I had the privilege to hear Brother Yun (The Heavenly Man) speak on Sunday morning. There was so much good stuff he had to say, but there was something in particular that stood out to me. He had each of us place our hands on our hearts and say I’m Precious! At first I thought that this was just a little strange; I mean how often does a person walk around saying such things about themselves? But then I started to think more about it; and the more I thought about it, the more those two words started to mean to me. And the more I thought about it, the more I began to realize how well it fits in with the survey I had been doing.
I have been thinking a lot about identity. Working with girls has made me think about it even more- because it is a major issue. I wish that I could somehow prevent my ten, eleven, twelve…year old choir girls from having to deal with this. I wish I could prevent the way clothing, beauty, and popularity controls who are the “cool” ones of the group. I wish I could prevent the way I see the others watch those elite ones with that wishful longing to be just like them…
Even though this makes me quite vulnerable, I thought I would share my personal struggle with this issue because I know there are others who struggle with the same things.
Growing up, I dealt a lot with insecurity. Usually, children that come from broken and abusive homes have this struggle; but I know that it is not just limited to them. No, I never doubted that my family loved and supported me; however other things had a way of making me believe that I was worthless.
As a pre-adolescent and then adolescent, I was heavy, pimply, messy-haired, and had braces on my teeth- not a great combination for self-esteem. My friends would have parties to which I never received an invite. I would cry myself to sleep countless nights trying to figure out how to make myself more talented, attractive, and sweet.
The poems I wrote over that time were full of hurt. My parents tried to help, but what more could they do besides pray, walk beside me in the pain, and be there to talk to?
I finally lost some weight, used Proactiv to clear my complexion, and had straight teeth, but that did not seem to do the trick. So I gave up on finding identity in my appearance and figured there was nothing I could do about my big nose and short stature. I decided to pursue education, since it was something that I enjoyed and could pour myself into. I tried to deepen musical and artistic talents, but still I was lonely.
I’m the kind that sees all my flaws. I keep track of all my mistakes and hang them as pictures on the wall in my mind called “Failure”. I keep every manuscript rejection, every choir dropout, every hurtful word spoken to me, and every lost friendship there in that room. I also keep a chair in that room where I go to sit and wallow in self-pity as I survey my failures. I keep pictures then on the opposite wall of those who have “achieved” in life. They are the pretty ones, the social butterflies, the accomplished and talented people. I watch them mock me with taunts of you’re not good enough, you’re worthless, you’re a mistake. I try to pray, but soon despair and wonder why God would want to talk with me. I mean what have I really even done for Him? The peers my age know what they are doing with their lives. Most of my friends are on the mission field laboring, sweating, and pouring themselves out for God or they are married and raising precious children to carry on the glory of God. And here I am, still unsure about what God has in mind for me. I had it all figured out when I was young, but somehow circumstances changed and here I am. What a loser!
I’m Precious. Guess what, I really am precious. And you know what? You are precious too! I’m precious not because of what I have or haven’t done or because of how I look or don’t look; I’m precious because the God of the Universe actually designed me and had my very life planned out from the beginning of the world. I’m precious because He personally handcrafted me, personally selected the time to announce me to the world, personally hand-picked the events and people that have surrounded my life. Nothing about me was a mistake!
Place your hand over your heart and feel the heart beat. Right now, your body is doing millions of things to keep you living, breathing, walking, talking, singing. God has a purpose for us, because our hearts are still beating.
His purpose does not include having me sit in a room designed by the Enemy to keep me off-focus. Maybe I’m a little harsh to say that, but I really don’t think it is too harsh. My “Failure” room was constructed by the Enemy. He helped me pound in the nails on which to hang my mistakes so that they always haunt me. He helped me hang the “Accomplished” pictures so that I feel inferior and jealous because there will always be someone that can sing better, write more poetically, and get higher grades. Then he sits in the corner and laughs as I allow all of it to portray who I am. He is delighted that I am hobbling around in a dark, lonely room instead of giving, serving, and loving those around me outside of those binding walls. To keep me bound within the despair and inferiority is his main intent, because then I am completely useless for the Kingdom of God.
Perhaps it was because I was homeschooled, perhaps it was because my family traveled a lot during the years that friendships are formulated and cultivated, perhaps it was because my last name was unusual and not Stoltzfus or Yoder, perhaps it was because I was unlike the other young people because I enjoyed the arts instead of sports, perhaps it was because I was a strange mix of tomboy and feminine and redneck and artsy, perhaps it was my appearance or my personality that made me struggle…..BUT it really doesn’t matter. I have found who I am in Christ, and that is where my confidence lies!
I took a poll (on my blog/facebook/girls’ choir/and family- thanks so much to those who contributed) of whether people would rather be recognized for their personality, intelligence, talents, or attractiveness, just because I thought it would be interesting to see in which areas people most struggle for identity. Personality far outweighed the rest, with talents coming next. Intelligence and attractiveness fell into the last two categories.
Yes, as Christians we are supposed to make sure that we are the best we can be in these areas as godly examples of Christ. However, we should not be so consumed with these areas that it becomes more important than Christ. We should have pleasant friendly personalities and upkept bodily and mental maintenance, but that should not be our sole focus! Our sole focus is Christ, and then He can use these areas to glorify Himself.
I’m okay now with being short ( I actually see blessings from it), I’m okay with not always getting a perfect score….because God made me the way that I am and thought that it was a pretty good idea. I don’t need to have personality, talent, intelligence, or attractiveness to make me who I am. If the only thing that made me, me, was a certain grade or social charm, it would simply be a facade; and when that was stripped away- I would be left with nothing.
Who am I?
God, please let my identity rest in You. Then You can use and mold me into a woman who is no longer concerned about herself but intent on worshiping You and helping others. Help the person who may be struggling with this today - the one who has been striving for perfection until they are exhausted – the one who feels like they are nothing without their humor, friends, suave, beauty, letter grade, boyfriend/girlfriend, work, degree, talent, wealth, family… May we all find our complete satisfaction in You!