Claudette Schlitter chronicles how accepting that she is loved by God – warts and all – helped her overcome bullying, bulimia, depression and low self-esteem.
How come, after all this time, I am still unable to look in the mirror and say, “I love me”?’
These were the words that began my journey of self-discovery which, in reality, was a journey of discovering God’s love for me. As a church girl since childhood, a committed Christian since my teens, and having even attended Bible college, by the time I hit my mid-thirties my faith was pretty solid (or so I thought). But there was one aspect of my life that I had not surrendered to God – my past.
Having been severely bullied as a child and having encountered abuse, fear and self-loathing had become part of my psyche. And it was one Sunday morning before church, when my daughter paid me a compliment and I was unable to accept it, that I realised I still had ‘baggage’ (for want of a better word).
In fact, whenever anyone made an admiring comment, even my husband, I would shuffle uncomfortably, and find something negative to point out to him or her. I suppose we have all done that to some extent – and there is something distinctly British about being self-deprecating – but I knew that what I felt was not right, especially when Scripture informs us that we are ‘…fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Psalm 139:14).
But what do we do when we still carry the thought patterns of our past? As a Christian, I have suffered with depression and the eating disorder, bulimia. These things are hard to admit to anyone, especially in Christendom when we are, at times, pressured into positively ‘confessing’ our lives.
After being unable to accept my daughter’s compliment, I embarked on a daily walk to pursue the truth, and this journey became ‘I Am Loved’. However, I didn’t rake over the past and write a book about it to apportion blame. I did it to acknowledge the truth of how I really felt, and it was this that enabled me to give all my feelings to God. I found my confession in John 8:32, ‘Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’
I used to cover up how I felt, using various coping mechanisms. When I was a child, I would sing in order to forget the vicious names the bullies called me. Tormented and teased, eventually those names repeatedly played in my head, and the only way I could eliminate them was by imagining I was someone else – someone beautiful, loved and accepted by all. As a teenager, I used to comfort eat, and it escalated into bingeing and purging. Then, as an adult, I even used positive confession, proclaiming a future victory and looking for a better tomorrow, but I never fully appreciated the day that I was in. I was unable to ‘rejoice and be glad in it’ (Psalm 118:24).
Too often I spoke the Word, but I did not truly live and breathe it, because I lived with the shadow of fear over my life and, because of that, I was unable to love myself. Fear of past heartaches recurring made me worry about my future, and wonder if I would ever find love. There are countless factors that can cause a person to think the way I did. It could be an abusive relationship; rejection by others; being betrayed or gossiped about by friends – the list of issues that can cause us to fear opening ourselves up to love is endless. Yet, I had to learn that, ‘There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love’ (1 John 4:18). The negative thoughts, self-loathing, self-pity and fears used to control me, but once I had written them down and faced them, I realised I no longer had to be the frightened girl who thought no one loved her. I was loved by God all along.
We can sit in church and hear sermons week after week on these subjects as we work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12), but it can take time for us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). Through writing my story, I fully surrendered the hurt, and I now see myself as God sees me – forgiven and loved through His grace. It was the greatest discovery that I’d made, and it led to my breakthrough with bulimia and depression.
Now, when I look in the mirror, I still don’t say “I love me”, but that’s not because I’m unable to. It’s because I’ve got something better to say: “I am loved.”
Claudette Schlitter is a gospel singer and author of the book ‘I Am Loved’, which is available on Amazon for £8.99, or on Kindle at £6.49. Visit www.claudetteschlitter.co.uk for more information about her ministry.