Ya know, I am twenty-one years old. Twenty-one. That is still hard to comprehend since I still feel like I’m a freshman in high school. To see how I’ve actually grown up and changed, I really have to take some intentional time to sit down and reflect on my life. Which is fine by me, because I love to reflect on life and all of its meanings.
Recently, I’ve recognized that all my life I have gone through different layers of figuring out my identity. Which I think is pretty common. But despite it being common, it doesn’t make it any less frustrating or discouraging.
Warning: Here comes all those buzz words…
So yeah, I strive to be authentic in every way that I can be. I want to show up and be present and just be weird and kind lil Jessie. But man, oh man, sometimes being me is so hard!!
This past week I went to a youth camp as the intern for my church. Lemmeeee tell ya, the first two days were so rough internally. The enemy was doing everything in his power to shut me up. He made me feel so small, inadequate, and used my more introverted nature as a weakness against me. I was the youngest adult on this trip, so it was easy to feel like I was a tag along and like I was less than. Let me make it clear that no one around me made me feel that way. It was all the lies in my head swirling around, and impacting my heart so deeply that I was outwardly paralyzed. I was silenced. I was frustrated. I was focused on me. And while being so focused on my fear of failure, I ended up in my own eyes failing anyways. I couldn’t see past my insecurities. My body was present but my mind was elsewhere.
Then I realized something. I was striving. I don’t know how I got to that place of striving again, because God had already shown me something better, but I had. I was again seeking the answer to that ever present question, “Am I enough?”. My soul wasn’t resting in the truth and presence of God.
It took several people and God encounters to get outside of my own mind.
One came from the words of a kind, loving, and faithful friend, who just so happens to be my wonderful pastor. He loved me enough to ask me why I had shut down and closed up. He set expectations for me, and gave me a safe place to be able to voice the lies that were formed inside of my head. He told me I hadn’t failed. But me being me, I still felt the weight that failure brings—even perceived failure—heavy on my shoulders as soon as I made it back to my room.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to discern in the presence of others what I am actually feeling, because I don’t like conflict so I try to be as understanding as possible to be able to have peace with one another. So it comes as a shock at times when other more true emotions are revealed as soon as I find solitude.
I’m going to be real here. When I made it back to my room I was an emotional mess. I made sure to hide my face and mask my voice with chipperness when talking to my roommates, because I wasn’t ready to let anyone see my weakness. I even lied when asked if I was okay (bad habits are hard to break, arghhh). I just wanted to lay it before God. Because I knew I hadn’t failed, but I still felt like I did, and in the past, God’s faithfulness has shown that only his truth can overcome my irrational emotions. I just needed a good cry to let out everything that had been simmering up inside. So I spent a good couple hours crying and praying to God asking him to give me peace and wisdom. I was so overwhelmed by the failure that I felt, that I just wanted to give up and go home, because I didn’t feel up to the challenge. Even worse, I was upset at myself for once again being in such a dramatic, emotional upheaval. I was embarrassed for myself. How could I ever live this life of ministry that God has called me to? I just didn’t know anymore.
But even though I felt all of these heavy emotions, I didn’t feel alone. I love that I can be so completely honest with God about every single thing that I feel. I don’t have to be guarded. I don’t have to hide from him. He wants it all, so he gets it all.
Then it dawned on me that I had a choice. I could either let my perceived failure keep me from being present and make me withdraw even more into silence, or I could accept the places I hadn’t done well and choose to do better, be me, and show up completely no matter what people think of me.
The next day, I felt like a completely different person. I felt joy and peace. The kind of feelings and assurances that only come from God. The real Jessie that God so beautifully made had shown up. There was no more striving. The lies that had been blinding me were removed and I was free to walk fully in the FREEDOM that’s extended to me by my Heavenly Father. Wow! I went from feeling trapped to feeling like joy and peace were literally beaming off my skin.
I came to love each and every kid in the youth group in my own way and was even surprised at how well I was able to connect with them. I know though that all of that is because God moved and is moving through me. He gave me the courage to open my mouth and start engaging his people in the way he made me to.
Ya see, my identity must in every way be centered in Christ or I will always feel trapped. If I’m not resting in God, I will always be striving, and asking the question, “Am I enough?”. As long as I am focused on myself I will never find peace or the joy that comes from being thankful. My gaze must be fixed on the face of the father. I need not look down into myself but up into his glory. Only in that, will I find the strength I need to wipe away the cloud of doubts and lies that surround my vision.
God is good. He steadies our hearts when they quake within us. Rest in him alone.