Anyone who has read just about anything on this blog has to know that I am often in a bitter struggle with myself. Choosing to see the glass half full, I have to acknowledge that at least half of the time I am the one that wins those battles.
I can say that, but I’m not always a glass half-full kind of person. The thoughts of all the times I’ve lost to myself are significantly louder. I don’t know if it’s the change in seasons, the spiritual change or just the things I am immersing myself in, but lately I don’t feel light. I don’t feel fuzzy. I don’t feel like being my gloriously witty self. I think that these are times we all go through at some point or another. They are times I am still learning to power through. I have been a Christian for over a decade, and I’ve been around–well, I’ve also been around for more than a decade, and these are still hard waters for me to navigate.
There is this song called “Give Me Faith,” by Elevation Worship and there is a line in it that says, “I need you to soften my heart and break me apart. I need you to open my eyes to see that you’re shaping my life.” When I am going through these seasons, I actually do harden my heart a bit. I mean, it’s not like I wake up in the morning and think, “Hmm, ToDo list for today: make bed, get kids dressed, make breakfast, harden heart, make coffee, drink coffee.” It’s natural, especially if you don’t deal with it, for your heart to begin to callous as you get hurt, as your feelings are hurt or sometimes even seeing the injustice in others.
The line of that song is beautiful. Asking God to break us apart does not mean to bring us low, that’s not what those words are prompting. When you break a mold (I assume), or when you’re creating a sculpture (again, I assume; I saw a piece of marble sculpted on Spongebob Squarepants once – that has to be pretty accurate) you are tearing away the hard outer shell – the ugliness, if you will.
No, I did not call you ugly. Get with the metaphor, guys; focus.
It takes away the unreadable outer shell and exposes the beauty, the masterpiece that lies just underneath it. That’s what the song is crying out for; for God to help us get to the part that shows who we really are. I don’t want to be this hard, unforgiving, temperamental beast, and I’m not. But in these seasons, during these times when I allow my heart to start callousing, that is what I am displaying to the world.
What I’m displaying to myself.
This is when that bitter battle begins to rage. I begin to hate myself, so I think. I begin to hate the monster that I have (theoretically) become. When what I should be fighting against is the hardening – the persona on display, not the person I really am. No matter how much the devil (or myself) wants me to believe I am what I’m displaying, I’m not.
It’s human nature to not want to be hurt. If you are sitting there (or standing, or walking – be careful with that, watch out for buildings and whatnot) thinking that you do, in fact, want to be hurt you may be insane. At the very least you are boldly lying to yourself. For me, the anger and the sadness and the bitterness, it’s my shield. Sometimes, it’s my weapon. I use it to shield myself from painful words that come at me – from myself and others. I use it as a weapon to hurt others before they hurt me or to hurt them as badly as they hurt me.
That is not who I am. That is not who I was created to be. It is the method I use in response to painful things around me, but just as we are not our mistakes, we are not defined by our emotions. I make mistakes, but they are mistakes meaning I know they shouldn’t have happened. My emotions are responses to things, that’s not who I am. When someone tells me that I am not good enough or not smart enough or not [insert word here] what I want to do is curl into myself because that’s instinct. What I do instead, what I’ve done for so long that I’ve perfected it, is strike back. Usually harder than I’ve been struck. That anger is an emotion so contrary to how I’m actually feeling and that, almost more than anything, shows why we can’t be defined by our emotions.
During one of the songs at church today, I was overcome with a need to hit my knees. I didn’t think about what I was saying until after it was said, but I stopped singing and said the words on my heart. “You love me. You love me. You love me.” I said that about 6 more times and then felt the pull to say something else. What I said next was, “I love You. I love You. I love You.” As I was saying it, I could feel that wasn’t what I wanted to say. I could feel it wasn’t what God was calling me to say. Softly, so softly that I wasn’t entirely sure I heard it, a voice said, “Say it. Just say it out loud.” I paused, having to search for what it was. Once I found it, I couldn’t get it out. It took me a few minutes. Then I sort of pushed it out. “I love myself. I love myself. I love myself.”
Today was a day that I won one of those battles. I love myself. I don’t always love my actions, I don’t always love my responses and I don’t always love my choices, but they are not me. I love who I really am: a mother, a wife, a woman, a person who screws up, who does things right, who loves big and hurts easily, who is vulnerable and terrified to show it. Me. I love me. I am who I was created to be (even if I sometimes make decisions contrary to that).
God made us in His image. I don’t serve a God that flies off the handle because the dishwasher door still didn’t shut all the way after trying three times. I don’t serve a God that strives to make people cower at His words because He feels like being angry so everyone else must be too. I don’t serve a God that is afraid of vulnerability.
I serve a God that whispers, “It’s going to be okay,” when everything seems to go wrong (yes, even the dishwasher door). I serve a God that speaks in a loving rebuke when I have rallied against Him or His kids (FYI, that’s all of us). I serve a God that sent His only Son to die for us on the cross, and felt the pain so deeply that the temple was destroyed. That is a God worth serving. And that is a voice I am going to strive to listen to much closer.
That’s whose image I am made in and that’s the person I’m still learning to let loose and put on display. It’s now added to my ever-growing list of goals.
I may be afraid of vulnerability, but I’ll get better. I have two of the greatest incentives ever. They continue to remind me of who I am in His kingdom. Hopefully I won’t forget it.