Identity

Four months ago it became clear to me that I will never become famous. This may sound odd to you, but I have been holding out hope for decades that I would end up a household name.

In third grade, my reach for the spotlight began as Alice in our third grade play of Alice in Wonderland. In middle school, I aspired to singing stardom as my two friends joined me in the talent show with our harmonious rendition of a Point of Grace song. You nineties church kids know what’s up. This was in addition to our frequent performances in front of our church body, which broadcast its Sunday morning services on the radio, so we had to be halfway there, right?

In junior high it began to morph into options. My singing dream began to dwindle as another girl from our school nailed a Whitney Houston song and moved to Nashville for a record deal. I knew having pretty good pitch and being able to hear and sing harmony was not going to be enough after hearing her wail on that song over and over. So I thought wider: could I model? I was pretty thin but didn’t really have the face or skin for that. My cheerleader legs would always rule that option out for me. Thanks, gymnastics. I was good at school, so maybe I could be a scientist. Some type of researcher for something that would win me a Nobel Prize. That was still in reach, right?  

Fast forward: past high school (when I thought I was cute), past college (when I was too spiritual to be cute), past pharmacy school (where I was just trying to pass while having fun with my friends from church), past my fun season as a single professional (untethered and independent).

Fast forward to the dating relationship with my now husband. I was awful at it. And it was the first time I began to realize a life resembling the Truman Show might not be such a good idea. My single life only required a certain level of faith and sacrifice. When another human started invading my comfort, my expectations, my norm, what came out of me was embarrassing. There was so much out of my control (like, that other human and his decisions), it brought out ugly anger. I felt alone and “the only one” who felt that way, who dealt that way.

It was humbling.

Fast forward a couple more years to becoming a mom. Remember that desire for control? Keep it in frame. Add a tiny human. Subtract significant amounts of sleep, remove any basic understanding of how now to live or keep the tiny human alive, add Amazon Prime and lots of googling topics such as “what color should my 4 week old’s poop be,” and that almost described my new life. There was no normalcy within reach. Any sense of control was a luxury I lost when sneezing threatened bladder control. The rawest parts of me were too close to the surface of my thin skin to hide.

I found myself no longer wanting to be seen. Not the real me. Not my insecurity, not my anger. Not my growing sense of inadequacy of being responsible for another human life and now a household. And insecurity is not humility. I spent (and still struggle not to spend) exorbitant amounts of time focused on how crappy I was (am). It got me nowhere. Insecurity made me want to distance myself from doing life alongside others, at least not too close.

Over time, I’ve put less and less energy towards crafting a perception or striving to meet others’ expectations. Some of that by choice, more of that by default, because my kids are seventeen months apart and survival is sometimes the lone goal. My good friend Dr. Gregory’s words still ring in my head, “It’s none of your business what other people think about you.” While that offers more and more freedom as I age, there’s still how I see myself and what I fear God sees in me that I’m left to wrestle with. Still a recovering perfectionist, I have to let go of each lie that says, “if I try hard enough, or master this discipline, or adopt this diet, budget, or exercise plan, I will be enough.” Instead I must take hold of the Truth from His Word that says, He chose me before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight (Ephesians 1:4). HE DID THAT. Past tense. Nothing I do or don’t do will change that truth.

My focus can’t be my sphere of influence and anyone who I think might be watching me. That will keep me on that hamster wheel, trying to win approval or craft my image. My focus can’t be my inadequacy. That ignores the power of the Resurrection in my life. I also can’t live in naivety without a focus. That leaves me prey to consumerism, blind following of the mainstream worldview, or passing time with my face glued to a screen. All result in bondage at worst, a wasted life at best.

As I turn my focus to Christ, I find grace for myself. I am keenly aware of my flaws in light of His holiness. If there’s anything our world does not have right now in abundance, grace is pretty high on that list. So it’s wisdom that keeps me from wanting a spotlight. There’s too much fodder to discredit me or threaten my platform. But then the Gospel. I can’t say it any better than Paul did in 1 Timothy 1:15-16,

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.

So I will let myself be seen and known by those around me. I will risk judgment, being misunderstood, or rejection. Not because I’m less secure or have more things together, but because His grace is sufficient for me (2 Corinthians 12:9) and for them too. I will always hold high the banner that if His grace went far enough to cover me, there’s room enough for everyone. Every person is a real person, with flaws and failure in need of grace (Romans 3:23). Let’s start by receiving the grace for ourselves, preaching the Gospel to each other continuously, and then sharing that hope with those around us.