I want to begin with a quick disclaimer: I have a weird ability to quickly “grow over” stuff. “Emotional fortitude” is how this has been described to me. A relationship ends and I see a renewed focus on God’s work in my life. My mom in the hospital leads me to learn about who I am as a care minister. When I feel inclined to control something, I let gentleness win. Though I grieve and hurt, I find the typical inclination to pity one’s self or to worry simply gives power away.
…And I don’t like giving power away to the dead and the hopeless. Five hundred million thumbs down to that.
I am certainly not perfect but I am resurrected. I have seen death. I have felt evil. I have met addiction. And I know anxiety very, very (very) well. I used to panic to the point I couldn’t breathe. I would reach out for somebody, anybody, to tell me who I was and what I should do. My relationships defined who I was and I was literally to the world, of the world, and for the world. It was killing me.
Killing me so much that I had a normal life and nobody would have guessed the extent to which I was a slave. (Or maybe ya’ll knew and didn’t tell me. Either way…)
But now? Now, there is not anxiety in my life. I don’t believe in traffic or time. I say this because it represents the freedom I have found in knowing who I am. So I want to talk a little bit about what this discovery looked like for me.
There was one particular turning point that caught my attention. It happened when gardening. Before the divorce I had this really amazing garden. And when I would garden, I would dig my hands into the dirt and my fingers would come up through the soil. I would pull weeds and trim bushes – and I, in the labor and in the way it looked after the labor, felt peace.
The turning point came when one day I realized I am not a gardener; I am a peaceful person gardening.
At this point in my life, I was doing so much and playing so many roles, but I did not know why. To all the sudden realize that I was “peaceful” and not simply “gardening” was a major clock-stopper.
I took the time out and I was all about these questions: Was this who I was? Did I really believe what I believed? Did I really love who I loved? Where was the color and joy and fervour? Why do I love spelling things like a British person?
Ok – that last one wasn’t really one of my questions – but you get it.
I wanted to know who I was.
Now. Here’s the deal:
It is entirely possible that you see knowing who you are and acquainting with your true identity as a long process that will take a lot of work and turmoil and sacrifice. If that is the case, I pray very happy loving prayers that you commit to the process and enjoy the ride.
I also pray – that perhaps you consider what it means to be reconciled to Christ. What it means to not necessarily see this concept of “known” or “conclusion of identity” as a process, but – rather – as an assumption. Allow me to explain:
In this week’s sermon, Matt referenced a really great analogy of art restoration. That art accumulates grime and dust and layers of years that hide the original piece. And that we, as God’s artwork, have these layers over us that are hiding who we are. And I think this makes a lot of sense. We have this core design and it is so beautiful and we need to take a minute and get that original piece restored and known.
My concern though is that I have heard a lot of people start to refer to this unveiling of the true self as work. As something they are going to start rolling up their sleeves and doing. And FOLKS FOLKS FOLKS this is why being Christian is like the BIGGEST gift ever. BECAUSE THERE IS NO WORK. Well. Ok, there is probably some work in changing your brain to believe it actually isn’t work. Grace, in my humble opinion, requires a re-wiring of the brain in order to allow the “ok-ness” you have and the acceptance you get because you are a loved and desired child of God.
That’s the reason I started this post as I did with a disclaimer. I am sensitive to the fact that “just changing” is not something that comes easy. That my radical change of mind and the conditioning and time it took to settle in is something hard to do because there is a reality we face: life sucks and is sad and is hard. I know this because when I first forged ahead for this freedom from the views of the world, I met both internal and external resistance. I sincerely understand that “unveiling the self” and gaining confidence in said unveiled self can be a lot of work! Especially when just meeting the woods, just starting to scratch the surface.
It’s just that I also know, for me, I would probably still be stuck in my head circa 2010 if I would have taken the intellectual approach to identifying and healing and removing layers from the outside, moving inward. I couldn’t start at the edge of the forest and hack in to where I found a center. I was desperate and this outside in process was not a practical approach for me. I wanted life and love and relationships to bloom. I knew my mind was my prison and I started seeing that as insanity. I was suffering from ideas! I wanted to trust myself. I wanted others to trust me. I wanted to feel alive and whole and worthy.
