“Life is to be entered upon with courage”. (Alexis de Tocqueville)
During my childhood, I moved back and forth from my mother’s (and stepdad’s) house to my grandparents a lot. Here’s my account of me living with my grandparents, from age fourteen to sixteen:
AGE 14 – AT GRANDPARENTS
When I was about fourteen, I dreamed of being a NBA star someday – the next Larry Bird. So I decided to play junior high basketball, starting in seventh grade.
Back then, I was uncoordinated, my mind traveled too fast, and my fears of rejection and failure placed enormous pressure upon my performance. I hated being a benchwarmer. I came in the game when our team was either down or ahead by twenty-some points with about three minutes to go.
I tried to be perfect in everything I did, as my delicate mind started to believe “everyone would reject me if I made a mistake”. I subconsciously thought that “everyone was like my abusive stepfather”; so I acted defensively and timid toward many people.
I gave 150 percent effort every time I did something; unfortunately, the combination of my mania and OCD often deterred my performance. As I experienced the lows and highs of manic depression, I many times did something “bad” or “stupid”, which would reinforce and worsen my future obsessions, of “don’t make a mistake.”
My bipolar actions often made me a comic to people. For example, when a basketball would go out of bounds, and out of the gym and into the bathroom, I would sprint out of gymnasium, and into the bathroom, and then sprint back into the gymnasium until I hand the ball into the referee’s hands.
Another time, trying to save the ball from going out of bounds, I hustled so hard that I ran into the wall. As this happened, the crowd moaned and gasped, until I started laughing, over embarrassment of running into the wall. After seeing me laugh, the whole crowd responded in laughter. I had that way with people.
A year later, in eighth grade, after a basketball game was over, our team entered the visiting locker room to get ready to take a shower. However, I was still in the gym looking for some scissors to cut the tape off my ankle. About fifteen minutes went by, and I headed into the locker room to undress and take a shower.
By time I was naked; everyone completed their showers and was putting their clothes on. It is important to note that in this school’s locker rooms, there were, other than the main entrance door, two doors, one leading to the showers, and the other one, leading to a hallway where fans were using to exit the building. Unfortunately, I went through the wrong door, and many people saw me naked in the hallway.
Being caught by surprise, I didn’t put a towel over my waist. Instead, I was talking to people, and was asked by some, for my autograph.
A year later, being on the junior varsity team, after the season was over, Coach Fred had a party for our team. Having heard of the rumor about Fred’s affair with the school secretary, and of their intercourse in the school’s boiler room, I asked Fred and Joyce (the secretary) in front of the entire team if that hearsay was true. Both Fred and Joyce were embarrassed.
Being unable to live up to my rigid expectations of being a basketball star, I daily felt like a total failure. I thought if I could be like Larry bird, everyone would love and accept me, and believe I was competent. So I worked an entire summer to save enough money to go to McCracken’s Basketball Camp. Unfortunately, during my first day at camp, I twisted my ankle, and struggled to make use of my investment of going there. Many people made fun of my sometimes peculiar behaviorisms there, but in the end, my strong work ethic, awarded me both the Hustle and Pride Awards, given at the camp.
So during my sophomore year, I was unwisely cocky, telling everyone “I was going to be a basketball star.” Unfortunately, because of my unknown disability and lack of talent, I didn’t even make the team. Hoping someone would quit the team, and then by default make it on the team roster, I became the water boy. Unfortunately, no one quit the team, and the highs and lows of severe depression make it real hard to endure each day of defeat.
Marcia Nye – the Homecoming Queen
Still in tenth grade, my unknown disability continued to make life seem unbearable to me. Still living with my grandparents, I was a lonely teenager who desperately needed love from a woman. Upstairs alone in my room, wanting the best, I called on the phone, Marcia Nye, the school’s homecoming queen, on a date. I was devastated when she laughed and said “no”.
Severely depressed and crying heavily, I had an emotional meltdown. With racing thoughts, I punched a hole in the ceiling of my room. I then grabbed the back of clothes dresser, and slammed the dresser to the floor. My grandfather, hearing the commotion, came upstairs in my room, and used a hanger to sting me, in hopes it would quiet my tantrum. Unfortunately, I accidently pushed my grandfather to the floor.
My grandma, hearing the commotion, went to the telephone to call my stepdad, to come over and restore order. In fear of getting abused, I impulsively ripped the phone off the wall. My suddenly angry grandmother then came at me with a stick; but, unfortunately, she accidentally tripped over my foot and fell face first, giving her a bloody nose. She then called my stepdad, and thus, I returned to living with him again. The combination of hurting my grandparents, and the fear of getting abused by my stepdad again, make the night seem almost unbearable.
During most of my life, I based my self-worth on other’s opinions and my achievements. Each time I screwed up, I felt shame. The more shame I felt, the greater the intensity of wanting to prove to both others and myself I was good through performance. Unfortunately, my illness and past hurts of abuse repeatedly sabotaged my chances of success.
If you read The Search of Significance, you will see our self-worth is to be based upon our identity in Christ. On the cross, Christ died when we were yet sinners – it has nothing to do with all of us, but everything with Christ, and God’s extreme desire to love us unconditionally.
In God’s eyes, if we base our self-worth on performance, we will not be good enough, as our deeds are just “filthy rags” in God’s eyes.
Our past doesn’t have to dictate our present behaviors and perceptions of ourselves. We don’t have to feel loved or approved by man – who are sinners like us – to feel significant by God. If we based it on performance and other’s opinions, our emotions will always wildly fluctuate up and down, based upon our actions – if we do good or do bad. If we don’t change our faulty beliefs systems, and instead realize we are special because we are a child of God, we will be tyrannized until we do. So don’t correlate “competence” with “performance”, to consider yourself as worthwhile.
In Ephesians 1:14, it talks about how God gave us worth, while we were yet sinners, as Jesus purchased us to be His own people, because of the cross. Just think, God – the greatest of all – the maker of the heavens and earth, so desperately wants an intimate love relationship with both you and me.
So when people put you down, realize the truth of God’s grace and your identity in Christ. Don’t demean yourself, by comparing self to others by performance. How God views His children is always greater than what any mistake-prone human who views us. See Romans 5:8, Ephesians 1:21.
Because of the cross, we can have eternal life. We can someday spend eternity in heaven with God. Christ paid the penalty of our sins. To those who are unsaved, God views as guilty and unworthy of His love.
We are saved by grace and not works. Even though we repeatedly fail in being the person God wants us to become, our identity and self-worth is still based upon God’s grace, proven on the cross. Even though God does child disciplining to train us a child, it doesn’t mean God loves us any less.
As you will see, I spent an enormous part of my life, struggling to believe these truths, and tyrannizing myself into being in shame. However, since I embraced and believed into these truths, I found freedom and contentment in Christ. To say though, I never will again felt the shame and base my self-worth others is not true as I have an imperfect nature. But as I grow in intimacy in Christ, I am realizing the truth more and more.
Ephesians 1:3-8: “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before He made the world, God loves us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace He poured out on us who belong to His dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins.
Ephesian 2:8-9; “God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”
John 1:12: “But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God.”
Listen to these inspirational songs, related to the theme of this chapter:
Imperfections Lyrics – Matthew West