I’ve struggled most of my life with a secret shame.
I don’t talk about it much. Partly because it isn’t something one just casually slips into everyday conversation, but mostly because I’ve been so afraid that speaking it out makes it true – that those with whom I speak will see me in the very same light that has caused me so much anguish. Because I thought the shame would kill me.
But the Lord has recently taught me some things that I need to share with you, and shame seems a small risk/price that I’m willing to pay. This isn’t easy to write, but it’s so worthwhile if it could bring some comfort to just one soul.
So here goes.
“Every parent has a favorite. Sometimes it’s something small, but you can see it, you know? They smile a little brighter when one of you walks in the room. Laugh a little louder when one of you tells a joke.” But it wasn’t me. I wasn’t the favorite.
“Unfavored” hung over my head like a giant neon billboard, casting its shadow over every area of my life.
Identities like – second rate, not interesting/fun/pretty enough, shameful – became coats that, though ill-fitting at first, were thrust upon me so repeatedly that I succumbed to wearing them daily.
(Important note: My parents are good parents who love my siblings and I very much. They’ve always done their best to be fair and loving, giving us the best they can. It just happens that sometimes people are drawn to different personalities in different ways.)
This cloud over my head grew more ominous when people began noticing + pointing out, “You’re not their favorite,” until one day, all the pent-up hurt and shame from childhood broke through the surface and brought me on a long journey through darkness (which I wrote about here) which, praise be to God, He eventually rescued me from.
But the belief systems weren’t so easy to evacuate.
You see, human beings , like the earth, have fault lines – places where there have been fractures, which are therefore weak and have a propensity for further disturbances. Places that need an extra measure of grace and surrender.
Because I carried those broken identities for so long, it (still) doesn’t take much to throw me back down into a spiral of self-abuse and self-rejection. It doesn’t take much for those voices – you’re second rate, you’re ugly, you’re unlovable, shameful – to begin their unending litany all over again. That is why I am a type-A (learning to embrace the mess) perfectionist, a mildly (arguably chronically) OCD neat-freak, and a (learning rested-ness) high achiever.
This has been my weakness, my hidden shame. Even though God took me out from the darkness, it’s taken a lot longer to take the darkness out of me.
Has there been progress? Yes. But slow, way slow. Mostly, I think, because God knows I’d die from the pain of dealing with it all at once.
The battle is real. Which is why the message I have for you today is not delivered with a lofty “Thus saith the Lord” or with flippancy from the vantage point of “Been there, done that”, but as a fellow pilgrim/sister/friend/comrade who is still learning to overcome.
Maybe you haven’t walked the exact same journey I did. Maybe, instead, it was a husband, friend, or your children who have made you feel less than enough. Wherever you are, this is for those of you who have ever been made to feel rejected, forgotten, abandoned.
“When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, He opened her womb.” — Genesis 29:31
“‘Because more are the children of the desolate woman then of her who has a husband,’ says the Lord.” –– Isaiah 54:1
This is the word of the Lord —
Beloved, I give great grace to the unloved.
To the woman rejected and disgraced, I pour My love and favor.
Come, My beloved. Find refuge and comfort in My love. My unfailing love for you will never fail.
Put your hope in Me, not in Princes or the strength of man.
I will take away your shame and give you a double portion.
I will remove your disgrace and give you an inheritance. Come to Me.
There is a promise of great fruitfulness in rejection and pain.
It might not always look like the fruit we were expecting, but it is more beautiful. Pain produces an eternal kind of beauty in the soul that nothing can else can replicate. It teaches compassion, empathy, a sense of justice.
The fault lines, areas of weakness, in our lives become the very places in which we begin to lean into the strength of Jesus. Like Jacob who limped the rest of his life so he would always lean on God, our weaknesses are allowed by God to teach us to lean. And lives like that – wholly surrendered to the Lord – become a guiding light and inspiration to others.
From the broken pieces of your heart, many will be fed. The bread that fed thousands had first to be broken in the loving hands of Jesus. On its own, it would’ve satisfied one boy. But there in the hands of Jesus, broken and offered up to God, it became nourishment to thousands.
He gives great grace to the unloved and a double portion to the desolate.
When God saw that Leah was unloved, pushed aside, He was quick to pour His blessing on her. But there is one thing we must learn from Leah. She started out by crediting her fruitfulness to God, but eventually the fruit became her crutch. She still sought comfort from man (her husband and/or her children), not God. She saw her children as a means to secure what she thought she didn’t have on her own – love, acceptance, achievement. When she saw that she’d stopped having children, she became desperate and began to do things in her own strength.
God loved Leah. She had never needed to prove her worth. He saw her, truly saw her. He was always quick to respond to her pain. And that is true for each one of us.
In the barrenness and dry desert places, we are loved.
When fruit begin to grow + blessings start to flow, we are loved just the same.
Blessings come and go, but our great reward is the Lord who will never leave us nor forsake us.
Let every fruit in our lives be attributed to the Lord. Let us rejoice in every weakness and trial, because it brings us a little closer to the heart of God. Let it be said of us, when our lives are done, “Every victory in her life came from God.”
Let His name be lifted up and glorified. For there is great favor for the unfavored.