I’m not good enough.
Like a broken branch hanging from a tree, I don’t fit in. I’m not connected.
I’ve lived this lie all my life, without even knowing it. I knew something wasn’t right in my heart, but I couldn’t name it.
Until this month.
Let me explain.
The wound is given
I grew up in a Leave-It-To-Beaver home, father-mother-son-daughter. From the outside we were an all-American family. Living in the suburbs. Dad had a good job most of the time (my sister and I were shielded from the tough times – we always were provided for). Good public schools, and a college education.
We made a couple of out-of-state moves, in the middle of my second-grade year and just before ninth grade. Those were hard, moving to a new place where we didn’t know anyone, but that allowed me to keep my façade intact.
I was a loner. No close friends. I was bullied a little bit in junior high because I’m small physically and quiet. I was an easy target and wouldn’t complain. We moved after eighth grade, and that ended.
I knew my parents had my back, but my sister and I received no affection growing up. No encouragement or praise. Little advice. We didn’t take risks, try new things, step out of comfort zones, have people over for dinner, none of that.
My whole life I thought loneliness was my wound, the bleeding in my heart that I could not stop. Satan allowed me to think that, to identify the wrong wound. That way, I’d never heal.
In October I spent two days with Mom and Dad. Just the three of us.
Dad is 85 and doesn’t expect to live too much longer. His death is not imminent, but he knows the end is coming. Mom turns 82 this week and is very healthy.
“If Mom dies before I do, I’m in trouble,” Dad told me last month.
He’s right. She provides for his every need. As she has every day of their 59-year marriage.
I’ve never heard Mom express an original thought or opinion. When she speaks, it’s often softly so no one will hear her or respond. She stays in the background.
Personality-wise, I am my mom’s son. I rarely will tell you what’s on my mind. (It’s much easier for me to communicate by writing than by speaking. Just sayin’ …)
There are reasons for this. Looking at the upbringing of my parents – ie, my grandparents, on both sides – I see where their personalities come from.
The point: Mom and Dad are who they are. They raised me. They did the best they could. They did a good job.
The wound continues
But this wound …
I told myself I’d break the cycle when I had children. I won’t pass the wound on to them. I knew I had a wound as a child and young adult, even though I couldn’t name it correctly.
But since I had mis-identified the wound and I didn’t have a support system to fight it, I did pass it on to our sons. I see that now. It manifests itself differently in each of them, but it’s there.
Satan tailors our wounds to our weaknesses. My sons may have different wounds than I do. I should ask them about that. I began a conversation about this the other day with my youngest son, and we’ll see where that goes.
My wound affects my marriage, too. We’ve been married 34 years – from the outside, we’ve got a great marriage. And it is great in many ways. But I have not been the husband and father that my family needed – and still need.
Facing my shadow
The week before I visited Mom and Dad, a good friend and I attended a three-day conference in Chicago on inner-city ministry, since the church we attend is starting a campus in an inner-city area of Lorain, Ohio. One of the keynote speakers discussed emotional health. I also attended a workshop he led on the topic.
Then, I bought his book. I’ve started reading it, because I am not an emotionally healthy leader.
Not even close.
The speaker and author, Peter Scazerro, talked about “facing your shadow.” Scazerro put it this way:
Everyone has a shadow. So what is it?
Your shadow is the accumulation of untamed emotions, less-than-pure motives and thoughts that, while largely unconscious, strongly influence and shape your behaviors. It is the damaged but mostly hidden version of who you are.
The Emotionally Healthy Leader, page 55
Largely unconscious. Yes. Damaged and mostly hidden. Satan wants it that way.
Don’t tell me Satan doesn’t exist. We either give Satan too much credit, or none at all. The spiritual world is very real. You and I both know it, too.
Yes, you do. Even if you won’t acknowledge it out loud, you know that there is a bigger story out there.
We must understand this. Our very lives depend on it.
I’m not exaggerating.
John Eldredge, in his book “Wild at Heart,” has a different name for the “shadow.” He calls it a “wound,” and says most of us get that wound from our fathers.
Naming the wound
The week after I visited Mom and Dad, I attended a four-day retreat based on Eldredge’s book with about 100 men. Eldredge and a couple of his staff led video sessions, followed by personal experiences from a number of leaders of the retreat. That was followed by quiet times across the 80-plus-acre campsite where we could wrestle with God on the topic just discussed.
During one of those quiet times, God named my wound.
I see it in my growing-up years.
I also see it in a couple of jobs I’ve had. I worked for 24 years at The Saginaw (Mich.) News; most of that time I was a copy editor. I loved it there. We were a fantastic team. I was part of a bigger story, helping produce a top-notch daily newspaper that was the talk of the town, literally.
But something happened. The Internet came along, and newspaper management didn’t handle it well. Overnight, we were micromanaged. I’d done the same job for two decades, and I was no longer good enough.
I stopped trying. I gave minimum effort and put in no extra time. My passion disappeared. I survived this way for two years before we were downsized.
I did not handle that period of my life well at all. My wife, especially, suffered severely. We only recently began talking about issues related to that, and I was downsized nine years ago.
My most recent job, as a driver for a day program for adults with developmental disabilities, ended in August. During my exit interview, I discovered a side issue that I didn’t know about. I had been blacklisted as a driver from picking up individuals at two houses around town. At each house, I did something that someone inside the house didn’t like. Instead of giving me the chance to work it out and get it right, I was not allowed to ever return to those homes. The company has a zero tolerance policy for some very minor issues.
When I discovered that, I got angry. I hadn’t felt anger in a long time, and it surprised me that anger came over this issue.
Because I wasn’t good enough to do my job. I was not allowed to do my job to the best of my ability.
I’m not good enough.
The wrong question
Jesus Himself said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Even Jesus says I’m not good enough, right?
But the story doesn’t end there.
Indeed, that’s the wrong question.
Whether I’m good enough or not is irrelevant. God loves me anyway.
The summer after ninth grade, I attended a church camp in western Pennsylvania. The counselors and other campers – my peers – noticed me and cared about me just because I was there. I didn’t have to do anything to earn their love and respect.
It wasn’t a sermon that won me over, or a good book. It certainly wasn’t a church service. What changed my life? People cared about me, and made it clear that Jesus cared about them – and me – like that too. I wanted what they had. Jesus was it.
I asked Jesus to “save” me from my sins, and He did.
Immediately, Satan took me out. He kept me focused on my faults and shortcomings, kept me fuzzy about my wound or shadow.
My salvation was not the issue; my effectiveness as a Christian was.
This battle took place in my heart, in the spiritual realm. This is real life, as real as it gets.
It’s still taking place there.
But naming my wound and allowing God to defeat it gives me the courage to live life the way God wants me to live it. I’ve buried my true feelings for far too long.
God doesn’t care whether I’m good enough or not. He loves me anyway.
He loves you like that, too.
As a journalist, I like to ask questions. Asking the right question yields the best answer.
If you could ask God one question about your own life, what would it be?
Be careful. He just might answer it.