We all struggle with identity—who we are, why we are, and what we have to offer the world. About the time we find a scrap of worth or significance, something happens to make us fully aware of how much we lack. A harsh word. A broken relationship. A blunder or failure. Then, in spite of our best efforts at positivity or affirmation, we can’t escape the insecurity and aloneness we experience as a result. When it comes to this epidemic of misplaced identity, my friend Michele Cushatt understands the struggle first hand. Without giving away her story (which you can read in her books), Michele knows what it’s like to lose her footing, and to wonder if she’d ever again be able to stand. But she also know what it’s like to cry out to God for grace and discover the miracle of His Presence and His Purpose right here, right now.
He left it on my desk, right before he walked out the door for another day of kindergarten. A large, eleven-by-seventeen creation with the letters of his name printed in thick red and black marker. He wanted to leave his mark where I wouldn’t miss it. As if he feared I’d forget about him while he was gone.
It has now been six years since he joined our family, a little boy from a hard background enveloped into a family determined to make him feel safe, loved. Within a month of his arrival, we nicknamed him Radar. Because from the moment he wakes up until his head hits the pillow at night, he’s pinging the world with constant reminders that he exists.
Some days he does this by following his dad from room to room, afraid to let him leave his sight. Other days—most days—he says “I love you” a hundred times, ping after ping from a child desperate for a hundred “I love you’s” in return.
It’s been a struggle for me, his never-assuaged neediness. I understand the attachment wounds that fuel his fear and insecurity. But the depth of his void can be overwhelming. I can hold his face in my hands, look deep into his brown eyes, and offer my most earnest “I love you.” But like a black hole that swallows every hint at light, five minutes later he’s back, needing more.
Ping! Ping! Ping!
I shake my head and wonder.
What will it take to fill his heart, once and for all?
Today, as I think of his eleven-by-seventeen art, I see how very much like me he is. Like all of us. We too have fearsome black holes in need of filling. We too ping the world with our presence, asking for reassurance that we matter.
Some days it looks like too many hours online, back-to-back coffee dates, or a nagging critical attitude. But sometimes our radar pings aren’t so pretty. Hiding a deep hole, we pout and throw tantrums of adult-sized proportions. We complain, attack, accuse, overreact, and throw ourselves at near strangers, asking them to follow us, friend us, and value our offerings.
But a thousand radar pings aren’t going to fill our void. Why? Because to know we matter comes from within, not without. And only God has the means of filling us, once and for all.
But a thousand radar pings aren’t going to fill our void.
3 Marks of a Filling Love
1. God’s love is unconditional. It’s not based on anything you do but on the fact that you are. You are His. That means even on your worst day His love for you couldn’t be any greater.
2. God’s love is irrefutable. It’s not subject to public opinion or a vote. It’s not based on that painful criticism you received or the long history of mistakes you’ve made. And it’s not sourced in the “I love you’s” you solicit or the accolades you merit. You’re loved perfectly. And securely. Always.
3. God’s love is faithful. In Isaiah 49:16, God says, “I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” He tattoos your existence in this world—your name—on His very self. You are marked in red marker on His hands. No chance that His love will end or fade.
In a world filled with broken people who can’t seem to hold on to love, God’s personal love is the putty that fills our cracks.
When we know our value to God and secure our lives on that truth, one hundred “I love you’s” don’t disappear into a black hole of need. They simply add to what the one who made us already said is true.
We’re loved, wanted, and never, ever forgotten.
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More about Michele Cushatt
These words pulled from the pages of Michele’s most recent book—I Am: A 60-day Journey to Knowing Who You Are Because of Who He Is—were penned during her long and grueling recovery from a third diagnosis of tongue cancer, during which she was permanently altered physically, emotionally and spiritually. In it, she speaks with raw honesty and hard-earned insight about our current identity epidemic and the reason why our best self-help and self-esteem tools aren’t enough to heal our deepest wounds.
Michele and her husband, Troy, live in the mountains of Colorado with their six children, ages 9 to 24. She enjoys a good novel, a long walk, and a kitchen table filled with people. Learn more about Michele @ michelecushatt.com.
More about I Am (www.iambook.net)
From the moment a woman wakes until she falls, exhausted, on her pillow, one question plagues her at every turn:
Am I enough?
The pressure to do more, be more has never been more intense. Online marketing. Self-help books. Movies, magazines and gym memberships. Even church attendance and social media streams have become a means of comparing ourselves to impossible standards. Am I pretty enough? Hip enough? Spiritual enough?
We fear the answer is “No.”
When a brutal bout with cancer changed how she looked, talked, and lived, Michele Cushatt embarked on a soul-deep journey to rediscover herself. The typical self-esteem strategies and positivity plans weren’t enough. Instead, she needed a new foundation, one that wouldn’t prove flimsy when faced with the onslaught of day-to-day life.
I Am reminds us that our value isn’t found in our talents, achievements, relationships, or appearance. It is instead found in a God who chose us, sent us, and promised to be with us—forever.
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