It was those perfect curls that got me. The minute I saw them my gut told me - oh, we do not like this woman.
She was in her mid-20s, with the kind of big blonde perfect hair you see a lot of the time on Pinterest. She had to of been about a size 4 and my ankles hurt just looking at her high heels. The inner monologue in my mind was deafening and predictable. “She’s so perfect. I don’t even want to listen to her. What could she possibly know about being like me. What kind of problems has this lady ever had?”
As it turned out, lots. The story of her life was riveting. The obstacles she overcame were amazing. And in the midst of it all she shared about her deep struggles with anxiety, insecurity, and depression. On the stage, looking like that, admitting to the same dark secrets I carried around in my much less Pinterest-y package.
Has that ever happened to you? Has there ever been a person that you thought surely had no problems, or at least not the kind of problems that you had, only to find out that you were totally wrong? I know this isn’t an isolated incident. In the age of Instagram we are constantly building people up in our minds, assuming that a life that photographs so well surely can’t be stained with the same kinds of issues staining up our own.
But that’s just not reality. Everybody’s life is full of stains - struggles, heart aches, battles that will never end this side of eternity.
I know that may sound bleak, but here’s where the opportunity is: the struggles and hardships in our lives me manifest in different ways, but the struggle itself is universal. We all deal with it in whatever packaging happens to apply to our specific case, but we deal with it nonetheless.
How does it make you feel when you hear someone you look up to share vulnerably about their struggles?
Do you think differently of them? In a good way? Or is it a bad way?
I would venture to bet that hearing someone you admire speak with vulnerability would lead to greater admiration, right? Why is that? Shouldn’t be the other way around?
I don’t think so. I think things are just as they should be, but despite experiencing it over and over we remain skeptical that that is the way it really is. Vulnerability leads to deeper connection, which leads to inspiration. We are inspired by people who share with us. We admire them before we know their struggles, but upon seeing their struggles laid bare the ways they have already inspired us becomes even more incredible.
No matter who you are, there is someone that looks up to you. There is someone who desires to be inspired by you. There is someone watching you. It might be a family member, a colleague, a student, or a mentee. Whoever it is, they desire to be inspired.
And whoever you are, wherever you are at in life, you can inspire them.
One more time for the people in the back:
*Whoever you are, wherever you are at in life, YOU can inspire them.*
You can do that by being brave with your identity.
So what does it mean to be brave with your identity?
It means to be:
1.) Aware of where you are at in your own identity (positive and negative)
2.) Actively seeking to bring that vision in line with God‘s vision for your identity.
3.) Sharing your struggles in a real and appropriate way with people that you influence.
What does this look like practically?
Well, I’ve thought about that a lot.
I want you to think about a world full of moms, just like ours is, but in this world, moms are open about their struggles with identity in a healthy way with their daughters.
They say things like:
“I’m really struggling to embrace my true self-worth, but I need to. I go to God every day and ask Him to help bring my vision of myself in line with His vision of me.”
“It's really hard to see yourself the way God sees you. I still really struggle with that. But God really desires for us to see ourselves the same way he sees us and so I pray about that a lot. I want to be confident in who I am, because I am who God made me to be.”
And not just moms. Aunts. Siblings. Godmothers. Friends.
Just imagine that.
A generation of daughters raised up by women that struggle but don't give up - who fight the negativity in their head and the culture with the truth of the Gospel.
A generation of mothers (biological and spiritual) that never back down from what might be the hardest everyday fight of their lives AND don't pretend it's a cake walk.
A society of women that refuse to accept the status quo - to dislike themselves or be numb and grasping at the thin air of vanity and one-ups-manship - and build their fortress on the only truth that will never crumble: Christ.
Excuse the informality, but holy crap. That's a world I want to live in.
That's the world I believe God wants for us too.
He loves us. That should mean so much to us, but I know how hard it is to let it sink in.
Do you desire a toxic headspace for someone you love?
So why do we live like we're alone in this? Like Christ loves us but our garbage mental state is our own mess to deal with?
No more, ladies. No more.
What being brave with your identity is NOT:
It’s not being brave with your identity to simply complain.
It’s not being brave to be self-deprecating.
It’s not brave to belittle yourself with the hope of fishing for a compliment.
Those are the easy, slightly sleazy things to do.
Being brave is owning the ground you stand on, no matter how undesirable it is, and yet living in hope that God will bring you into a future where you no longer live there.
It’s brave to hope that you will heal.
It’s brave to share the fact that you are open to healing before the healing has happened.
I think a lot of women think that their own internal struggles with their identity or just that – their own internal struggles. But God desires to turn even these internal, sometimes even silly seeming struggles into massive opportunities for him to move and for us to connect as a community of believers.
It is a tremendous opportunity to come to him day after day in hope and trust that he will heal us. It is a tremendous opportunity to paint a hopeful future in our communities – talking together about what it is that we are seeking from the Father in our prayer. It gives us the chance to love each other as God loves us by affirming each other in our God-given identities – conversations we might not even realize need to be had without vulnerability and bravery on the part of those in our lives.
No matter who you are, and where are you were out in life, you can be brave today. You can choose to share with someone this journey that you are on - the dark place you are in and the beautiful road that you desire to walk down.
I’ve met many women who simply hope to reach a place where they don’t care anymore. I think this is the total wrong approach. We live in a numbing culture – that’s what our culture tells us to do.
Just numb it down.
Our culture uses drugs, entertainment, alcohol and sex to numb, but we can be just as guilty of numbing as Christians when we don’t take our struggle to prayer and simply wish it would go away, or that our hearts could just shrink a little bit so we don’t feel it as much. It doesn’t hurt as much that way.
It’s so much braver to feel the pain. Acknowledge it, sit with it, and pray through it. Allow it to make us patient so that we intern can sit with others in pain. That's when we grow. That's where we let Christ love us.
We are asking you to commit today - commit to being brave with your struggles with identity and not giving up on them. We are asking you to commit to walking this journey WITH Christ and not just near Him. Let us know that you are committed in the comments.