“I never thought to ascribe my mother’s emotional and physical exhaustion to the lack of a husband and father; rather, I ascribed it to my existence. In other words, I grew up learning the exact opposite of what Eisenhower was taught. I learned that if I didn’t exist, the family would be better off. I grew up believing that if I had never been born, things would be easier for the people I loved.” -Donald Miller, To Own A Dragon: Reflections on growing up without a father
A word I’ve heard. A word I’ve used. A word I’ve identified with. A word I’ve worn.
It wasn’t until recently that I truly felt the weight of myself…that I have somehow believed for most of my life that I am a burden to those around me. This triggered my deeply rooted fears and feelings of abandonment, and at times, even caused me to believe the lie that I have been left behind because I am just to much of a “B” word (burden). If I wasn’t here, would life be easier for those around me? The word burden felt tattooed on my soul for an incredibly long time.
Feeling like a burden is a crippling and isolating identity of deception, and I have allowed myself and others to define me as a “B” for far too long. The problem with this lie is that I began to believe it in my relationship with God as well. If I am just too much, too broken, too much of a challenge for most of the people in my life, what would make God any different? Does God think I am a huge “B”?
The other night, I broke down crying in the shower (the bathroom is sort of my sacred place, I am a weirdo). I realized that in all this time I never talked to God about it this. Perhaps I didn’t feel it mattered. Perhaps I didn’t trust him. My faith has never been shaken, but my safety has. I never doubted God’s existence, but I doubted his caring of me. Would he also abandon me? Did he see me? Did he hear that amount of times I cried? And scariest of all, did he hear and not care?
Yesterday, I had a refreshing coffee date with my dear friend, Nikki. She is one of those friends who somehow draws the authenticity and vulnerability from the depths of my soul, and without any probing on her end, there’s nothing I can do but pour my heart out onto the wooden table between us at Le Pain Quotidien.
I told Nikki everything. I communicated my fears and concerns…and opened up to her about this “B” word problem and how I felt it connected to my feelings of abandonment. I went on to tell Nikki that I finally talked to God about this. With a gentle smile and a patient pause, she said,
“If it’s okay with you, I’d like to challenge that and offer a different thought. I think God talked to you about it, Rachael. I think the reason you finally opened and trusted him with this is because he hadn’t abandoned you, and your spirit felt his presence near you. You knew you were not alone.”
My soul had an awakening with this simple alternative way of thinking. I am not a burden to God. I am not his expensive accessory. I am not someone he dreads caring for. I am not a “B” that he leaves behind so that he doesn’t have to pay for braces, insurance, or child support. I am not a flippant vow he made that will change with feelings, seasons, or when I am “too much.”
It occurred to me that it all comes down to safety and security. When you are a child, you feel safe with your father. You expect that man to be a constant. Not having my biological father play a consistent role in my life caused me to consider myself a “B.” And for a brief time while I was married, I remembered allowing myself to regain that trust and belief in safety. That I could really be that secure. That I might not be alone. Losing these relationships that felt so safe made me feel exposed and heavy.
But today, I am tired of feeling like a “B”. Today, I will cling to truth and lay my burdens down.
“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you.”