Written by: Judy E. Denby
Iíve always loved to see fall approach, and see it as a special time of year. As an adult, I appreciate the cooler weather, and the beauty of nature as the seasons change. When I was younger, fall meant two things: my birthday was getting close, and school was starting. Yes, I confess, I really enjoyed going to school. I attended a small local school where some of the teachers had taught my parents, and they showed a personal interest in every student. I usually did well and had a reputation as a hard-working, well-behaved child, so my teachers liked me and were quick to praise my parents for raising me that way.
What no one realized was the incredible amount of pressure that I felt. My parents loved me, and of course they wanted the best for their children. There was never any doubt that they were proud of my accomplishments. However, that gave me a tremendous fear of failing and of somehow not measuring up. Over time, I grew to associate my self-worth with academic and other achievements, because I was never told that anyone would still love me if I failed a test or didnít sing a solo in the Christmas concert.
I became a Christian when I was ten, and grew up wondering if I was good enough for God. I really tried to do what was right, but eventually I would always mess up, and then wonder how God (or anyone) could ever love me. I carried this feeling well into my twenties, as I served in various churches and even worked for a Christian organization, telling myself that God had to love me if I was doing so much for Him. I was blessed a few years ago by being led to a counselor (Ingrid) who worked with me to help me see that I donít have to be perfect, because no one else is. Although I still struggle at times, I manage it much better, thanks to God and Ingrid. 
The truth also hit me, that I really wasnít good enough for God! No one is, but He still loves all of us and wants us to live with Him forever. Almost every Christian can quote John 3:16,17 and there is one point that has been helpful to me. God so loved the world. God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. The world, not the nice people or the pretty people, not the Christians, not those who are good enough, but the entire world. Then, because He loved all of us, He permitted His only Son to suffer and die, that we all might have the opportunity to be saved. It is reassuring to know that God does not base His love or His offer of salvation on my beauty, intelligence or perfection.
Despite Godís unconditional love for me, He still expects certain things of me if I am His child (loving others and telling them about Godís offer of salvation, showing the world that I am a Christian, remaining faithful unto death), just as a parent has the right to expect certain levels of behavior from a child. But just as adults know that God continues to love us when we make mistakes, we need to be communicating and demonstrating this same unconditional love to children, and that it comes both from the parents and from God. Of course I have a special feeling about this issue, as I remember what it felt like to think that I was too bad, ugly or stupid for anyone to love. I want to remind all parents to choose their words carefully before they criticize their children. When children put effort into anything, they need to be told that their parents are proud of the fact that they tried and did their best, and not necessarily for winning.
If you happen to be one of the many adults who struggles with self-worth, Iím praying for you. Let me encourage you to seek out a Christian counselor who can help you work through the issues that prevent you from being the person that God intended. Support groups can also be very helpful. As intimidating as it is to enter a room full of strangers, it soon becomes a wonderful time of sharing as you realize that they actually understand, and have shared experiences similar to yours. And remind yourself often that you donít have to earn Godís love; itís already yours, and all you have to do is accept it.