Before I could even walk, I had two trophies to my name. My mother entered me in a baby beauty pageant because she was very proud of my blue eyes and chubby cheeks and quite proud of herself for helping to create an aesthetically pleasing baby that was only slightly coneheaded. I’m still pretty coneheaded.
While my mother never made me do another pageant, my competitive nature was sparked and I threw myself into any activity available. In the midst of this, a seed was planted. A lie was told. An addiction was established.
What I did became who I was. Winning became an affirmation of my importance. I needed accolades to survive.
I tied my identity, body and soul, to whatever activity I was in the middle of. Why? Because I was afraid that without a label or title I would not be good enough. How could anyone love me if I wasn’t always in the limelight? I threw myself into every activity with the intention of winning. Winning first place, winning your attention, and then winning your love. When I was winning, I felt complete. Second place was never good enough; that was just the first loser. Winning made people notice me. Winning made people care about me. Winning made me important to people.
Talk about a lie from the pit of hell.
But it’s what I believed. I didn’t win for the gold medals or blue ribbons or because it made me feel good. I didn’t join every activity on the planet because I was some prodigy. I did it because I needed people to notice me and to feel that I had made them proud. Every attagirl was like a drug. I craved it. I needed it. I wanted people to need me. I needed them to need me.
Somewhere in my childhood, Satan planted a seed. He became a constant voice in my ear singing me lies hidden in kind words.
“You can do it. Win that contest. Then they’ll see how important you are.”
“You need to win. They won’t respect you if you don’t.”
“Join another activity. Exhaustion is worth being the best.”
“No one cares about your feelings. They care about how YOU make THEM feel. Don’t bother them with your emotions.”
As a result, all of my worth was invested into my performance. And the saddest part? I didn’t even realize it. I truly believed that someone was only as good as the awards they could lay at the foot of the Throne. I had this image that at the end of my life, I would stand before God and He would take stock of what I had done for the world rather than who I reflected to the world.
My favorite story in the Bible is also the one that wrecked me to my core. Martha and Mary. In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus comes to visit the sisters. Mary sat with Jesus to soak up every moment with Him possible. Martha, on the other hand, was pulled by what she felt was her duty to the Lord. Of course, homegirl gets pissed. Here she is in a hot kitchen cooking up a feast for The Messiah, the Son of God, and her sister is just chilling with Him. Martha storms into the living room (pretty sure they called it something else then) and demands that Jesus notices her labor and her sister’s lack. Jesus, being the raddest of all dude’s in existence, acknowledges Martha’s work because He sees the importance of that to her. But then He explains that she is cooking a feast He never asked for because HE is the feast. He didn’t want sandwiches or cheese and crackers – He wanted her to sit and feast on His presence.
THAT’S IT. ALL HE WANTED WAS TO MEET WITH THEM.
There have been many lies in my life, but the biggest one was that I had to earn God’s love and grace. I have spent my life trying to pay a debt and earn a spot in His presence when He already paid my debt and has a spot reserved just for me.
If you’re struggling with this lie, allow me to assure you that He sees you just as you are loves you unconditionally. His love for you is not tied up in your performance or in how the world sees you. Your importance to Him can best be summed up by the Cross. If you were the only person on the planet, Jesus still would’ve gotten on that Cross and defeated death for you. FOR YOU.
I wish I could say with confidence that I have overcome this lie. But I haven’t – not completely. I think I’ll always want the world’s acceptance and to feel important, but will I need it? No. Because every day the Lord is romancing my heart and reminding me that He has a purpose for me. And while the enemy will continue to dress up his insults in fancy clothes to distract me, I have been given the authority to turn away. Jesus will never hide Himself or His goodness. His love is ever-present and available at any moment because of how important we are to Him.
I don’t remember what it felt like to win that baby beauty pageant, but it doesn’t compare to the fact that I never have to compete for God’s love.