I was in the middle of a sleepover with my BFFs, celebrating my 10th birthday, when the phone rang.
At our house, growing up, the ringing telephone was like the gunshot at the beginning of a race. My sister and I would both make a mad dash, trying to get to it first, pushing each other to the ground in the pursuit of being the one who could answer.
It was my lucky day. I beat her by a hair. “Hello,” I said, slightly out of breath.
“Kelli?” a man’s voice asked on the other end of the line.
“Yeah?” I answered.
“Hi. Happy Birthday. Do you know who this is?” he asked.
“My dad?” I said hesitantly. The words felt awkward as they came out of my mouth.
My mom’s head snapped around and she went flying out of the kitchen and down the hall.
“Yeah, how are you?” he asked.
Before I had time to answer, my mom spoke. “Kelli, hang up the phone.”
The world stood still. The noise in my living room was squealing and laughter. The noise in my head was quiet.
That day, when my dad called, was the first and last conversation I’ve ever had with him.
Regardless of our gender, our race, what or who makes up our family unit, what societal class we are a part of, what school we go to or what city, state or country we call home, I believe we all ask the same foundational three-part question: Do you see me? Do you love me? Do I matter?
From that place, we use our life experiences, our conversations and our relationships with our parents, siblings, spouses, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, co-workers, the cool kids, the uncool kids, bosses, bullies, teachers, teammates, pastors, professors, and other stay-at-home moms at the playground, to determine the answer to our question.
And when we look to people and situations, whoever and whatever they are, then who we’ve happened to cross life paths with, and what we’ve done or not done, determines how that question is answered.
But here’s where I think we could use a course-correct. And I just recently had my course-corrected after 34 years of looking at myself through the wrong lens, so I know how difficult this one is to digest and absorb, as I’m still digesting and absorbing it myself.
The answer to our question is: Yes, we are seen. Yes, we are loved. And yes, there is purpose for our lives that is uniquely ours. The end. No room for debate.
If I look to my dad, I walk away believing that I’m not worth being pursued. I’m not enough. I’m not seen, loved or needed. And I saw myself for years through that lens. Believe me, friends, the lens of unworthiness is terribly betraying. The biggest regrets I have in life are from decisions I’ve made by looking at myself through that lens.
And it’s not my dad’s fault. Or my mom’s. It’s not about fault at all. Hurting people hurt people. Which is why we can’t look to them for our worth.
People and experiences and conversations should not determine what we believe about ourselves. The truth determines that, and the truth is, that you were created for precisely this time, with precisely the gifts and abilities and talents and quirks that make you, you for a reason. For a purpose. As part of a plan.
And let me take it one step further: This world wouldn’t be complete without you.
There is a mighty creator, maker and God of the universe, who, for me, is the Dad I’ve never had, the one who pursues me to the ends of the Earth. And He’s called me, too. He says: You’re worthy. You’re worth being pursued. You’re enough. You’re loved. You’re beautiful. You’re my child. You’re a saint. You’re my beloved. And I have a plan for you, because you’re you.
My dear friends, He says the same to you. You’re worthy and loved and seen and needed because you’re you. The end. No room for debate.
My hope is that you see yourself so.