Expectations.

“Not good enough, never good enough” was my catchphrase for a little while. I would mutter it under my breath, write it in my journal, laugh as I said it to my friends. And whoever I was with would roll their eyes and tell me that it wasn’t true.

There goes the “invalidating emotions” thing that shuts me down faster than anything.

I probably hurt myself with that one. I shouldn’t have said it so often; I shouldn’t have said it at all, but it felt so true.

—–

I met my best friend when I was eight, and I hated her. She hated me too, so I don’t feel too badly about that now. But we couldn’t stand each other for two years, then we were suddenly best friends. I like to call her my “best-friend-soul-mate” because my heart is attached to her in a way that is inexplicable.

I know. I’m sounding more than a little creepy, but there are certain people in this world that I would do anything for, and she’s one of them.

That’s not the point, though. The point is that we became fast friends and were attached at the hip for about four years. We did everything together, us and sometimes her brother or sometimes the neighbor boys or the girl who lived down the road and her brother. Everyone around us was constantly shifting, changing, but we were always there. And I was so dependent on her friendship. It meant everything to me because I’d never been close to anyone like I was to her.

Do you know what it’s like to have someone you can tell anything without fear of rejection or judgment? It’s seriously the best feeling. It’s safety and security and confidence all rolled into one relationship, one big adventure of fun and love and joy, especially when you’re that age, when everything is sunshine-bright and colored in iridescent rainbow colors.

But stuff happened. Her family went one way and I couldn’t follow. I tried. I tried to start playing by their new rules. I tried to live up to their standards, and I never quite matched up. When I got tired of trying, I threw tantrums. Not actual fall-to-the-ground, kicking-and-screaming tantrums. I didn’t act like a two year old, but I acted like a thirteen year old who was terrified of losing the people she held most dear. I lashed out and acted up and made the situation so much worse because I didn’t know how to tell her that I wasn’t angry at her, I was angry that I didn’t know how to tell her that I was terrified. I didn’t have the words in me to say, “hey, I miss you and I miss how it was and I’m scared that you don’t love me as much anymore because I can’t be good enough for y’all.”

There was a lot of not knowing and lack of communication then. I wasn’t a big talker, not about big things, and I’m still not, but at least now I know how to do this – I know how to use my words on a white page with black ink.

It was the following year that I lost them. Temporarily, not forever, thank God.

My fifteen-year old self’s brain completely misinterpreted the situation. It wasn’t, “God needs us apart for a while to figure some stuff out.” It wasn’t, “We’re too dependent on each other,” or “I have her on a pedestal,” or even “this isn’t really a healthy relationship anymore and we need to break because we’re both poisoning each other.”

It was, “I’m not good enough so they’re leaving me for this other perfect looking family.” It was crying and raging and hating because I was less than worthy and this other group of people was good enough to meet their standards, and I despised them for it.

We didn’t talk for two years. I completely rewrote myself to try to appeal to as many people as possible, and that’s something that I regret because did you know that it takes a long time to find yourself again once you’ve been lost?

But. I don’t want to get into those two years. Not now, because I’ve got happier things to write about.

I got my best friend back. About two years ago, I think it’s been. We began emailing, and we hung out a few times, and then my heart was tied to hers again. We learned how to have different beliefs. We learned how to rejoice in the similarities and discuss the differences without fighting or judging. We learned how to love each other in spite of and maybe even because of our differences. Now she’s one of the most supportive people in my life and I’m craving one of her hugs like I always crave chocolate at midnight.

            —–

Heart shaped peanut butter sandwiches in my schoolbag. Being introduced to literature at a young age; Little Women, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Redwall were my best friends. Dance lessons. Gymnastics. Piano. Being sung to sleep every night.

I was doted upon. (Hashtag, spoiled.)

I guess that my parents thought I would be perfect forever or something because I was so good as a kid (I’m just going off of what they’ve said – pinky swear I’m not super arrogant) but then I hit the pre-teen years and things changed some.

Well. A lot.

It went from cuddling on the couch to fighting in the kitchen. It went from those heart shaped peanut butter sandwiches with the crusts cut off and reading aloud in the car to hiding out in the bathroom closet until I had stopped crying, apologizing even though I didn’t feel like I had done much wrong, but I hated seeing my mom upset; trying to spend every weekend with friends because I didn’t want to be at the house.

I didn’t want to be around the “do better, try harder,” because that felt like all I ever got.

I guess that was the start of “not good enough, never good enough.”

It started at home.

—–

There was a group of girls I tried to be friends with for a while – and they were kind of the wild crowd. After the rules and regulations of the conservatism, they appealed to me.

I wasn’t really good enough for them, either. Cool enough, loud enough, brave enough. I tried so hard, but I never felt accepted.

