“You never listen!” I’ve lost count of the number of times I have said those words to my parents. At home, in school and in friendships, there was never a time where I felt accepted. Feeling unheard and invisible constantly reminded me of how insignificant I was.
‘Shut up’, ‘Stupid’, ‘Dumb’ are just a few of the damaging words I recall being addressed to as a seven year old girl. I remember feeling helpless and alone with no one to turn to because the very people that were shutting me down were my close loved ones.
Growing up, there was an ongoing record of lies replaying in my mind, words that were spoken to me and words that I twisted and told myself. I would overthink a lot of things and those thoughts would bottle up and stagnate within me. They didn’t have an outlet because I felt that no matter what I said, my words would always fall on deaf ears. I was also very sensitive about what others would think about me. The world’s opinion mattered more than my own. It became a norm to swallow up words and silently tolerate everything that was being hurled at me. Inevitably I slipped into the insidious cycle of shame and suppression, living in shadows, blending in the background, displaced, and overlooked.
Voice for the Voiceless
When my mom introduced me to the youth ministry, for the first time I found a space where there were people just like me. People who spoke of similar struggles, people who were marginalised by peers and people who experienced the sting of social dysfunctions. They were broken but strangely not beaten. There was a strength to them that was foreign to me. There was a sense of peace when the world was still the same.
These young people had their eyes fixed on a God. In Him, they had found a resilience that was so palpable, it attracted me instantly. I was drawn to their zeal and their enthusiasm nudged me to seek this God who had not silenced them.
I was drawn to the confidence they exhibited even in the midst of a world screaming stupid – dumb – fat – ugly. I had finally found a safe haven. I was drawn to freedom.
I was drawn to a better world. It is there that I heard God’s voice for the first time whispering what I could never imagine for myself all those years – words of affirmation, words of love, words of hope.
And it clicked. I was never alone. Never once. All those years, where my words were consumed into a dark vacuum, there was another voice trying to reach out to me, always. And it was here again in a new way. With His love came the warmth of His light, His ‘Word’, the truth that I longed for, the truth I desired to live by. In His Word I found my true self, not the person that the world made me, but His Sam. I was finally able to love myself because I had found one Who saw me as His Beloved. The words of Hagar from Genesis 16:13 became my own – “I have now seen the One who sees me.”’
He is El Roi, for He sees me even in my silence, even in my hiddenness.
You are never alone
In the youth ministry, I found fellow travellers who became close friends. For the first time in my life, I found courage to open up, and express my feelings. I felt a sense of comfort that I had found a friend who would ‘listen’ and not judge. Just knowing that there was someone out there who has gone through similar struggles was plain relief. And more than anything, our friendships were entwined with Jesus, our forever friend in whom was only faithfulness, pure trust and total love.
One of my favourite verses is from Psalm 23:4 which says ‘Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.’ This verse always reminds me that I’m not alone in my struggles. It has taught me to become more intentional in speaking words of life to myself. I am now focused on the blessings and miracles that God has worked in my life. I take time out to journal, finding way with words to heal, to pen down things that I need to improve upon, and to focus on my life with Jesus. Lastly, finding a community who I can share my fears and failures with has been life altering and sanctifying in so many ways.
To anyone out there who is suffering with self-criticism, self-abuse or emotional abuse, I want to let you know that you are not alone in your struggle. You never will be. In a God who ‘sees’ all things, even the most interior of your self, you can be assured of a love that will not only strengthen but also protect. You belong to someone who loves you unconditionally. Even if you feel like the world is your enemy, know that he is your Greatest Ally. God opened the cage of lies that was built around me, setting His captive free, He will do the same for you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Samantha Mascarenhas lives in the beautiful rain city of Edinburgh, currently pursuing a degree in veterinary medicine. As an ardent lover of nature, she looks for every opportunity to discover the grace and grandeur of God’s creation while wandering in forests or walking along the seashore. She also loves to draw and paint varied themes from the Bible. Samantha sees her Christian journey inundated with blessing, beauty and breathtaking Grace which she desires to make known through her art, writing and witness. You can connect with her on Instagram at @child.inspired