This is the 23rd post for our Write 31 Days series 31 Days of Miracles: Who is Our God. Today, Caitlin Lieder (see below for her bio) shares her story.
As early as I can remember, I’ve had a keen awareness of who I want to be and who I’m supposed to be. As a child, rules were clearly laid out before me in the home and at school; I knew if I followed them, I’d be accepted and loved. The pressure loomed perpetually over me, forcing me to perform a certain way. At the same time, that pressure wasn’t opposed—I wanted to be the person I felt I was supposed to be.
After a series of crises in my early teen years, I finally broke down and received salvation; yet, the price paid on the cross wasn’t enough to define who I was. On top of being forgiven, I thought I needed to do my things, follow the rules, and work to please God. I prayed continually that I would be a pleasing scent in my sacrificing to God. I did all I felt required of me and moved forward in life. I had an idea of the woman I needed to be before I got married and got a job and committed to the life as an adult. My desire to glorify God became distorted into unbiblical expectations that diverted my attention from Jesus.
During these years, a man came along who decided to love me. He didn’t expect perfection of me and seemed to like me even when I was over-sensitive or too tired. He continued to pursue me even when, in my own confusion about my worthiness, I told him to go find some other girl to marry. Through his pursuit, God was using him to show me that it’s not me who is lovable, but Christ in me that makes me lovable. I had thought I needed to be a certain weight, have a certain degree, be on a certain career path before someone could really love me. The pressure started melting away. Thanks to his gentleness and patience, I finally became convinced that he loved me, and he has committed to convincing me of that every day since.
I started getting the hang of not feeling as if I only had worth if I followed some self-made law or even the law in the Bible, but it was hard to let go. Somehow I decided that to have value, I needed to be the best wife and the best friend and the best sister I could be. I knew I couldn’t be perfect or better than others. My greatest competition was myself and I needed no one else to compare. Yet when I failed to serve someone or rise to an expectation (even my own), my world shattered.
We moved internationally a couple times and landed in the UK in the appropriately named Grace Church. The grace they showed my growing family floored me. We spent five years in that church and in those years, we struggled hard financially and had three more babies. I couldn’t wear a mask like I wanted, and I couldn’t put on a front that I had it all together. These people actually saw my mess and saw me for who I really was! In the busyness of babies, I could no longer keep house like I thought a wife should keep house, I couldn’t make the meals I thought a wife should, and on and on. I had a nice, big list of who I was supposed to be, but despite my best efforts, I couldn’t reach my mark.
Instead of condemning me and agreeing with my assessment of my unworthiness, our church opened its arms and helped. They loved me for who I was and showed us grace time and time again. They didn’t have a list of rules to which I needed to conform. They taught us that we could be who we were in our marriage—we didn’t have to be a certain way to be accepted by the church or by God. At the same time, they encouraged us to walk in wisdom and seek God’s kingdom and that the key was our worth is settled in Christ. He forgives and loves with an everlasting, covenant-keeping love that I cannot destroy if my pie burns or my kid acts out.
As I prayed over writing this and thinking through what miracles God has done in my life, I found a number of things I could have written. God has saved me in physical ways and met financial needs that can only be ascribed to divine intervention. He has brought me out of deep depression and continues healing me. But my greatest miracle by far has been His showing me that it is truly by grace alone that He loves me. He loves me because He does. He chose me because He did. It’s a miracle.
I know who I am and I know the standards I do not meet, but the amazing thing is that God knows even better than I the standards I am not meeting. There is more sin in my heart than I am even aware of and yet, He still goes on loving me and pursuing me and saying, “I love you.” That is my miracle.
Caitlin Lieder lives in north Germany, where she and her husband chase their four young children around while working and being involved in church planting. Her passions revolve around relationships and she thrives in talking to other women, discipleship, and learning with others how to live out the gospel. When she has free time, you’ll find her exercising or reading. You can see some of her writings on Velvetashes.com and more frequently onmundanefaithfulness.com.