Always a Bridesmaid…
“Always a bridesmaid…” I texted this to my summer running friend as I looked at the results page from my last of four races in as many weeks. I was fourth, once again, in my age group putting me just out off the podium. Driving home with no medal in hand, I thought, “this feels so familiar. It is the story of my life,” I thought out loud. ” I am good, I guess, but never quite good enough.”
I was never good enough for my mother. I got mostly A’s and B’s with an occasional “Gasp” C. I came in second or maybe it was even third in the Greek Week Best Legs on Campus competition. I played second doubles and won, but never crossed that barrier to first doubles. I never did master the back tuck in gymnastics, and anorexia robbed me of even staying on the swim team. You get the idea. Somehow I always fell short of the perfection I pursued.
I often felt that I couldn’t even do an eating disorder as well as my peers. (Not a goal to shoot for!!) I now realize that this is part of the illness and the denial piece of the “I am not sick enough for help puzzle.” I was sick enough. http://theprojectheal.org/not-sick-enough/
As I ran the next day along the bay, instead of being aware of God’s handiwork, all I could think of was falling short of standing on those podiums. A scoffing laugh escaped from my lips, “It isn’t like this is the Olympics? Let it go!” But for some reason I couldn’t let go and texted my same comment “Always a bridesmaid” to my dietician.
“Now why would you say that?” She responded, “I am thinking way to go girl! You rock!” I texted back, “ It is just that familiar feeling of ‘not enough’ rising up in me. I have disappointed myself and fear others judgment of my performance, not just in a foot race, but my life!”
“Always a bridesmaid…” Where did this quote even come from, ” I Wondered as I Googled the quote because I couldn’t stop it from flashing before my eyes. It was used for an advertisement in 1925 for Listerine mouthwash implying that if you used the product you would cease to be the eternal bridesmaid and become THE BRIDE.
As I watched the scene being set for a wedding along the blue-green sun kissed water, I wondered where I could have performed better. What could I have done differently to have a medal resting on the sun kissed flesh of my neck? Why was this so important to me? Deep down I know this is about more than a foot race. “Always a bridesmaid…” Echoed through my mind again and again as I ran and stopped along the bay to feel the power of the wind and the waves.
I hear God’s voice rise to speak to me on the misty remnants of the waves. “Liz, you are not a bridesmaid. You belong to me because you belong to the body of my church. Do you realize what I am saying to you?” I turn away from the churning waves and stand in stillness, “You are a bride; you are the bride of Christ. You are my bride. I love you.”
2 Corinthians 11:2 -3 “For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband –Christ. 3 But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the Serpent.” (NLT)
It is in this moment that I am aware of how Satan sneaks into steal my joy and taunts me. “You are not good enough, fast enough, smart enough to race. Why do you even bother? You have nothing to show for all your work and training? “ Like Eve, I am being deceived.
I am aware that this is a metaphor for my life. I search for value, validation, and identity outside of Christ based on my performance, or in the eating disorder. There are pieces of me that still believe I must earn love of others…even Jesus.
“Those are all lies!” I hear Jesus speak; I feel as if he is now running alongside of me. He holds my hand as I sprint towards home. “ You are my Bride, my heir, and this alone sets you free from the burden of performing for me or anyone.”
And of course he is right. I have my life to show for all my hard work of facing an eating disorder in middle age with a bizarre nerve disorder saddled on top of it. He has been faithful even when I was not.
I allow myself to take this all in and celebrate that in addition to being alive …I am running. I have survived treatments and a surgery just ten weeks prior to my races. Yes I was fourth! I set goals for each race and met or surpassed them. Can I use my hands to praise The Holy One instead of beating myself up? I raise my open hands to my chest to receive from The Father, and then ever so slowly to the sky in praise.
God is so good at confirming all that he has revealed to me. I walk in the door of my cottage and my sister hands me her phone. “You have got to watch this…” This video reminded me, and I hope it will you, that God looks at where we have placed him in our hearts and not where we place in a race.
I Am Second – Shawn Johnson. I invite you to watch it too!