It’s a shocking thing to hear the words martyr complex at nine o’clock in the morning on the way to work with your mom. But, quite honestly, on this morning, they were exactly the words I needed to hear. I had just spent fifteen minutes speaking all the words I had kept locked away in the distant corners of my soul for so long I still can’t begin to put a date on them. When this broken, jumbled mess had completely escaped from me, I heard my mom say those two words, and that was all it took to bring order to the chaos inside my mind. But I know the story can’t end there. So now, I speak these words again. They must be spoken. I refuse to let these words keep me stuck in the dark any longer.
I have to begin by saying one thing: I love people. I really, truly do. I have always tried as hard as I could to be there for people whenever they need me. I’ve always listened when someone wanted to tell me about what was going on in their life, and tried to give them the best comfort I could. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been this way. I’ve been the encourager, the cheerleader, and the confidant. And, in all honesty, I do love being that.
However, somewhere in the listening, I lost my own voice. In the midst of my constant striving to be there in every way I can for everyone else, I set aside myself. I sit myself in a dark corner, and stay quiet. I make sure everyone else is cared for, listened to, and cheered on. I convince myself that I really don’t need to talk about what I feel and what I need, because to speak would take away from the time I need to listen. If being there for people means putting away my own needs, that’s okay. At least I’m there to help everyone else who needs me.
A few weeks ago, around the same time as the eye-opening conversation I had with my mom, a really lovely friend of mine tweeted these words to me: “You are a light in a world that finds it easier to stay in darkness.” While I truly appreciated her words, they presented me with a question. Where does this life leave me? In the process of being for others, did I leave any part of me for myself? The resounding “no” was like a punch to my stomach that simultaneously brought air to my lungs. For the first time I realized that, because of my desire to be for others, I had allowed myself to become stretched out, drained of almost all life, nearly invisible, and incapable of asking for help. And I saw that that is not how I, or anyone else, is supposed to live.
My parents and I listen to the Bible every morning. On one morning not too long ago, we were listening to the book of Mark. As I heard the voice through the phone speaker recite Mark 12:30-31, one of the most quoted passages in the entire Bible, the words suddenly popped out and embedded themselves into my mind. I had always heard these verse used in church to emphasize how important it is to love others. While that certainly is part of what this passage is saying, a new emphasis was put into these words for me. “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these” (NLT, emphasis mine).
All day, I tried to wrap my brain around what I had just discovered. It had never occurred to me that it is explicitly stated in one of the greatest commandments, by Jesus himself, that I needed to love myself. But, if loving myself was so important, then why was it so hard? After thinking it through for a while, I think I know the answer to that.
I know who I am. I know everything I’ve done, said, and thought. I look at myself, and wonder how on God’s green Earth it could be possible for anyone, human or divine, to love this shattered, frayed thing that is me.
But, do you know what the crazy, amazing thing is? I’m not the only one who knows who I am. God knows. In fact, He knows better than anyone. He knew when he came down to Earth and allowed himself to be murdered to save me. He didn’t have a rose-colored, sugar coated, perfect image. He knew that I would let him down more times than anyone but he could count, and he still decided that I was worth loving.
He knows who I am; martyr complex, disability, and all, and he loves me enough to call me out of this dark corner. It is not where I belong. I will no longer sacrifice my own voice. I will own my story and speak. I will love people, but I will start with myself. I will never again give up the light that I need to live. I refuse to accept the darkness, for I am of the Light.