The View From Under The Table

My counselor recently taught me that we all receive a childhood message. This message can come from the words and actions of the people around us, or simply something we embrace due to circumstances that happen to us. Whatever the message, it feels so true to us as children that it shapes the way we view the world as we grow up.

Growing up with trauma shaped the way I saw the world. More specifically, it shaped the way I believed the world saw me. The message I received as a child is that I am invisible. The world didn’t see me because I didn’t matter. I wasn’t worth seeing. So, I broke alone and unseen.

I remember exactly one time in my childhood that an adult reached into my pain and validated my existence. I was a very driven athlete. I knew that if I continued to excel as a runner, my dad would initiate relationship with me. He was proud of me when I was winning, so I won. I ran through the pain of shin splints and stress fractures. But one fateful day I tore my quad. My running season was over.

I couldn’t go home to cry, so I went to a friend’s house. I was too embarrassed to cry in front of her, so I crawled under her dining room table and sobbed alone. After a few minutes my friend’s mom joined me under the table. We didn’t talk. “Mama Rhoads” just sat there with me so I would know I was seen and so I wouldn’t have to be alone in my sorrow. She didn’t leave me until I had cried all my tears. Then, together we emerged from under the table. It was the first real act of love I had seen.

I carried my childhood message of meaninglessness and invisibility until I met Jesus. He lovingly replaced my childhood message with a new one. My childhood message wasn’t replaced instantaneously, but more incrementally as I learned to trust Him and walk with Him. Over time I began to hear and embrace this new message of identity and value.

This new message started with a lesson in cost and value. I learned that something is only as valuable as what somebody is willing to pay for it. GOD BANKRUPT HEAVEN TO PAY FOR ME. He traded heavens most valuable asset for me. Therefore, I am INVALUABLE! That message penetrated my soul and transformed my identity. But the lessons didn’t end there! God continued to replace my childhood message through a lesson from John the Baptist.

“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:16-17

‘Have you read that verse so much that you missed its significance? Did you know that Jesus did not start His ministry until AFTER He was baptized? God identified Jesus as a son that He was pleased with BEFORE Jesus did anything that could have earned His father’s love, acceptance, or approval. Jesus is God’s son. It was Jesus’s existence that made Him valuable to His Father, not His actions. He was a son, so He was worthy of His Father’s love. If Jesus was seen by God before He ever contributed anything significant to the world, than God must love His children regardless of their contributions.

My childhood message of meaninglessness and invisibility eventually got replaced with the message of the gospel. I was seen, understood, worthy of love, and valuable…based solely on my existence and not my actions. I was transformed by love! I was actually a new creation with a new identity. My childhood message had no power over me. Once the revelation of this new message hit me, I didn’t have to fight to remember it. My childhood message had been erased and replaced. Or so I thought…

But life got hard 6 years ago. My life now included a very sick child. Suddenly my reality included the looming threat of loss. Eventually grief, sorrow, despair, disappointment, differed hope, and sheer exhaustion made me unable to remember anything but my childhood message. I had to fight to be seen and heard by the doctors. My actions affected whether my daughter lived or died.

My friends had no scope for what I was going through, so one by one I lost them all. I lost my friends, my security, and my hope. I was broken again. I didn’t want the world to see me cry, so I once again withdrew to under the metaphorical dining room table. My grief blocked out everything but my childhood message. Again, I found myself alone in my pain, feeling invisible to everyone…especially God.

Last March my despair hit an all-time high. But just as my grief began to overcome me, something extraordinary happened. You happened. You brought us dinner. You sent us a card. You sent us food and gifts. You came to the hospital and brought me coffee. You held a prayer meeting for us. You sent us a donation. You had your kids color us a picture. You called a doctor for us. You knew I was under the table, and you crawled under there with me.

At first, I was confused by your love. I wanted to believe that I was valuable, but I was skeptical. Your actions were filtered by my childhood message. I was certain that the love would stop once you realized that I couldn’t reciprocate. My capacity was so consumed with keeping my daughter alive that I literally didn’t have it in me to write you a thank-you note. My childhood message had taught me that my value was based on what I could offer to you. I had nothing to offer you but the view from underneath the table. The floor there was cold and hard, so I assumed that you would leave. But you didn’t.

You kept sending gifts and donations. You kept sending cards. You kept calling. You kept bringing me coffee. And then you offered to babysit my kids. You took them bowling because they don’t get to do a lot of fun things. You showed up with my favorite flowers. You reached out to others for donations for us. And then you had fundraisers for us. You donated your items for our yard sale. You donated your time for our yard sale. You promoted our yard sale. You helped clean up our yard sale. And then you shopped our Scentsy fundraiser. You just kept coming and you didn’t leave.

Eventually I will emerge from under the table. There is no more room! I am surrounded by a massive group of stubborn friends who refuse to let me feel invisible. You saw me under the table. You refused to let me cry alone. You expected nothing of me. You refused to leave when I couldn’t offer you as much as a thank you note in return. You made my view from under the table your view too. You have invested in me…not because you have anything to gain, but because you deemed me worthy of love.

That is the message of the gospel. Jesus had nothing to gain by dying. We had nothing to offer Him in return. Yet He deemed us worthy of His love anyway. You have been Jesus to me. Your relentless pursuit of me while hiding under the table has done more than just provide for my physical needs. You have fought off my childhood message of worthlessness for me at a time when I have been too battle-weary to do it for myself. You reminded me of my worth. You showed me that I am visible and loved. And you didn’t give up on me. I have felt the presence of Jesus and the tangible love of the Father because of you. You made difference. Thank you.

This is me around age 4.

I started running track in middle school, and ran until my Freshman year of college.

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