2018 has been a year of unparalleled self-discovery.
From learning that empathy is a core component to who I am to realizing I can prepare for things if I put my mind to it, my mind has been rocked. Ah-ha moment after ah-ha moment have cascaded one upon the other to a point where I expect and meet a new one around every corner.
Last week I learned that I am a concrete thinker. What’s ironic about this discovery is that for my entire life I have believed that I was an out-of-the-box thinker. I have so wanted to be the kind of person who has new ideas, who doesn’t fit the mold, who is flexible and open to hearing stories from all sides of life that I have not been able to hear my own!
ON THE NATURAL ME
I love to listen to others, to lean into their lives and gain insight from life experiences. Just as much as this, I find joy in encouraging and helping others too. Yet my life-long struggle has been to separate who I am from those I encounter, a boundary that sometimes has seemed absolutely impossible to discover. When you cry, I cry. When you laugh, I laugh. Where do I end and you begin? From beginning to end, I have typically never known!
I have spent countless hours trying to understand why I think the way I do, why I love the things I do, why I am drawn to the people and groups I am. I have absorbed opinion after opinion, attitude after attitude, mood after mood. I have been the perfect chameleon in a circle of girls. But back there in the place where my spirit tugs my heart and mind, a still, calm voice has risen up this past year.
I have heard a voice in the vast depths of my thoughts and stories, one that has steadily spoken dozens of big and little “go’s!”
Some of these I have tried to quell. “I don’t want to leave my comfort zone! I don’t want to do the thing you have mapped out before me,” I’ve told it. I have both resisted and relented, and it’s as I’ve relaxed before His voice and have come to rely on its direction that I have begun to find answers.
ON THE AWAKENING
At the beginning of 2018 I received a fresh awakening of curiosity that came with a freedom to explore questions of who I am and what makes me tick. It began with a face-to-face look at my deepest values. My faith, that thing that propels my spirit forward, that thing that gives direction, order, and purpose to all of the decisions in my life, came to the forefront. I began in Genesis looking at childhood Bible stories and asking every question that came to mind.
Did the serpent really talk? What about the donkey a few dozen chapters later? Did he really talk too? What about God? Did he have a body that walked in the garden? And the others that Scripture speaks of who “walked with God…” like Enoch and Noah and Moses and Abraham and…did they all see God?
The questions came one after another, and I accepted each one in the cadence with which it fell. I had perfect freedom to ask these questions, as my faith was not based on hearing an audible voice or even finding a concrete answer to these questions. I knew that God was at work, that I was hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit was ministering to me by guiding me to the questions I was having.
What I did not know was that as He was unlocking new question after new question, He was also opening the door to the path of self-discovery:
It is possible to learn how to accept a compliment at 36 years old!
It is not ridiculous to have had 5 children and still find yourself searching for your call in life as if it is a treasure-at-the-bottom-of-the-sea thing.
It is possible (and oh-so-freeing!) to go through life feeling guilty for having a heart for the outcast and then realize compassion and mercy are your signatures!
It is possible to be totally terrible at planning but then still plan, pace, and prepare for an event–whether it’s running a half-marathon or teaching a five-week Bible class.
It is possible to overcompensate for your weakness only to find your strengths taking over!
It is not the craziest thing ever to wake up at 2:30 am and write a blog about all the things you’ve discovered about yourself…without coffee because THAT’S the quietest moment of the day. Because that’s literally my situation right now.
It is okay to have more than one calling and to grow and change in different seasons of life.
It is possible to change your mind and heart on a thousand things or even just one.
It is not crazy to believe you were an abstract thinker your whole life and realize at gray hair 625 that you are actually a concrete thinker.
It is wholly untrue that childbirth is the only kind of birth that matters. There are a million other stories, art, connections, ideas and visions waiting for birth!
It is completely backwards to think that life gets duller as one ages. Life gets fuller!
It is crucial I see that the very times I am at the brink of running, I am also at the brink of breakthrough.
It is calming that the very wind and waves that toss about me now are the ones that will teach me to walk through what is to come.
It is a true statement that my deepest fears, that I will lose what I love, are only and uniquely treated in my willingness to submit and even sacrifice what I love to follow Christ. Wholeheartedly.
ON PERMISSION TO EXPLORE
Some of the biggest lies I have bought into through my 3.6 decades have begun with a supposition that questions that don’t lead to instant, finite answers are wrong. Questions are only the BEGINNING! Leaning into these first questions gave me the permission I needed to move into the next realm, the discovery of me.
What I have learned in 2018 has been that my ways and my thoughts are both the worst of me and the best of me. It is in those things that the Spirit speaks, affirms, and guides–THOSE NUDGES birth the life-giving moments, epiphanies, and discoveries that rock my world. And all the rest of the thoughts that seek to govern, the ones that grow out of my weaknesses, my doubts, my insecurities, fears and indulgent desires–those birth a crushing blow to the person God is forming me to be.
In perhaps one of the biggest paradigm shifts of the year (and quite possibly of my life!) is the discovery that confidence does not begin with me. Rather, it begins with God through Christ through the revelation given by the Spirit.
What I realize is that I have always looked for concrete answers to life’s questions, when what I truly needed was simply wisdom for the moment.
I haven’t lacked confidence as I have often said to people–I have lacked commitment to Christ’s call on me, which is to cast all my thoughts and cares to him and to let Him lead me, show me, reveal to me, and NUDGE me in ALL things, big and small. Each moment I submit to Him translates into a moment of hope and confidence of eternal size. And none of me matters in that.
It may not be until many years down the road that I get to the end of self-discovery, but for now I will delight in the truths He has revealed to me about myself, about others, and about the mission and call on my life–the one that includes the crumbs, the spills, the kids, the calls, the coffee–and absolutely everything else in between.