I watch her weathered hands dance to the lament of her voice. These hands that have seen more suffering than most. These hands that still have the strength to praise God. They come to rest on the mug of tea as her voice trails off.
She has aged beautifully. Her make-up is skilled. Her clothes and earrings carefully selected. Her sweet perfume mixes with the hearty aroma of the stew she loves cooking. In her I see strength and faith and resilience and fierce love. And stories over tea. So many stories.
Yet woven into every tale, sewn into the very hem of her history is the thread of unworthy. This strand that weaved its way into her life narrative through thoughtless words and actions, uncontrollable circumstances… This thread, planted and perpetuated by the enemy, now so interwoven it seems inseparable from her garment of life.
I discovered this thread long after the first shared pot of tea. It surprised me, poking out between stories of sibling antics and early memories of her children. But like a previously unnoticed stain on a shirt, I cannot un-see it now. Now it is exposed.
A lifetime of acceptance of this lie that she is too fat, too skinny, too stupid, too average, too much… Unworthy. Her lined face tracing out patterns of resignation. These lies ingrained now. It’s her truth. Not questioned. Accepted and lived. Drawing from this well of unworthy day after day; this well that plummets back down into the roots of an almost forgotten childhood.
I don’t know how to unpick this thread. I don’t know how to uncover this lie. This messy, tangled web of ugly expansive deceptions. My flimsy attempts at affirmation fall flat on the table near the sugar bowl before they even reach her. My voice marches out, strong, only to be ridiculed by her practised army of self-judgement a thousand times more powerful.
The word stands as a mirror between us. I see myself in it. I see myself and I see a million other faces.
I am her. She is me.
You are her. You are me.
We wander around this life bearing the unavoidable scars that accompany a beating heart. And somehow the thrashing of negative voices has made us permanent residents in the camp of unworthy, each of us hiding in our own private prisons.
And the enemy is pleased.
In the pit of my soul I know there is a stunning truth expressed in Psalm 139: I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Knit together. Stitched together. By the Crafter of beautiful things.
Without the thread of unworthy.
And suddenly I know what has gone wrong.
My unworthy has silenced me. I cower in the shadows, eyes cast down, shoulders slumped, hiding from a world that demands an unattainable, unrealistic ideal.
But a Man with arms flung wide open and scars of His own is beckoning me; infectiously laughing in the sunshine. I am drawn to this embodied Love that covers me with a brand new, flawless garment.
And in His warm security I stand tall. By His side I am full of joy. In His presence I can see my reflection in His eyes: and it is beautiful.
I am beautiful.
And I can see you too. You who are struggling and wounded and bruised. You who believe you are not enough or too much. You who feel unworthy at the very core.
I can tell you about the reflection I see in His eyes: I see you are good enough. I see you are embraced. I see you are cherished and honoured. I see you are known. I see you are beloved daughter, beloved son. I see you have infinite value. I see you are gifted. I see you have purpose. I see you are beautiful.
Sister, Brother, I see you are worthy.