Authenticity & Messy Growth

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

C.S. Lewis

Awhile back I was talking to God about changes I needed to make. I had a picture in my mind of what a “good Christian girl” looked like and on many fundamental levels, I saw myself as everything but that. I was frustrated and feeling like so much of me was just inherently wrong.

Most of it surrounded or at least included certain personality characteristics I felt didn’t align with what “most people” thought “good Christian girls” were. I didn’t realize at the time how ludicrous an idea that was – but one can’t help but internalize other people’s false beliefs sometimes. And in light of those beliefs, I was too rough around the edges, too strong willed, too opinionated, too argumentative, too reserved, too detached, too this, too that, not enough of the other thing, etc. Basically…everything a “good Christian girl” isn’t. At least according to my family of origin, most everyone who surrounded me growing up, most of the other women I knew, everyone I’ve ever dated save for one, etc….

One of the first things God showed me was that a lot of my personality characteristics that others have viewed as flaws, were actually gifts He’s given me in His providence to equip me to survive the life He knew I’d have. Without the stubbornness, strong-will, and a well developed ” F#*& you” attitude, I wouldn’t have survived the abuse as a child, the eating disorder as a teenager, or the sexual assault and multiple abusive relationships in my adulthood. All the things people hated about me and taught me to hate about myself were the same things that helped me to live. It’s hard to stay mad about that for very long…

I was reminded recently that the biblical Deborah was a prophetess, judge, and a military leader. No doubt a strong warrior and there’s a warrior spirit deeply and intricately woven into my makeup as well. But Deborah was also a wife – a reflection of God’s beauty displayed in the feminine and despite her strength, she also no doubt knew when to be soft.

Balance. Refinement.

Recently, God showed me a vision of me standing with a pair of nunchucks in my hands. They were given to me at birth. Behind me was a war zone, but ahead of me was green and peaceful pastures. He said “if you bring your nunchucks into this place I’m preparing for you, you’ll destroy it.”

That vision stopped me in my tracks. I realized that the skills I needed in my past were not going to be helpful in my future. (Necessary for any enemies trying to come against my future and those in it…probably. We still live in a fallen and evil world, after all. But not for the future itself). It was a beautiful vision, but with it came the distinct knowledge that I need different tools in order to be equipped for it. Fighting skills are great if you’re a prisoner of war behind enemy lines. Not entirely helpful for prosperous or peaceful living with those you love, though.

So that’s what God is teaching me now and let me tell you – it is not the prettiest process. Learning how to lay down arms doesn’t sound like it should be all that hard but when you’ve been trained to believe that doing so is your death…it is. I mean, I’m doing it…but I’m doing it rather like a child learning to walk…wobbly at best and requiring a load of patience, love, and mercy from those around me.

A couple weeks ago I was sitting at an Irish pub drinking whisky with my roommate. Normally this is a pretty happy scenario full of fun and friendly banter but this time, before I even knew what was happening, I was somehow crying and saying things I’d never said out loud to myself, much less to someone else…in PUBLIC. It wasn’t graceful or controlled crying either…I’m talking full on crying complete with red face, runny, nose, and wet cheeks. (That’s the opposite of my normal even after a couple of drinks, btw).

I’m not sure what I was expecting to happen but once I realized what was going on I’m pretty sure the look on my face was a mixture of horror (at myself)…and total fear. I was totally freaked out by this seemingly horrible thing…but as soon as I started crying, my roommate was out of his seat giving me a hug, listening, and assuring me that nobody was watching anyways so I shouldn’t even worry about it.

I mean honestly, I felt like some alien in a corny movie that even I wouldn’t want to watch. Yet I don’t know which part of that experience was more impactful. The fact that I was letting out emotion at the worst possible moment…or the fact that the response was not an attack but rather, reassurance.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not really a fan of the random tears and I’m probably going to watch my whisky intake more closely from now on…but still…something shifted in me when my vice grip on vulnerable emotions went offline at a really inconvenient time… and not one person used it as an opportunity to attack me. And as I’m processing it I’m realizing God is showing me what I need to see and teaching me what I need to learn in order to prepare me for the future He has for me.

Not exactly how I envisioned the process going, but knowing it’s the process is reassuring. So I’m submitting to it because I want to receive what God has planned for me and I want the skills that will allow me to love and steward it well. I may show up to it with puffy eyes and messy hair, but I’d rather that than not show up at all.

For me, I hear the Lord saying, “It’s okay. Lay down your arms…because you’re being prepared for a place that won’t need them.” For you, it may be something else. But whatever it is, I know that God is good and so is the future He is showing me. And who knows, maybe all these newly found tears are the water God is using to make the grass of that future pasture so green.

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