“What if there’s nothing wrong with me?”
The thought stuns me into silence. Because of course there has to be something wrong, otherwise I wouldn’t have been suicidal on and off for the last twenty years, otherwise I would have had no problem being accepted and valued. Wouldn’t I? I’ve spent so much energy over the last twenty years trying to work out what is wrong with me and to fix it.
But what if there’s nothing to fix? If there’s nothing wrong, then I don’t need fixing, I just need accepting. And that’s a whole different thing.
If there’s something wrong with me, then there is potentially something wrong with other people too, something some outside expert is needed to fix. The world becomes a place for the haves and the have-nots, the whole and the broken. And maybe, just maybe, the less-thans can “make good”, win their way back to acceptance and belonging.
But it doesn’t work like that. God’s kingdom doesn’t work like that. God’s love is poured out for all, whoever and however we are. Christ welcomes all in, just as we are. Just as we are is enough. You are enough, just as you are right now. You don’t need to earn yourself love and respect. You are worthy of that, just as you are. You already belong. Just as I do.
What would the world look like if we accepted first, if we worked with, instead of insisting everyone fits into the same-shaped boxes? Nobody I know is the same as anyone else I’ve met. Even identical twins are starkly different. We are all put together with different gifts and abilities and natural bents. Your way of thinking is not the same as mine, and that’s a good thing. We need our diversity; we need to learn to harness it as a strength of humanity, as a strength of our communities. Together, we balance each other out, but only if we lead with acceptance and open arms, only if we are open about our weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
If we try to live in a cookie-cutter society, we all lose out, we all feel like parts of ourselves are not welcome, not right, not good enough. But if we can see how my strengths balance out your weaknesses, and how your strengths balance out someone else’s, then our weaknesses are no longer a failing, they are an opportunity for someone else to shine, to strengthen the whole. And we no longer need to hide our talents in fear of not fitting it, in fear of being rejected, because we can see they are needed, they are wanted, they are valued.
For me, it wasn’t just that there must be something bad present, or some lack of good, but that the good that was there was somehow wrong too. I was too smart, too clever, too quick. I was both too much and not enough. My classmates, my teachers wanted me to slow down. And so, I did. I dimmed my light. I disengaged. I shut myself down. I tried to keep myself within safe limits so I could still belong. But I didn’t belong anyway. And in no longer being true to myself and who God made me, I no longer belonged to myself either. Just as people around me did not accept me, I learned not to accept myself.
Traditionally, the theme for this week of advent is Peace, as we look forward to the coming Prince of Peace. But how can we make the way of peace is our own lives? How can we make peace with ourselves? If we are to live out the way of Christ, if we are to be followers of The Way of Peace, how do we now treat ourselves? Can we welcome in all that we are right now? Can we hold ourselves with loving acceptance and gentle kindness?
And it feels strange and familiar to me all at once, because I have been finding these small ways of being sneaking into my life already, taking back inch by inch, accepting and holding with love millimetre by millimetre. The working with, instead of fighting against. The loving-kindness, instead of harsh critique. Softness, gentleness, walking with myself in Love.
As we prepare to receive Christ as he enters the world, to accept him in all his fullness of God, to make room for him, perhaps we can accept ourselves too, holding space for us to be fully who God made us to be.