somewhere new, someplace safe: the tension of growth

I am both disappointed and elated to find I am not at all who I thought I was. 

When I close my eyes and picture the woman I want to be, I see a smiling and kind woman who’s always serving, always open.  She’s funny, she’s bright, she’s assertive.  She is fully confident in who she is and she knows no insecurity.  She is wise and poetic and always knows what to say and when to offer a hug.  Everyone loves her and she is a safe and grounding presence to all who meet her.

I pray daily for God to make me this woman.  Lord, I want to be kind.  I want to serve and invest.  I want to make people feel safe.

When I closed my eyes and pictured how the summer was going to go, I saw an adventure that would strip away all my insecurity and self-doubt and limiting beliefs.  I saw myself being chiseled and carved.  And at the end of it all, this perfect woman would be ready to greet the world, brightly smiling with the graceful ease and confidence of a woman fully alive.

But as the summer unravels and slowly comes to an end, I’ve found myself in a place of struggle and disappointment.

This woman hasn’t made her debut.

Instead, I still feel as though I am the shaky and insecure woman I always was.

God, why haven’t you turned me into this woman yet?  Why haven’t you made me all I want to be?  Why aren’t I growing?

But I realize: just because I am not becoming all that I thought I should be doesn’t mean I’m not growing. 

And in fact, I’m coming to believe the opposite is true.  Growth isn’t becoming who we think we should be; growth is stepping into who God’s made us to be. 

And how long will I grieve the design he’s given me?  How long will I think it’s less than, like some cheap knock-off version of something beautiful and lovely?  How long will I long to be something other than what the God of the Universe has declared me to be?

I have grown so much this summer, come so far.  It hasn’t looked like what I thought it would.  I thought that growth meant turning into a person I could love.  It turns out that growth is simply learning to love who I am.

When will I let go of soul squelching expectation and embrace the boundless love of my God who never fails?  When will I give myself the permission to struggle?  When will I see my insecurity as an opportunity to experience grace?

I ponder and pray about confidence.  We are taught to believe that confidence is the full liking and acceptance of self.  Guilt settles in.  I want to be a confident role model; a confident counselor and friend.  And yet I struggle.  I struggle with what I look like, I struggle with my singleness, I compare myself to others.  I overeat and feel fat.  I make negative comments about myself and I act as though I’m grieving this woman I am.

Guilt and shame settle in.  You call yourself a leader?  You call yourself a counselor?  You’re needy and your neediness drives everyone away.  Get it together.  The perfect woman you desire to be doesn’t have thoughts like these.  You’re weak.  You’re insecure.  Shouldn’t I be above insecurity?  Should I not have full confidence?  Doesn’t God want me to fully love and accept myself? Why can’t I?  Why do I cling to this image of this ideal and perfect version of me?

We believe confidence to be the absence of insecurity.  But what if confidence is simply choosing to believe his truth in the midst of our insecurity? 

I believed this summer would bring me to a place where I could be 100% okay with myself, 100% of the time.  But that hasn’t happened for me at all this summer.

I tell God I want confidence and then I give him a list of everything he needs to do to make that happen.

Lord, take away my belief that I’m fat so I can finally be confident.

Lord, take away my belief that men don’t want me so I can finally be confident.

Lord, take away my belief that I am an outcast so I can finally be confident.

And yet God comes to me and says, “Oh, my beloved.  Freedom and confidence are found in believing my unalterable truth right in the middle of everything you’re asking me to take away.”

What if confidence isn’t about accepting me, but about simply accepting him and his love?

I am my most lovely when I rest in love. 

Yes, I have insecurity.  But I also have choice.

Do I choose to believe truth?

I don’t have to feel guilty about my struggle.  My struggle provides the breathing room for God to show up, to work tenderly.

Yes, I am growing this summer.  I am doing things I never thought I’d ever do.  No, I’m not quite everything I’d hoped I’d be.  But I am certainly learning that I don’t have to be.

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