I took a deep breath and drug up some deep-down honesty – you know, the truth that’s buried down so deep that it physically hurts to bring it to the surface? We were on the way home from Church and my husband’s question weighed heavily in the air: “What are you so afraid of, anyway?”
It had been a great day – no, really, it had – but I was incredibly anxious. Finally, I just blurted it out, “I’m so grateful to finally have friends but every time I open my mouth I’m afraid that they’re going to realize that the person they think I am doesn’t really exist. What if we get together and they realize that they don’t really like the whole picture of me, that I’m not as put-together as the little bits and pieces of me they see on Sunday and on Facebook? What if I’m just not good enough to have real friends?”
Because let’s face it… Even though I know I’m a child of God, even though I know I’m #PreApproved (thanks, Jennifer Dukes Lee!), even though I know that I am doing my best to be the best person I can be right now… even though I know all these things, I still can’t silence the anxious voices of that little girl inside me who is just begging to be liked, approved of, and maybe even a little bit popular.
It’s hard to live up to my own expectations. I sound so good on paper – a mom, a wife, a homeschooler, a college student, a journalist, a published novelist and a member of the Church. It all sounds so neat and tidy.
Too neat and tidy.
When I have to describe myself in 160 characters or less, I actually sound like I have it all together. It makes me laugh sometimes.
Because when I have the space to be completely honest, life just isn’t that simple. I’m a fun-loving, messy, mom of five little
whirlwinds troublemakers children who homeschools un-schools somewhere between the sticky kitchen counters and the ever-growing pile of clean laundry in the living room (not to be confused with the ever-growing pile of dirty laundry in the laundry room, although my children seem to confuse the two all the time). In my free spare multitasking time, I like to try to write hurry up and type a few sentences while reminiscing about bylines and publication dates… and every once in a while I actually do my homework. With all this chaos and busyness, I’m not very reliable and I’m nearly always late no matter how hard I try. And, oh yes, I do go to Church as often as I can… because I desperately, desperately need the love, forgiveness and rest that my Savior promises the sinful and the weary.
No matter how great and put-together I may sound on the surface, I’m really just a cleverly disguised mess.
If I’ve learned anything over the last year, it’s that I can’t control how other people think and feel about me. I know that I’m can’t make people like me and I know I shouldn’t even try. I know that all I can do is be myself and let other people make their own choices.
It’s so much easier to know these things than to live them.
No matter how much I know, the anxiety-driven little whisper persists… and because I feel so inadequate and insecure, I tend to avoid other people… especially from the ‘Better-Than-Me’ moms, the women who seem to have it all together because they look so clean and crisp and together on Sundays and on Facebook… because I am just so certain that I won’t conform to their idea of what a friend or a good Christian or a mom should be.
I am terrified that if I let these people past the Sunday-and-Facebook version of my reality, they’ll see how messy my life really is and run away screaming. Because, honestly, there are plenty of days when that would be a completely understandable response.
But I’ve noticed lately that some of the people I admired most, some of the people who glow and shine so very bright, some of the people I was absolutely certain were Too Good To Be My Friends… some of these people have expressed similar feelings of insecurity and anxiety on their blogs, their Facebook feeds and in other places.
Wait – what? They can’t possibly feel that way… right? That’s just me because I’m so obviously less than… Right?
And then I remembered that some of the most influential people I admire – like Lysa Terkeurst and Elisa Morgan and Jill Savage and other powerful Christian authors – are influential to me because they are open with their weakness and encourage others anyway. Instead of conquering their humanness, they embrace it and use it to uplift others.
And then I realized I’d completely lost sight of my purpose. Again.
I had become so absolutely terrified that I didn’t measure up, so concerned that maybe my light didn’t shine as bright as Camilla’s or Liza’s or Jessica’s or anyone else’s, that I thought it might be safer to turn off my light and hide in the darkness. Compared to all of these wonderful, inspiring, glowing women around me, I felt burned out, used up and useless. Dim. Dark. Inadequate. Broken. Less-than.
…but I don’t need to worry about my light.
Because Jesus Christ is the only Light.
Somehow, I’d completely forgotten… I don’t need to be a light. That’s not my job. I just need to be a mirror, reflecting His love, His grace, His charity, His forgiveness and friendship. If I will just stop putting my mess between me and Him (or between me and my friends), His perfect goodness can shine through me. And that will be more than enough to make up for my mess.
“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.-Matthew 5:14
I know that we are called to be the light of the world. I know that Jesus said we should be like the city set on a hill that cannot be hid. But sometimes it’s more comfortable to think of that city as a gleaming example that shines from a faraway distance where the light can still be seen but the dirty floors, unwashed windows and sticky counters maybe aren’t so obvious. I think sometimes I try to be that city.
But I don’t think that’s what Jesus meant. little distance can make the city look a little better, but that just means that more people will be disappointed and heartbroken when they can’t reach the gates.
Our Savior loves with a throw-open-all-the-doors, welcome-everyone-in, so-what-if-there’s-standing-room-only sort of love. He hasn’t called us to be impenetrable fortresses of righteousness. He’s asked us to be cities – glowing, warm, friendly, with food and lodging to spare, lively with laughter and joy and welcoming to all those who pass our way. That’s the sort of city Jesus wants us to be.
I know… because that’s the way Jesus was.
Jesus always reached out to others and invited them to get to know Him, even when it was uncomfortable, inconvenient or certain to result in bitter mockery. He didn’t have a fancy home, a nice car, expensive clothes or the newest gadgets. When he beckoned others to follow, he didn’t lead them into lavish guest suites or sparkling bathrooms or perfect lives. He walked dirt roads yet was not ashamed of his sandy feet or the brand of his sandals or where he bought his robes (or whether or not the hems were still intact). He held the children and did not cringe because of their smudged and sandy faces. He healed the blind, cured the sick, encouraged the weary, helped the helpless and gave hope to the hopeless without worrying about how He looked or how they looked or how much money they had or what their talents were. He gathered people around him on hillsides without worrying about where they would sit or what they would do – and he invited thousands to feast on five loaves and two fishes without worrying that it wouldn’t be enough. He turned prostitutes and politicians into believers and disciples, even when His friends mocked and were stunned with disbelief … and if He can do that for them, why do I fool myself into thinking that He can’t make anything meaningful out of me?
I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog, over the last year, pondering judgment and perfection and failed expectations. It’s a lesson I seem to learn and forget and learn again. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop this cycle of learning it and learning it again. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully silence the anxious little girl inside me who is constantly worried and afraid that I’m just not enough.
But maybe that’s okay.
This post was originally published on NicoleThelin.com.