March 7, 1997 seemed like a normal Friday. It started to get late and my best friend’s mom told me I needed to go home. Tyler, his sisters and I all ran over to my house. I will never forget the scene I walked into.
My mom was sitting on the couch and crying. There were empty spaces all over the house. Places where things once sat were now barren.
In my very innocent 6 year old curiosity, I asked what was wrong. I wasn’t prepared for the response.
“He’s gone, and he’s not coming back.”
I just knew it had to be a mistake. She had to have it wrong. I ran from room to room, all over the house.
My little world was falling apart. The man I knew as my dad. My (step)sisters. My two new puppies. My clothes. It was all gone.
I remember walking into my bedroom and finding six dollars tucked under my alarm clock on my nightstand. The weekend before, we had been in Lowe’s and he had borrowed some cash from me to purchase a magazine.
He was paying me back the $6 he promised to pay me back. It felt like a punch in the gut. Why? Because there’s more to the story. That wasn’t the only promise he made me.
The year before, Barry had adopted me. I had never met my biological father, and up to this point in life, had been told he abandoned me. At five years old, Barry decided to adopt me. I stood in the foyer of the courthouse in Gallatin, Tennessee. He knelt down on one knee, put his hands on both my shoulders, looked me in the eye and promised me he would be my dad forever.
“I promise you I will never leave you. I will always be here.”
And here we were. A year later. Another broken promise. Abandoned twice before I finished the first grade.
In the next two decades, I was reminded time and time again that my adoptive dad never really wanted to adopt me. He only did so for what he stood to gain by doing so. I was a constant reminder of the greatest mistake he ever made.
As a kid, I knew him to be ashamed of me. If we saw each other, he would avoid me. He would email me and ask me to change my last name. He said he didn’t sign up for the medical problems, surgeries, doctor’s visits, etc.
I remember forgiving him right after he left. My pastor, parents and I all had a counseling session that summer. My pastor introduced me to the idea that God was my Heavenly Father and would never leave or forsake me. I sat in that office and told Barry how he made me feel. How he hurt me by lying to me and leaving me. It didn’t phase him.
Why? Because I was not valuable to him. We don’t stress over people or things that we don’t find important. I was never his daughter. I was a means to an end.
And while I forgave him and harbored very little resentment over the years, I still made an agreement with the lie that I wasn’t worth loving. That I was a mistake. That I was unwanted.
At 6 years old, I began building my life on that lie. I learned that the only way to prove value was to be useful. I learned that if people knew my own dads didn’t want me, they wouldn’t waste their time with me. I learned that the only way to have friends was to convince people I was worth loving and having around.
“Hey, I’ll help you with your homework and we can be friends.”
“Let’s go to Sonic. My treat.”
“I’d love to hang out with you guys. Let me know if you ever need anything.”
Statements like these were my normal. I didn’t see anything wrong with them. You probably wouldn’t either. But what I was really saying to people my entire life was, “I want to hang out with you. Name your price.”
I started going to my church about eight years ago. I spent years just showing up and sitting in a seat. People would ask me why I didn’t get involved at church and I would say something along the lines of, “You’re kidding, right? They don’t need me.”
I finally did get involved. But it took someone chasing me down and inviting me into ministry. Every single thing I did for the church for years was like investing in an insurance policy that I would have a family if I needed one. That I was worthy of their love.
And then one day, a mentor shattered my whole misconception.
“Felicia, we love all the things you do for us, but we love your heart so much more.”
I went home that night and second guessed everything about my life. What do you mean? Everything I do to make sure you still like me is not necessary? You love me regardless of how useful I am to you?
I’m worth that?
The single greatest thing I have learned that radically changed my life is that I now have confidence in who I am as a child of God. Not as a servant of man.
I didn’t learn that any faster than when I began to study the character of God, and remember His faithfulness. Our Heavenly Father does not break His promises. He never has and He never will. He does what He says He will do. Every single time. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.
He loves us so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die on a cross for no other reason than because He WANTS to spend eternity with us by His side.
He values us so much He made us coheirs with Christ.
He sees perfection when He sees us. The cross exchanged Jesus’ righteousness for our sins.
He thought of us, then spoke us into existence. And the best part is He stood back and said, “this is good.” He is proud of us.
He will leave the 99 to chase after us if we wonder.
He trusts us with His story and gives us endless opportunities to be ambassadors for His love.
We are His first round draft pick.
He is our Protector, Provider, Physician and Prince of Peace.
Making an agreement with any lie is dangerous. It is the leading cause of living a life so contradictory to what our Savior came to give us that it grieves Him. I don’t know about you but I’m not okay with that.
We have two choices with pain. We can either use our own pain as a weapon against ourselves and others, or we can transform our pain into a purpose.
For years, I took the first route. Honestly, it was catastrophic. It was isolating. Devastating. Paralyzing.
Then life changed.
I moved to a new city. I discovered authentic community for the first time in my life. I put the work in during therapy. I started over on building trust and living in God’s freedom.
I found confidence.
Confidence that everything that belongs to my Father belongs to me.
Confidence that He is absolutely and completely who He says He is.
Confidence that my Father in Heaven adopted me into His family and He will never go back on His word.
Confidence to pursue all He has created and called me to do.
And now. Now I get to spend the rest of my life using what Satan intended for evil – the pain and tragedy of my story – to help inspire others to be all they are destined to be. The pain now has a purpose. And I’m living it.
You are loved. Valued. Sought after. Free. Redeemed. Chosen. Adopted. Cherished. Blessed. Restored. Ransomed. Worthy.
Don’t settle for believing the lie that you are anything less. It’s poor stewardship of the truth Jesus died to give you.