My story is common. Middle class; parents who love me; older brother who tormented me, but always in love. I came to know Jesus as my savior when I was 12, and never doubted who He was, or that He loved me. Met my husband at 14; graduated high school in the top 10% of my class; graduated college with my bachelor’s degree (let’s not worry about that GPA). Married after college; house and first of 3 daughters within 3 years. Husband has always been able to provide everything we need. Look as deep as you want, and you will never find the sob story. You’ll never see a gargantuan obstacle that I needed God to move out of my way.
For a long time, I didn’t think I had a testimony… was even secretly jealous of those who had the “Look at the awesome thing God did for me!” stories. Was convinced that I didn’t have anything to share that would mean anything to anyone. I silenced myself.
When I first decided that I wanted to pursue singing and music, I believed it was what God wanted me to do. I was going to go out and bring people God’s story through my music. There was only one problem… I kept waiting and waiting for the chance for people to hear my music, and it never came! Who knew? The music business is tough!!! Did you know that record labels aren’t just waiting for an email to let them know you’re ready for a contract? I may have been just a tad naive…
Here’s where my “perfect” childhood started messing with me. The mom and dad who always cared for me and loved me… Yeah, they did, but Dad was a truck driver who was only home on the weekend and didn’t know how to show his only daughter how much he really did love her. He didn’t realize that criticism doesn’t equal good parenting skills. Now, I’m not trying to throw my dad under the bus. He did the best he knew how to do, and we actually have a good relationship now. But when it comes to daughters, dads get the worst part of the deal. It’s not fair, but girls look to their dads to be the perfect example of a man. And when they fail, girls blame them for everything.
Right or wrong, I desperately wanted my dad’s approval, and never felt like he gave it. This set me up for a series of melodramatic, teenage clichés so bad you’d think my adolescence was scripted by Aaron Spelling! Because I never felt Daddy’s approval, I was a flirt to get boys to pay attention to me. Because I was so annoyingly needy, I never had many friends. Because I never felt good about myself, I looked for comfort in the refrigerator. And, because of that, I started gaining weight which just exacerbated everything. Psych 101 crap, all of it. Cringe-worthy to say the least.
So, underneath my picture-perfect Facebook life, all this nastiness was just festering. But, it’s when you decide to actually start living your life for God, as opposed to just going through the motions, that the abscesses we didn’t even know were there tend to get lanced and all the ick that was contained oozes to the surface. You see, God wants to use us, but He needs us cleaned out, first. We can’t be truly effective unless we deal with all the stuff that holds us back. Another way to think of it is we have to exorcise our demons in order to make ourselves available to God.
My demon was approval. It was at the root of all my emotional issues. I was so convinced that I had no worth to anyone that I actually felt guilty asking anyone to pay attention to me (perfect for a performer, right?!). If anyone did pay attention, I convinced myself that it was only because they felt sorry for me. It could never be that anyone genuinely cared for me! (I’m still not sure how my poor husband was able to put up with all of this.) So, when God asked me to step into a spotlight, I had to start dealing with the madness. I couldn’t remain silent.
I’d love to tell you that there was a miraculous event that changed everything for me in an instant. I’d love to tell you that all those old insecurities are a thing of the past and they never bother me. It would make for a really cool story, but there’s just one problem… I’ve always been a terrible liar! I do have a miraculous event, though, and after this miraculous event occurred, you know what happened? It still took 5 years before my dad and I could even begin to repair a relationship that had become so toxic I wasn’t even sure I wanted him in my life. I was still a size 16, and then I went up to an 18, and I was still an emotional train wreck. I can tell you, though, that this event started me down a path of healing that began to change my life.
It was after a particularly heinous fight with my dad that I found myself alone in the car. As a mother of 3 young daughters at the time, this was a very rare occurrence! Well, I was pretty upset, so I decided to pray (which, unfortunately, was also a rare occurrence). I remember praying for my relationship with my dad, that he could learn to love me as I was; that we could have a good relationship, and that I could finally have a dad instead of an accuser. Just so you have the picture… Here I am, driving down the road bawling my eyes out, asking God for my dad to just be my daddy. At that moment, and I swear every word of this is true, I literally felt arms wrapping me in a hug and hearing the words, “I am your Father, and you already have my love and approval”.
You see, every person we ever put our faith in will let us down at some point. We’re human. We mess up. But God calls us to bring all our sorrows to Him; tells us to come boldly before His throne and ask freely; makes us co-heirs with His only Son… Did you get that last point? Co-heirs! If we’ve accepted Jesus as our savior, we have been adopted into the family through Him! We have a heavenly Father who cares about us even more than we care about our own children, and who will Never fail us.
It was with that prayer that I started to believe that I am God’s daughter, and I don’t need any more approval than that. It wasn’t a quick fix, and He’s still working on me, but now I can say with confidence that I am worth loving. If you catch me on a good day, I can even say I love myself. I stopped seeking permission to feel good about myself, and I stopped looking for comfort in the fridge. I stopped hiding behind my clothes and I lost 70 pounds because if I’m going to be able to do this job God’s given me, I have to be healthy.
God doesn’t deal with easy outs, but as our Abba Father, He will guide us and correct us until we start to become the best possible version of ourselves. It’s an ongoing and never-ending process because our goal is to try to become like our big brother, Jesus… a goal none of us will achieve in this lifetime. All we can do is our best, knowing that Dad will always be there beside us, loving and encouraging us all the way. It’s that knowledge that gives me the courage to live my life for Him. It’s the least I can do for all He’s done for me.
Lots of Love,
P.S. If anyone has any questions about becoming a Christian, please don’t hesitate to use the contact link on my website (www.catleigh.com). I’d be thrilled to talk with you!Follow Cat