When I was a little girl, I used to be entirely too shy. I wasn’t really interested in talking to kids at school (and could absolutely not talk to boys without turning a shade of crimson). The kids were fine and all, but I had these books. All kinds. Hundreds of them. I devoured books like they were the thing sustaining me. When I had my nose stuck in a novel during recess, my friends would take it out of my hands and threaten to throw it away in an attempt to get me to join the game (it never worked – dodgeball is not my jam and never has been). Books were comforting and enticing; a beautiful escape into a world that was all my own and not my own at all. They were my home, they were where I found my peace. They were a place I could look for and find myself.
I’ve grown up since then obviously (good thing too – not being able to talk to boys as a twenty-three year old would probably be a problem), but my search for my identity hasn’t ended. Now I just seem to put my identity in other things. We all do. We seem to think we are what we do, who we hang out with, who we date, what we wear or where we live. We’re hipsters because we wear thick-framed glasses, we’re nerds because we like Doctor Who (Ten and Rose forever), we’re Sigma Kappas or girlfriends or engineers. Words that people say about us become truth about who we are when they hit our ears. Like Vivian in Pretty Woman says, “People put you down enough, you start to believe it.” (Side note: If you haven’t seen that movie, you need to. Stop reading this and go watch it. Right now. Seriously). Anyway, all that to say we define ourselves by these outside things and circumstances that actually have nothing to do with who we are at our core.
So then, who are we? Who am I? If I shouldn’t be getting my identity from the people I date or the job I have, then where do I get it from? What do I give the power to define me? Do I let something that could change tomorrow define me? Do I let my relationships define me? Or how about my degree (or lack thereof)?
I’m reading this book right now (my love for books is still goin’ strong) called You’re Going to Be Okay by Holley Gerth (girls, if you need some encouragement in your life I really recommend it, she’s hilarious and so real). In her book, she says: “Everything in our lives is either out of our grasp or can be taken from us.” Yikes. That’s a hard pill to swallow. Everything can be taken from us? The first time I read that, my stomach filled with panic. As someone who’s greatest fear is being abandoned, this was not exactly what I wanted to hear. I wanted to argue. No! It can’t be. Something will last forever! My marriage (one day) will last forever! My family isn’t going to leave me! I won’t lose my job! But really, those things will end one way or another. I can’t look to them to tell me who I am because they will one day just be dust in the wind. Everything ends and new things begin again; it’s the circle of life (sing it, you know you want to) and that’s okay.
The only thing I’ve found that won’t end is God’s ever-lasting, ever-gracious, ever-faithful love for me. And you really can’t find a better place to find yourself than in the One who created you. He knows every little thing about me, good and bad, and loves me anyways. He is unchanging, even when my world is spinning out of control. When my thoughts flit from one thing to another, and my mind vibrates like a hummingbird’s wings, he is a cool breeze that calms my head and my heart. He’s the eye of a hurricane. He is a rock, solid in his own identity and sure of mine. And that’s what I want to be too. I want to be confident in who I am despite my outward circumstances. Sometimes people will love me and sometimes they will hate me, but should that crush my knowledge of who I am? I would hope not. I don’t need to run and hide or yell to defend myself when people speak negatively of me. I don’t need to demand respect or beg for honor and recognition. I can take what people say and know who I am (and be okay with that) despite it. And you can be okay with you too.
I don’t have the answers to everything (or even anything), and I may not know what to do in a lot of (most) situations in my life, but I know who I need to be. I know who I need to please. And that’s not anyone else (haters gonna hate hate hate); it’s myself. And more importantly, it’s the One who gave me this life. It’s something bigger than me. Something more stable, more real, and longer lasting than a boyfriend or career or friends. It’s something deeper than circumstances. I am not what I do or what my circumstances are (because if I was, I would be pretty pathetic right now, let’s be real), and neither are you. You are something special, someone worthy of life and adventure. You are more than the crappy job you’re in and more than those people who treated you poorly. You’re more than words people say about you (good or bad). You’re you; bright and crazy and complex. At your core, you have a heart that beats for something unique. Find yourself there. You might learn something new about yourself. Like how much you like those horror films even though your friends think they’re stupid (the cheesier the better).
Or maybe you’ll remember something you’ve forgotten about yourself. Like how much you love to read or paint or go running. As for me, I can feel free to grab a book and bury my nose in it without fear of anyone coming to take it from me. My books and I are happy together, thank you very much (plus, I have a to-read list longer than my arm). I don’t need to join the symbolic dodgeball game to make anyone else happy anymore. And just like no one can take my book from me, no one can take my identity from me either.
I can find it here with my imagination, my words, my self and my God.