A Mess of Thoughts and Graces
Author: Emily Patton
This lead to the realization that I didn’t have to fight my way out of the darkness by my own weak self. Instead, I could just reach up and grab a hold of God’s hand that had been open toward me the entire time.
Over the summer, I had a desire to be outside and explore God’s creation surrounding me. I went to so many new places, each one so beautiful and unique. My favorite exploration was hiking through the Cuyahoga National Valley in the early morning. There, I hiked to Brandywine Falls, where the gushing water fell over rocks and cliffs and pooled together at the bottom. It was around 8 am, and the sun was shining through the canopy, glittering on the water. I remember just staring and smiling at how God is an artist and has created such a beautiful world for us to live in and enjoy. I remember marveling at his beautiful creation and agreeing with Genesis 1, when he called it “good.” As I was thanking God for this destination, I heard Him saying, “My child, don’t you see that you, too, are my beautiful creation?” I dismissed that thought with a quick, “But God, LOOK at this! It’s so perfect and people everywhere can see how beautiful it is.” But God wasn’t just gonna leave it like that.
For years I had been filled with a hatred for myself that stemmed from an inability to meet the standards I held for myself, and the standards I believed others held for me as well. I even believed God wanted me to be a certain way. My standards led to a lot of striving, pretending, and people-pleasing. It also led to believing a whole lot of lies that tore me and my relationships up. I developed an eating disorder late in high school where I counted every single calorie that I consumed (I kept the number under 700 most days) and then worked out just enough to burn it all off. I tried to get the best grades, look the best I could, be the best employee, be the most obedient daughter, be the kindest friend, and be the best Christian. Even when I accomplished something, I never felt satisfied. So I kept pushing for better and better.
It got to the point where I had ingested so many lies and standards from the world and the people around me that I didn’t feel like I was doing anything for myself anymore. I felt like I had completely lost control of myself, and that I had handed the control over to the world. I had let the world dictate my actions, personality, style, and view of myself and I didn’t know how to get myself out.
There was one day where I came back from a long day of school and work, and collapsed onto my floor. I hadn’t eaten anything except some chips and salsa probably that day, and I felt weaker than ever. Various things about the different identities I placed myself in were collapsing, and I just couldn’t handle another failure to meet expectations. I remember looking up to God and crying out to Him for some sort of help. I laid there thinking about how I had probably let the world around me take up so much of my mind that God couldn’t help.
God was so faithful, bringing me to passages that told of His immeasurable love and compassion for us, and how He is so intimate with every part of us. I read in Genesis how He created us “good,” and how good meant that we were made complete and beautiful, and how Jesus re-made us “good” by dying for everyone. I began to think on that more, and that was the first time I realized God didn’t have those standards for me that I thought He did. Jesus already helped me become complete in God’s eyes, now God just wants me to love Him and accept His love for me. So I accepted God’s love.
I still struggled with these feelings that the world kept winning. I would feel frustrated when I’d get busy and not have time for God, or when I’d feel like I still was listening to other’s expectations, or when I’d fail at something else. I believed God loved me, but I still didn’t believe He could help me overcome the world. Then I came across 1 Peter 4:4, “He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world.” I was floored. I had accepted God into my life, so I knew He was in me. And this passage was telling me he was greater than the world could ever be. The God who created the world with all of its intricate and working parts, who created the beautiful Brandywine Falls, who created each person unique and rose His Son from the dead, was immensely powerful. Nothing here on earth, not Satan, not the strongest man alive could even lift a rock without God first creating the rock. This lead to the realization that I didn’t have to fight my way out of the darkness by my own weak self. Instead, I could just reach up and grab a hold of God’s hand that had been open toward me the entire time.