So, instead, I decided to make a radical leap of faith and base my confidence in some assumptions of that inner place…
<Now I’m going to really fly my freak flag.>
I described earlier about a point in my life that I was doing all sorts of things (some cool, some boring) but – all in all – I wasn’t sure why I was doing them or if they fit me.
So I made this:
What that is is literally a list of things “I did” (my roles, goals and hobbies) bucketed into the quality it brought to my life or the spiritual aspect with which I felt it was associated. Making this allowed me to see my gardening, my soccer-moming, my analyzing, my daughtering, my cooking, my praying, heck – my RECYCLING – (really.. freak flag is high and mighty) as intentional. Though I didn’t realize it then, what I was doing was figuring out how I was a Christian.
This exercise did a couple important things for me:
1 – It established confidence in who I was and allowed me to do things either without guilt or with new meaning.
When I went to climb, it was not selfish time away from my family; it was a time of strength and self-control. Recycling was not a burden, but a way I exercised peace. My singing wasn’t a hopeless song in a shoebox; it was an expression of joy.
2 – It allowed me to understand who I was as a spirit led person.
This helps in times I am invited to do something or asked to volunteer or serve in some capacity; I can now consider whether agreeing fits my identity in God. Unfortunately for my down-for-whatever, quick-lipped ego, this meant that a lot of fun things like getting hammered and having super good one-liners that would make somebody feel like an idiot while we all laughed had to go.
Honestly? Not only did this little grid make me intentional, it also made me really quiet. So much so that for the first part of this change over, people thought something was wrong with me. Even now, people who are used to modern day sarcasm as humor don’t know what to do when I don’t react or engage. It’s not that I’m never sarcastic, it’s that I don’t do the cheap stuff. And really – It’s just that my focus in life is to not give rise to the easy default of being of the world. I don’t want my ego to win. I don’t want to be the punch line queen who seeks your attention. I want to be joyful and happy and colorful, but in ways less boisterous and more present. I want to produce fruit that is more than creative fruit or funny fruit or loud fruit or entertaining fruit – I want to produce fruit that is kind and good and faithful.
Does that make sense?
I want to be more like Jesus and Princess Diana than pop stars and sitcom writers. (Ok ok honestly I do want to be a little like Mary J Blige) And where at first this sacrificed a lot of attention getting and good jokes (which felt weird) I found myself transforming into who I am now which (hang with me) is who I have always been but buried under layers of who I thought I should be. I stopped seeking validation. If relationships end, it doesn’t mean I change or am less valuable. I firmly believe: If I am operating from my core, if I can identify what I am doing or saying with who I am as a spiritually intentional person, then I’m good with my choice. Like the post or not. Like the pic or not. Hire me or not. Call me tomorrow or not. It’s OK.
The reason I bring this up is because it took me, say, an hour to sit and do this grid. I threw out stuff that didn’t work for me (bye sun-tanning) and found conviction in the things that bring out my deepest appreciation of my time on this earth.
I ended up finding the ways God works through all things that may otherwise seem “meaningless”. This helped me to “delight in the Lord” in these everyday things. (Psalm 37:4) Really! Really. Really.
I know I’m being such a goober right now. And I swear to you I am not claiming to be perfect. But I do claim to be free in the grace I have found through Jesus Christ. Listen: I really don’t think life is about finding some magical key to who you are and unlocking your purpose. True living, to me, is really about allowing God to take over – allowing yourself to “become mature, attaining to the fullness of Christ” so that you aren’t tossed about by the waves. (Ephesians 4)
Life is about living intentionally and spirit-led so that you can say yes when it means yes and say no when it means no. (Matthew 5:37) Life is really seeing and being seen as the person God made you to be in everything:
…in your trips to Starbucks and at your cocktail parties…
…in your minivans and limousines…
I pray so much we perhaps consider “knowing yourself” is less about work and more about quieting the mind. Take the voices out. Take your heart out of relationships and jobs and dreams and put that beautiful damn thing back in your chest. Let it beat and find a rhythm that is unique to you, based on what you really love and want to do and what aspect of God or Christ or the Spirit (however you want to slice it) shows up in those actions.
Go onward on that path, people, and love every second of it because every part of you is loved.