Where am I at right now? You know, that’s a good question. I don’t know. A few weeks ago, my whole world was upended, not by some cataclysmic event or travesty, but simply by a renewing of my mind. And honestly, I don’t know if I can accurately describe how I’ve been since.
I feel silly writing this out because I have no idea where I’m going with this. But I’m motivated by the thought that someone out there is experiencing the same kind of train wreck in their life, and they need to know that they’re not alone. Spurred by that belief, I guess I’ll continue writing until the scrambled spaghetti mess of my brain becomes one coherent strand, and hopefully that person out there who needs to read these words will feel encouraged.
I guess I’ll start at the beginning. In this case, “the beginning” is grade school. Or maybe even earlier, because I believe this has always been a problem for me. I have always found my identity in my friendships. I’ve always felt that my status in life was determined by the status of my friendships. In grade school and high school, that meant finding the coolest friends I possibly could and clinging to them tightly so they couldn’t get away. Looking back, I see how God has slowly been working at my heart, trying to warn me of the danger that would cause in my life. When I was a freshman, I consciously made the decision to choose God over my friends, and that left me lonely for a little while. But soon after high school, I found my identity in Christ and I thought my struggle was over.
Isn’t it funny how life goes? One struggle ends and the future looks promising, but soon there’s another bump in the road that quickly turns into Mount Everest. My Mount Everest was soon in coming.
After I found my identity in Christ, I wanted a solid Christian friend who would be able to point me to Christ and help me through life, and that was when I met Ellie Powers. Guys, I wish I could describe Ellie in a way that you could feel as if you actually knew her, but I don’t think I’m that good of a writer. Suffice it to say, Ellie is pretty amazing. When I met her, I thought she was pretty much the perfect Christian in how she walked with God and devoted her time to loving others. She’s so extremely talented and the kind of person who wants to share those talents with the world in a way that glorifies God. When I met her, I didn’t think I was worthy to be her friend, but I wanted to be! I did all I could to spend time with her, to get to know her, and to establish a friendship that I believed would last. The whole time, I was seeing attributes in her that I admired and wanted to adopt into my own life. I saw Christ in her, and figured if I was more like her, I’d be more like Christ.
That’s a scary thought, isn’t it? I wonder how I didn’t spot the idolatry then, because it’s so obvious to me now. Oh well, they say hindsight is 20/20! And I guess if I’d spotted it then, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing to you. Everything in life has a silver lining, I suppose.
As time went on, the inadequacy to Ellie grew in my heart and I assumed others were seeing the same thing I was. I had no idea why Ellie wanted to be my friend when she was so obviously better than me! She cleaned when I didn’t want to, she practiced music and art that I wasn’t good at, she loved on the people that I couldn’t relate to. In every way, I saw myself as lesser than. Even though I felt like a charity case, I counted myself as lucky and devoted my time and attention to being Ellie’s friend.
There’s something I need to inject here – Ellie never said or did anything that fueled this idea. She never boasted over me or inflated herself to make me look smaller, in fact quite the opposite. Her heart has never been to put me down. Every idea that I was inadequate was sourced in my own brain. Please understand that.
Over the past few months, this feeling of inadequacy lit a fire of self-loathing. I was continually trying to make myself better, to be more like Ellie and thus more like Christ, but I was failing at every attempt. I felt like people were feeling sorry for me, that they saw how much better Ellie was and applauded her for sticking with me. I was absolutely disgusted with myself.
This is where some of you are right now. You are disgusted with yourself because you feel inadequate. I want you to know, you are not alone. You are seen. Your situation is not lost. I’ve been in your shoes, and I found hope. You can too.
Right about now, you’re wondering when I’m going to wrap this up so you can stop reading. And you’re probably wondering what the point is in all of this. I’d be thinking the same thing if I were you, but I need to ask for a little patience. I’m almost there.
A few weeks ago, my train wreck happened. My head was about to explode with all of the negative thoughts tearing me down, when all of a sudden, I realized what I was doing. It hit me that I was worshipping Ellie. In comparing myself to her and making myself more like her, I was idolizing her. I took her word as truth, and believed that everything she did, I needed to do. I cared more about what she thought of me and whether I was worthy of her friendship than I did what God thought of me. Isn’t that insane?! I thought her beauty was more valuable than mine and I thought my faults were dirtier than hers. Because I had such an idolized view of her, I believed myself to be worth less than garbage. And I was completely wrong!
From that moment of realization on, I have been completely rebuilding my outlook on life. And let me tell you, it’s been incredibly difficult. Mount Everest difficult. I’ve had to walk backwards and relive some painful moments with a new mindset. I’ve had to wake up each morning and remind myself of the mercies Jesus was pouring out on me. Every day I have to fight the habit of degrading my own value. And I’m still trying to figure out how I’m supposed to live now.
Guys, this is real. I don’t know where I’m headed. My heart aches every single day. I don’t know when the relief is coming, I just know it’s not here yet. But here’s what I’m learning, and hopefully there is something here you can glean as well:
1. Jesus never promised an easy life, but He does promise to stay with me through the hard times. (Psalm 46, John 16:33)
2. I have hope for the end of this struggle. Even though it’s painful now, it ignites excitement for when I will live in Heaven without this burden on my shoulders. (Revelation 21:4)
3. Gratitude changes a heart. The more I thank God for what I’m going through, the lighter my burden gets. (Colossians 2:6-7)
4. One person is never meant to be our “everything.” It’s too big of a responsibility on them, and impossible for them to ever hope to achieve. God has put a hole in our lives that only He can fill, and we have to seek Him. (Psalm 23)
5. Renewing of the mind is not a one-time deal. Healing is a process, and no amount of determination will make that process go faster. (Romans 12:2, Ecclesiastes 3:1)
6. I do not have to know the answers. I do not have to know what’s next. I do not have to understand what I’m going through. God is sovereign, He is in control, and He is leading me. He will put things on my mind for me to process through, little bits at a time. Anything else, I do not have to worry about because He will take care of it. (Psalm 119:105, Matthew 6:34)
Listen, I know this not a polished blog. It doesn’t have a tidy ending or really an understandable flow. But that’s life! Reality is, we aren’t polished. We don’t always get tidy endings or understandable flows. And that’s OK. Jesus never asks that of us. All He wants is to walk through the unpolished, messy, perplexing journey of life alongside us. He wants us to know that we don’t have to clean ourselves up for Him to love us, He is going to meet us right where we’re at.