I was about 10 or 11. I was staying with my parents who were missionaries in the kind of country where people don’t usually go for a relaxing holiday. I never felt like I belonged anywhere. Not in that culture, because I couldn’t speak the language, and I looked different and was foreign, and not at the boarding school for missionaries’ children, where the other kids often picked on me or disliked me. At an early age I had stopped believing in my mother’s love for me, and the lie that I was unloved was causing me to grow up crooked, like a tree that overcompensates for an early injury.
But I had heard that God loved me. I also had heard that He would speak if one listened. One day, when I was by myself in the room I shared with my sister, I took my Bible and sat on the bed, and asked Him if it was true.
“Is it true that you love me? Do you care about me?”
I waited. Then a verse reference popped into my head: one that I didn’t know. I looked it up.
Isaiah 41 verse 10
So do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Then I knew that it was true. He does speak, and He does care, and He is not only the one true God, Creator of the universe, He is my God, the one who watches over me. He is Love.
He has kept His promise to me. With Him I am strong. He is always with me, and He holds on to me. I’ve wandered off the pathway lots of times, and got distracted, and disobeyed His instructions, but He has not given up on me, and He never will. Some songs say, “I will never let you [Jesus] go.” I always change the words when I’m singing to “You will never let me go,” because the truth is that we often let go, but He doesn’t.
I’ve found that if I hold onto His love, I can love other people, and not be afraid of them hurting me. It’s hard to unlearn old habits of mistrust and criticism, but slowly He is making the change. If I ask Him to show me how He sees a situation or a person, it’s like He changes the perspective, making clear what was blurry, changing the colours, and sometimes revealing details I did not notice before.
Sometimes I look back and wish I had pursued Him earlier, when I knew this from an early age, but for a long time it was about following rules and being a ‘good Christian’. I was too busy trying to fix everyone else, and swinging from self-hatred to pride and back again. But they say that nothing is wasted with God, so I will trust that He is making something beautiful with the mess.