Saturday, January 15, 2011
Have you ever felt like you have no idea who you are? You feel like someone has tossed you into a lost and found box and you don’t know who you belong to? Who is that person in the mirror staring back at you with empty eyes? You’re not sure you want to get acquainted because you’re not convinced you could love him or her.
This has been my journey over the past few weeks. Many people comment that I am always positive, that I am always filled with hope and courage, that I am an overcomer. Women in particular ask if I ever struggle. I tend to focus on the positive and don’t often share my inner battles and struggles in a public way. I don’t want to focus on the battle, I want to declare the victory. This time something is different. I sense that it is not only important to share my battle, but it is urgent. Possibly to break down any pretences in my heart, or maybe to help someone struggling… I don’t know why. I do know that as I struggle with that inner uncertainty about who I am, I am confident that God is already doing ‘a new thing’ in my heart because of it.
This identity crisis, if you want to call it that, has hit most powerfully at home. I am always secure in my home, always confident in my relationships, always aware of how much I love my family and how much I am loved. Or shall I say, I have been. In the past weeks it is in my own home where I feel shaken. Not in my marriage relationship so much but somehow I have lost my confidence as a mother, especially with our older children. I can’t even blame it on my kids! I am very proud of my teens. Sure, they’re human, but they are terrific teenagers. It’s me. It’s as though I am unraveling.
Much to my dislike I have concluded that I am like Shrek. Sometimes I walk into the little shack in my heart, slam the door and scream silently at everyone, “Get out! And stay out!” Like Shrek, it’s not that I think the people around me are horrible. It’s me I’m not sure about. I am the big mean ogre and they should run.
It is easier to retreat within myself than to risk exposing the ogre that lurks beneath the outer skin–the positive, encouraging woman of faith that everyone gets to see. To admit that within me lies the potential for intense evil is to blow my cover of ‘niceness’ that I prefer. The challenge and the beauty of family relationships is that it’s hard to keep up an act. Eventually these relationships force us to either live two lives or expose truth, be vulnerable and ask for help in dealing with issues, or settle for less than the best that God has planned for us.
Like Shrek, I’m discovering I have many layers. Each layer reveals another potential to grow or forces me to resign myself to defeat. I grow if I am vulnerable, I resign myself to defeat if I am too proud to admit my imperfections, my struggles and my temptations. If I cover the truth and pretend to have it together in ministry, I become a hypocrite. That is the thing I am seeing in myself the last few weeks. I am still offering all I can in ministry but, to be honest, I have been absolutely cranky and irritable at home. Everything bugs me. I am teetering on that edge of hypocrisy.
It’s not that I am intentionally living two lives. I genuinely love God. My heart desires nothing more than to make Jesus famous through my life. And sometimes I do. In fact, most of the time I do. He is the most all-consuming focus in my life and without that I shudder to think what quality of life my family and others around me might have. I soak in His love so that I have anything at all to give out.
However, I recognize that there is a very damaged heart, a very wounded spirit inside of me. It seems that about the time I am certain I am healed and at least the worst effects of past devastation are behind me, another layer of my potential for darkness comes to light. I cringe. I want to get to a place where this is not my reality. I am tired of feeling the pain that threatens to rip my very soul out of me. I don’t say this with any bitterness in my heart. Rather, I say it with a desperate cry for inner peace in every situation—no more being blindsided by whatever insecurity or uncertainty is buried at a place so deep that I don’t even know it is there. I simply want to be whole.
What I realize as I grieve this unfulfilled desire for wholeness—wholeness to such a degree that I no longer fall into sin—is that I am only longing for something that I was intended to experience. God created us in the Garden of Eden with perfect wholeness, untouched by sin, abuse and shame, and that is why I long for it. That is why I grow frustrated with the process of healing and the need to go through layer after layer of the aftermath of sin. Sin imposed on me by perpetrators as well as the sin I chose to indulge in.
Here I am now, at a crossroads. I find myself reacting in ways I thought I was no longer capable of reacting. I know that I could choose to close my heart. I could block the pain. I could raise my defences, build walls and choose a numb existence. I could retreat into that little shack and preserve, to the best of my ability, what I currently have. Or I can open my heart to God and let Him take me to a new level.
As much as I dread the pain, to retreat into self-preservation is not an option. Knowing how faithful God has been every step of the journey, I step into the unknown of this next phase with the confidence that He will see me through. I trust, somewhat against my own will, that this is good, that as the ‘ugly’ truth of my inner self is brought to light, I will enter a new place of freedom. And in that new place of Freedom I will find myself again, no longer a lost stranger I dread getting to know, but complete and whole in Him with new hope.
And even as I look for this healing, I realize that one day the next layer will be revealed and I will feel once again as though I’m in the lost and found box, waiting for someone to find me and claim me. But I know, with greater confidence that He will come. He will find me there in that lost place, just as He will this time, and will claim me and lead me to the place of freedom.