Welcome back! Unless you’re here for the first time. In which case, let me catch you up to speed. My name is Jamie Henderson and I struggle with people pleasing, self-worth, and abandonment issues (Which I really think is all the same struggle, right?).
Monday I talked about how I am currently finding my worth in the success of the work I do in the children’s ministries at my church. I have convinced myself that every child and every family depends on me to be the sole source of their happiness. I’m totally kidding (but I’m not).
I know logically that their happiness and joy entirely depends on their relationship with Jesus Christ. So why do I operate like it depends on me?
I have found my worth in being needed. It’s the absolute definition of codependency and people pleasing, but where and when did I lose my worth?
Well, I believe childhood abandonment is the core issue. That’s easy enough, right? But that doesn’t explain the current struggle. So let me fast forward.
I have known Jesus my entire life. My great-grandmother was a beautiful woman of God. I asked Jesus into my life at three years old. I somehow knew that if I was going to be like Granny Cassie, I had to pray that prayer.
But that didn’t automatically and miraculously fix all of my problems. My parents were grieving the loss of my two year old brother who had died in a tragic accident just three months before I was born. They were devastated and dealt with their grief and depression through drugs, alcohol, and unhealthy relationships. That didn’t leave much time for me.
Things got a little better in middle school. I went to live with my dad but was convinced by a family member that everything my dad and step-mom did for me was out of a sense of obligation. I began to eat everything. For the first time in my life I was overweight. It made me feel horrible and ugly. No one else in my dad’s house was overweight.
But high school wasn’t horrible. I started playing sports. I lost a lot of weight. I was involved at church. I was feeling pretty good about myself.
Right after graduation I jumped into a relationship with a man seven years older than me. I was pregnant by 19, married at 20, and pregnant again by 21. He had an affair when I was 22, and we were separated by the time I was 23. Once again those feelings of worthlessness were confirmed.
I spent seven years angry at God and running from his love.
I knew I wanted a better life for my kids. I wanted to settle down, get back in church, and make some big life changes. I met a man, we started dating in December, we were engaged by January, and married by May. We started going to church. I even started working for the church after a painful miscarriage caused me to change careers.
I poured my heart and soul into this new job. The church had started a new child care facility (Temple Learning Center), and in less than a year I had worked my way up to the top. It seemed like everyone was impressed with how well it (and I) was doing. It felt good.
I gave every bit of energy and attention I had to The Learning Center. I began to gain weight under the stress of keeping everything together while my marriage and family fell apart. After two years of marriage, endless fighting, a separation, and my husband’s confession of several affairs, I signed the papers for divorce number two.
I continued to struggle. I made a few poor choices after my divorce, and the rug was pulled out from under me. I was called into the pastor’s office and was told that because of my actions, I was being let go. I couldn’t believe it. It was the one thing I had done right. How could they just have a meeting one day and decide I wasn’t good enough. This was my rock bottom. This was my all-time low. How could I be dismissed so easily?
I had two choices. I could sink back into my old lifestyle or I could sink into the arms of God.
I thank God every day that He loved me the way He did. He spoke so gently to me. He told me that if I would stay in the church that had hurt me so badly, He would use me to help other single moms with their struggles.
I had no idea God was beginning the process of healing me from this terrible disease that I wasn’t even aware that I had. The disease was called people pleasing. I looked to those pastors to affirm my worth. I looked for their approval, their accolades, and their pats on the back.
I clung to my Bible every night for weeks as I cried myself to sleep. I prayed more than ever. God loved on me so beautifully during that dark season of my life. But what He did after that season was the most beautiful thing of all. He taught me to find my worth in Him. I began to play with my kids, eat healthy, exercise, focus on college, and mainly just enjoy life! I got a new job at another church. From the very start I made a commitment to myself to only try to please God.
The next two years would be the best two years of my life up to then. I craved spending time with the Lord. I would get up every morning at 4:30 and pray and read my Bible. It was unreal how powerful the Holy Spirit would communicate with me in that little back bedroom of my mom’s house.
I eventually met the man of my dreams (who I am still married to, by the way). I was asked to come back to my old job at my church.
Everything was going great except for one thing. The minute I came back to my church, those old feelings of people pleasing and fear of abandonment crept right back in. I worked so hard that I began to neglect the things that had become so important to me. I didn’t have time to cook healthy meals for my family or go to the gym with my friends or go hiking with my husband or play basketball with my son or go shopping with my daughter.
I began to gain the weight back. Being overweight was the biggest thing that made me feel unworthy in the past. I can still remember my dad telling me as a child how badly I needed to lose weight.
It wasn’t long before I started telling myself that I just couldn’t do what God was calling me to do because of my weight. And the cycle began. I told myself that the harder I worked, the more people would overlook my weight. I told myself that the harder I worked, the more people would overlook my weight. But the harder I worked, the more weight I gained. And the more I would talk about it.
All of a sudden I found that everyone I trusted to give me good advice was angry at me and telling me the same thing.
“Why do you think your weight has anything to do with your ability to please God?”
My sponsor, my mentor, my sister (all women of God whom I trust very much) were literally fuming at the words that were coming out of my mouth.
Okay! I hope you’re prepared. I’m about to do something super scary but only because it is so significant to how specifically God loves me and speaks to me. He speaks exact truth into my circumstances.
One day I was at the altar praying that God would help me lose weight or accept myself for how I was. I was begging, crying, pleading. I had read a book my sponsor (through Celebrate Recovery) had written and one of the big questions she asks is, “Could you be happy in this life if you never lost another pound?”
So at the altar that day, I heard God say that I would always be 220 (which is what I weighed at the time). He said that I should be happy because 220 is exactly where He wanted me. I didn’t understand how that could be. It just doesn’t seem healthy to me. And I REALLY want to be skinny.
As I argued with God he lovingly said, “Galatians 2:20”.
I remembered the verse that God had been burning into my memory. To this day it is still my life verse. The 220 that God wants me to be is “crucified with Christ” so that it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. That means that this life I’m living in this body isn’t about me at all. It’s about Christ. He loved me just as I am and He gave His life for me just as I am. I don’t have to be perfect to be loved, accepted, forgiven, or used by God. Crucified people don’t worry about their weight and they certainly don’t worry about how many people are pleased with the kind of work they do. That’s God’s business.
I can say now that the last year has definitely been the happiest (and the most successful) year of my life. And I can also honestly say I’m the biggest I’ve ever been in my life. Don’t get me wrong I still want to find a balance of health and wellness, but my size doesn’t determine my worth or what God has called me to do. And neither does my success at work. I love my job but there are many other things that God has called me to do in this life. And my goal now is to please one person and that person is God!
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ (Galatians 1:10, New International Version).
I have never felt more worthy and loved by God than I do right now. He loves me lavishly, wholly, and recklessly!! I’m worth it because He says so!
(Reckless: acting without thinking or caring about the consequences of the action.)
Let me pray over you:
Father, I want to lift every reader of this page up to you. I ask you to chase them down, kick down walls, light up shadows, and tear down lies until they know without a doubt how much you love them at this very moment. Show them how nothing they could ever do, good or bad, could change that. Speak truth into their hearts, father. Tell them how you want to restore their souls, their strength, their joy, and everything that Satan has ever stolen from them. Shower them with your perfect love today! In the mighty and powerful name of Jesus I ask these things.
Yvette will meet you back here on Monday.
Please listen to the words of this song today and believe they are truly from God!