Then when I was involved with my first boyfriend. The girls that he was friends with, the girls that seemed so nice and so fun from right outside their circle . . . left me on the outskirts of that circle.

Girls can be kind of cruel.

The standards flipped again at my church, back to the long braided hair and demure conduct befitting a “Proverbs 31 woman” and skirts that hit your ankle, or at least pants that don’t fit too tightly.

I’m still hurting from that. From trying to be like the church’s model child, who never does any wrong even when she’s breaking the rules that everyone else gets hell about for bending or ignoring.

The hardest thing last year was learning to love some of the people in my church, even though they’ve wounded me deeply.

Am I whining yet? Are you tired of reading about these hurts that don’t even seem to qualify as such? I know; I’m one of the lucky ones. I haven’t been abused, not really. I wasn’t raped or beaten or manipulated or driven away from God, not for long anyways, and I am definitely one of the lucky ones.

I feel like maybe I should apologize for writing from a broken heart, just like I’ve been unintentionally taught to do. Apologize for venting, for ducking in front of the man looking at the stuff stacked neatly on the shelves in the store, for using the armrest at the movie theater, for coughing, for laughing, for breathing, for being.

No. I won’t turn this into a feminist rant. That isn’t what this is about.

This is about the girls who sit out in the parking lots of their church fighting anxiety attacks because they feel like they don’t belong in this building full of judgment, this building that’s supposed to be full to bursting with love, love, love.

This is about the girls who don’t know that they don’t have to do anything to impress anyone, not unless they want to. They don’t have to dress a certain way, or talk or walk any particular way either. And the stuff that people emphasize as “in” or “out”? That doesn’t matter, either.

This is about the girls who walk away from God because they see the hate and the bitterness masked with superiority and false joy that permeates the church today. They see the women making the rules for what they are, and they don’t want to become that, and they think that’s what God is about, but, my loves, it isn’t.

God is about freedom. He is about love and joy and truth and peace and kindness. Those women who try to make us believe, intentionally or not, that “religion” is all about rules and being right or wrong are so very, very hurting, and they don’t know how to stop hurting. They don’t know how to let their Father build them back up, better than they were before the rule-making women in their churches broke them down with the weight of all of their hurts, and then the women before them . . .

It is such an ugly, vicious cycle of women hurting women hurting women, and couldn’t it just stop?

Why don’t we learn to love each other and stop holding each other up to these ridiculous rules that don’t even matter?

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4 thoughts on “Expectations.

  1. I understand to some degree what you are saying. Man-made rules are not of God, that is for sure. He never cared much for pharisees judging others, and I’m sure he doesn’t like us judging each other today. I do think consideration needs to be made for the fact that God instructs us to not be stumbling blocks for our brothers and sisters. You need to read that book I’m almost done with — “Epic Grace” — he writes about this issue beautifully and it is helping me to find balance in this area.

  2. I’ll be honest in stating that one of the major reasons I stopped attending church was because I was incredibly tired of the falseness and judgement that seemed to be so rampant.

    Instead of spending time discussing God’s greatness, women were comparing their grandchildren. People were running up and down aisles and fighting to be the last to cry “Amen” because they needed to PROVE they loved God “the most”.

    It felt much less like church and more like a stage. Always being evaluated, always being compared to others, and always watching others act like they needed to PROVE something. That’s not what worship should be about, at least in my opinion.

    And so I stopped attending. If I wanted to speak to God about something, I did it from the safety of my room. I still do. A part of me feels like I’m “doing it wrong”, but for the most part, I think it’s okay. The location doesn’t matter nearly as much as the sincerity and honesty that you speak to Him with.

    1. It can be difficult to persist in fellowship when the church is comprised of such flawed humans in need of God. However, if you turn to Hebrews 10:25, the Lord admonishes us through the scriptures:

      “Let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

      I did not attend faithfully for several years, and I regret it so much. I had become a “pharisee” of sorts, judging all those around me — “Why can’t that lady keep her kid quiet during the offering?” “I can’t believe that person claims to be saved and dresses like that.” “I’m so glad we don’t have problems like that family.” I was horrible, although I didn’t realize it at the time. And I stopped going regularly because I felt there was nothing there for me.

      The amazing thing is, those same people showed me so much love and support when I discovered my life wasn’t the picture-perfect thing I thought it to be. In desperation, I ran back to the church, but more importantly, to God. And He is using those precious, flawed human beings to encourage me and to love me in a very deep valley. I know that God is working in me and through them, and I am so grateful.

  3. Another fantastically written masterpiece! I would like to address some of those issues personally with you at some point, but I wish you knew how much I cherish your individualism and your unique personality… You have never and will never have any reason to feel inferior to anyone because you pave the way for yourself and others… they are the non-compliant ones… Those who mind don’t matter… those who matter don’t mind…

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