right, hands-down, was making sure I was in the church weekly. As a young child, I enjoyed the spiritual milk of a baby believer learning the stories--Adam and Eve, Noah and the Ark, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, etc. Although as a child these came across to me more like a fairytale, in later years these stories would reveal relationship to me. They were a painting, or example, of the kind of love God had for me.
There were times in my spiritual walk that I was befuddled and angered at God and the church. There was more than one time that I left a service and tried to make sense of a teaching that was counter to the life I lived, or the life being modeled to me by a Christian parent.
[Try balancing out the scriptures regarding treasures in Heaven versus earthly goods--Matthew 13:14, 19:21; Mark 10:21--while living in the midst of a hoard.]
But as I matured in my emotional and relational life, I also grew and matured in my spiritual walk. The Bible stories I'd learned as a child were filled with imperfect people who'd done some of the same things I'd done and yet, God still loved them. My Daddy showed Himself throughout time as being loving and caring, even when His children had really messed up or thought they weren't good enough. Moses had argued with God about being worthy ("I'm not good enough"), and yet God used him to deliver HIS people Israel from Egyptian slavery.
To this day, I see myself in these stories. I identify with Moses' lack of self-confidence, with Ruth's ability to leave "her" people for something better, with David's inability to see his own sin until pointed out to him. And because I can identify with their failings, I can also identify with the love and provision of my Daddy. It's a simple logic--if He could love them as messed up as they were, He can and DOES love me as messed up as I am.
That is an amazing knowledge! Without that knowledge, I have nothing. In this world, I will always be either "too much" ("You're too emotional") or "not good enough" ("We found some with better qualifications/experience"). But in my spiritual walk with God, I can know that I don't have to be the best and I am not the worst. Who I am is enough already. I am loved.
It's easy to write about all the tragedies of my life. It's amazing to me how detailed my memory is of bad events. I can recall smells from tragic times as though they were here now. I can remember what clothing people wore, what the weather was like, and I can recall each stab of the knife in my heart. But if I simply wrote about and recalled the tragic events of my life, I would be robbing myself and YOU of the great fire within me. As van Gogh so aptly said, I would only be revealing a wisp of smoke to those around me. And smoke is not appealing.
But when I write about the revelation of love and acceptance, the rejuvenation of being enough already, and the redemption of the cross, I nurture the great fire within me--that One Wee Spark--until it becomes a great fire in the soul.
Father, enable me today to share the parts of my life that nurture and grow the flame within my heart and soul--my reflection of you. I know that you are the way, the truth, and the LIGHT. Let my life be filled with your fire, creating light to all those whose paths stumble my way. Thank you for transforming me. And remind me that I can be a fire and not a wisp of smoke on the days when I doubt myself. In Jesus' name, AMEN.