Middle Sister

captive words, freed + captive heart, redeemed

Month: September 2018

Where Brokenness Meets Belonging

I’ll never forget the first time I took a personality test. Sitting in an oversized, mostly empty conference hall, I glanced at the other faces in the room, lingering on the ones I admired. I felt an uneasy shift in my insecure, middle school stomach, and I did what I thought best. I lied.

I answered the questions carefully, and to my satisfaction, the Myers-Briggs test declared me an extrovert. I remember feeling triumphant, as if I had dodged a pothole. I clung to that assessment, assuring myself I could be the person I’d described — the person I wanted to be.

It was painstaking work, really, but I assumed everyone did it. I fought hard to silence the roar of uneasiness, to calm the swirl of anxiety. And to those looking in, I might’ve seemed relatively successful. I lived in that shell of a person — the best version of myself, I assumed — for years.

But facades always crack, and eventually mine shattered.

As it turns out, I desperately need time alone. I relish in the softness of silence. My mind remembers how to think, and my soul remembers how to feel when I retreat from the noisy clatter of the world. I’m not particularly well spoken. Large groups of people drain my energy, and too many eyes make me feel panicked. Though I always thought it necessary to secure the approval of large groups, I actually function best with the love and support of just a few trusted friends.

But I can’t tell you how long it took me to come to that conclusion, and how long it took for me to accept it once I did. What I can tell you of is the overwhelming peace that comes with accepting yourself as you were created to be.

So, why, to this day, do I sometimes still struggle to be her?

I think it has a lot to do with where I’m looking. If you look to the world to tell you what is good in you and what is not, you’ll almost always end up disappointed.

I distinctly remember realizing this for the first time. As I nervously sat across from a trusted mentor, he said something I already knew on some subconscious level — but they were words I’d been waiting my whole life for someone to say, to explain, to make sense of. “You feel things deeply,” he said. It’s not those four words that stick with me, years later, but the life he breathed into me after he said them.

“You see it only as a burden,” he explained, “and it can be, but it’s also what gives you the capacity for extraordinary empathy and compassion.” In that moment, I understood. The world had told me oversized feelings were a burden to bear, so that’s what I believed. And that’s why I tried to overcome them, to escape them, much like I tried to escape my introversion.

Years later, I still find myself reverting to old habits, trying to be someone I’m not, striving to escape the parts of me I find unlikable.

As I stood in Target last week, scanning endless racks of baby clothes to find the onesie that matched the registry I held in my hand, I felt the familiar rush of hot, unwanted tears. My initial reaction? Anger, at myself, for feeling.

I inwardly chastised myself. “This is so inappropriate,” I thought. “Get a hold of yourself. This isn’t about you. It’s about your friend and the baby growing in her belly.” I managed to collect myself, painting a smile across my face as I checked out and headed for my car.

But as I drove home, I found the feelings impossible to escape. At first, I frantically searched for a radio station playing an upbeat song, to push the feelings out of sight. Instead, I landed on one that spoke to my soul exactly where it was. A song that told me I didn’t need to package myself up neatly before God, but instead, he wanted me exactly as I was. Better yet, that he found me desirable, lovable even, exactly as I was.

The rest of the way home, I let tears stream down my face. I allowed myself to feel. I was freer on that drive home than I have been in months.

The feelings I have are messy and unsightly. But that day, in the car, God told me it was OK — OK to feel, OK to be exactly who he created me to be. An introvert, crying in the car? Fine with him. In fact, much better than a feigned extrovert with manicured feelings.

What I’m beginning to realize is that it’s in the most complicated parts of ourselves that God meets us. He’s all too silent in the shiny exteriors we create, but in the messy parts? He’s there. That’s where he does his best work in us, through us. That’s where he makes himself known. And isn’t that what we’re here for?

Here

 

I’m an idealist, but if you had told me that a few years ago, I probably would’ve shrugged, unsure of the idea. That wasn’t something I knew about myself. But it’s something I’ve learned — a realization born of necessity, an insight steeped in pain. It’s not this particular piece of me that matters all that much. It’s the way it’s shaped my thoughts that matters, the way it’s informed my dreams and fueled my fears.

I think it’s part of the reason I struggle to live in the in-between. I’m always grasping for what’s next, regarding the not-yet as the objective. And all too often, the grasping becomes gripping and the regarding becomes revering.

Dreaming for the future is normal and healthy, but I have a way of turning those dreams into unrealized concrete realities. There, in the depths of my mind, are checkpoints and destinations, but no speed bumps, no stop signs. And you know what happens when you’re flying down the road, looking far ahead, paying little attention to the pavement directly in front of you? The unexpected speed bump jolts you out of your skin. The sudden stop sign leaves you screeching to a neck-breaking halt.

Here is not a place I thought I’d stop. Here is not a place I thought I’d be. It’s a foreign place that feels lonely. It doesn’t seem to look like anyone else’s here. I feel pain that eats away at my being, resentment that eats away at my soul. My body is broken here, and much of the time, so too is my spirit.

But right now, God has asked me to live here — not wait here, not fight here, not pine here — live here.

Two temptations fight to threaten this. They contradict each other, and I waver in the middle, struggling to walk the ground that barely exists between them.

One tells me to stop, to stand in place, to pause. “Living can wait,” it says, but I know it’s a lie, because none of us can ever really afford to wait to live.

The other tells me to run, blindly, furiously, carelessly.  And most of the time, I want to run, but I can’t. I can’t outrun the ache, and I am all at once angry and glad for that.

The ground in the middle is muddy. The steps are one by one. It’s a deliberate way of walking, of living. I want to flit ahead to dry land, but what I’m realizing is that there’s someone guiding my steps here, someone walking alongside me in the mud, gifting me with strength, moment by moment. So, as much as I want out of here as quickly as possible, I am learning, day after day, to love the hand that guides me and grasp the strength it provides me.

Our heres are all different, but they all bear a common thread. No matter yours, I encourage you to walk in it. Live in it. Be there in all your confusion and brokenness. Peel your eyes away from there, and meet the one who walks with you here.

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