In her book, Girl, Wash Your Face, Rachel Hollis writes about a conference she attended that impacted her life in a profound way. The insight she had about herself was realized when a speaker asked the audience two questions, “Which parent did you crave love from more?” and “Who did you have to be for them?” Upon reading that second question, my chest began to tighten, emotions began to well up, and I sat silently, thinking about my childhood. Growing up, I lived with my mother and two older sisters. I craved my mother’s love on a daily basis and tried to get her attention by misbehaving. Subconsciously I thought, maybe if I was mean to the dog, talked frequently, was overly expressive, or an all-star athlete she would pay attention to me. Then my mind wandered to my father. I never lived with him yet I always longed for his love and attention, on the rare occasion when I was able to visit.
As I continued to sit in silence, pondering my answers, these questions gripped my heart. Without a doubt, I knew I longed for my father’s love more than my mother’s. I knew this because of a memory that came to my mind of a time when I visited my father sometime during middle school. Shortly before this trip, I was in a production of Beauty and the Beast in a theater outside of Boston, Massachusetts. I wasn’t just a part of the production, I starred as Belle in this theater’s academy program. In my 12-year-old mind, this role made me special… it made me important… it made me somebody. I was so excited to show my dad the VHS recording of the performance so he could share in my glory and affirm that I was talented and special. However, after my father watched that tape, he remarked that it would be a “bigger deal” if I starred in a musical at a real theater. It did not matter that he was wrong about it not being a theater production. What mattered to me was his lack of affirmation. All I really wanted was a daddy who loved and affirmed me. I don’t think he intentionally tried to hurt me with that comment but the damage was done.
That was the last extended stay visit I would ever have at my father’s home during my childhood years. I was done trying to become the daughter he would be proud of. I was done trying to earn my parents love. The next few years would be spent searching for love through dating relationships that left me feeling empty and hurt. The only thing that could mend my broken and hardened heart was the love of Father God. This realization began when I was 15 and has continued to strengthen over the last 18 years. Therapy, pastors, mentors, books, and relationships have been instrumental in my growth but what transformed me the most was when I stopped believing the lies I told myself; lies that I was worthless, unlovable, damaged, and unintelligent. Ultimately, I could not have done this without replacing those lies with the truth. The real truth is, the word of God is the most powerful source of truth that speaks value and worth to each and every person. God’s love is unconditional and no amount of performing could make him love us more. Scriptures tell us that we are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), greater than all other created beings (Genesis 1:28), adopted as his children (Ephesians 4:1-5), created with a purpose (Jeremiah 29:11), gifted (1 Corinthians 12:8-11), and the list goes on.
When you read those two questions, what came to your mind? Whose love did you crave as a child? Do you have a story like mine? Whose love do you still crave? Who are you trying to be in order to be loved? I encourage you to take some time to ponder these questions and think about lies you have been believing about yourself: lies that say you are less than; lies that say you will never amount to anything; lies that say you need to be someone else in order to be loved and accepted.