“After years of being defined by the lives, demands and needs of others, it is frightening to knock at the door of your heart and wonder who is there.”
I read this quote in some materials we received at our women’s retreat. It defines the journey I have been on for years. I’ve spent most of my life trying to live the way I thought other people wanted me to live. Whether it was my family, teachers, or friends, I said and did what I thought they expected. So who I portrayed myself to be was not necessarily who God created me to be. Also, due to my environment growing up, I had to act a certain way just to survive. Those actions defined who I was, but I’ve realized that I no longer need to act that way, which means the person I was is not who I am. God has been guiding me on a journey to myself – to discover who He created me to be. It can be a scary journey. The logical/analytical side of me has a hard time with the idea of not knowing myself. Shouldn’t I know myself? After stripping away the expectations of others and my survival/defense mechanisms, however, I am left with the question, “Who am I?” And that raises the question, “How do I get to know myself?” I don’t have many answers to these questions, but I do have hope.
I realized two specific things while I was at the retreat. The first was during some small group time. Learning who I am is a scary thought for me, and there are many layers to that fear. As I sat on the pier by the lake, I sensed God saying, “I want you to know my daughter.” With that statement came hope and peace. It’s hard for me to remember that God created me in His image, and by that alone, I am beautiful. In general, I get that. God created man in His image. I can see other people in that way, but it’s hard for me to view myself in that way. I realized that is where I need to start. I need to view myself as God views me. So it’s not so much about getting to know myself as it is getting to know how God views me. That will then lead me to knowing who God created me to be.
The second thing I realized revolves around a part of my perception that has been skewed. In my head, logic states that I need to know myself before I can really connect with others – to have a base knowledge to relate to others and make a connection. One of the reasons I went to the retreat was to try and make connections – something that can be difficult for me. We had a ‘slumber party’ on Saturday night that was truly the highlight of the retreat for me. It was just a fun time with people whose base connection is being a daughter of God. What I realized is that in community I am able to connect with a part of myself that I can’t connect with on my own. God designed us to live connected – to Him and to others in community. Without that connection, there is a part of me missing. So the importance of connecting – no matter how difficult – is the next step on my journey.
when you wake up and the world is cold
and you feel you’ve lost your way
please know that i am here
reach out and take my hand
my love will lead you through
when you look in the mirror and cannot see beauty
and you feel you’re all alone
please know that you are loved
look up and see my precious child
reflected in my eyes
i want you to know grace
i want you to know me
the freedom of being held
the brokenness made whole
i want you to know my precious love
i want you to know my precious child
I spent last weekend in Tahoe for our church’s women’s retreat. I don’t often go on retreats. Because of the way I’m wired, that atmosphere can be tough for me. But this retreat couldn’t have been set up any better for my personality.
When I first agreed to go, I could feel the anxiety building quickly in the pit of my stomach. With the retreat still over a month away, I knew I was in trouble if I was already feeling that anxious about it. But after the initial round of anxiety, I started to feel something strange. I was excited. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy being around people, and the desire of my heart is to get more connected. But those feelings are usually completely overshadowed by the anxiety I feel. So to actually be able to connect with a feeling of excitement was an unusual thing for me. I knew that God had something for me at this retreat. As the days went by, and the retreat got closer, I kept waiting for the anxiety to build, but it never did. There was definitely anxiety present, but it was not nearly as strong as it normally is. Throughout the weekend, we had a good amount of ‘alone’ time to reflect and see what God had for each of us. It ended up being a perfect balance for someone like me. I had time to make some connections, but when I started to feel peopled out, I had the opportunity to get away and recharge. I couldn’t have asked for a better set up.
I heard some cool things from God throughout the weekend – some things that I really needed to hear. On Saturday afternoon, I went for a walk around the retreat center. It was beautiful weather. I am always cold so being up in Tahoe at this time of year is not always a fun thing for me. But it was not as cold as everyone expected it to be. The skies were clear, and the sun shining. I took my walk without a jacket (which is a big deal for me). I took my camera with me, and I just enjoyed the quiet and the beauty. As I looked around, I couldn’t help but think of God’s creativity. How do you look at the water, the mountains, and the colors of earth without thinking about the God who created all of it? Then a thought struck me. God’s creativity is most evident in us, His children. Not one single person is exactly like another. Think about how many people there are on this earth today, and how many have been here before us. It’s amazing to think that each one of them is unique. Yet, in our humanity, we try so hard to be like everyone else. Differences are not celebrated, but shunned. Being in the minority is never a comfortable place to be. But in reality, we are all in the minority. We are all uniquely made. We will never be like anyone else. God’s question to me was, “So why are you even trying?” I realized that He wants me to embrace my uniqueness. I need to know myself, and to embrace that knowledge. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of me or expects me to be or do. What matters is that God created me as I am for a reason. Until I am comfortable with that, in its entirety, I will never be able to be all He created me to be or do what He is asking me to do.