I’ve been reading Abba’s Child, by Brennan Manning. These words, from his chapter, “Come Out of Hiding,” could have been written just for me. Maybe they are for you, too. He writes about a time when he was on a personal retreat in Colorado.
As the days passed, I realized that I had not been able to feel anything [emotionally] since I was eight years old. A traumatic experience at that time shut down my memory for the next nine years and my feelings for the next five decades…
The impostor within whispered, “Brennan, don’t ever be your real self anymore because nobody likes you as you are. Invent a new self that everybody will admire and nobody will know.” So I became a good boy—polite, well mannered, unobtrusive, and deferential. I studied hard, scored excellent grades, won a scholarship in high school, and was stalked every waking moment by the terror of abandonment and the sense that nobody was there for me.
I learned that perfect performance brought the recognition and approval I desperately sought. I orbited into an unfeeling zone to keep fear and shame at a safe distance. As my therapist remarked, “All these years there has been a steel trapdoor covering your emotions and denying you access to them.”
For eighteen years I proclaimed the good news of God’s passionate, unconditional love—utterly convicted in my head but not feeling it in my heart. I never felt loved…
It used to be that I never felt safe with myself unless I was performing flawlessly. My desire to be perfect had transcended my desire for God…
Unwittingly I had projected onto God my feelings about myself. I felt safe with Him only when I saw myself as noble, generous, and loving, without scars, fears or tears. Perfect!
But on that radiant morning in a cabin hidden deep in the Colorado Rockies, I came out of hiding. Jesus removed the shroud of perfectionist performance and now, forgiven and free, I ran home… Gripped to the depth of my soul, tears streaming down my cheeks, I internalized and finally felt all the words I have written and spoken about stubborn, unrelenting Love.
I leaped from simply being a teacher of God’s love to becoming Abba’s delight.
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