Sitting on my desk is a drawing by Sam Larson. From the first time I saw it early last year to now, it inspires in me a sense of connection to a quiet, inner space: the desire and reality of growth in my life.
In recent years, the idea and image of growth and motion has come up frequently for me, as well as feelings of being stuck, stagnate, and behind in all the ways that matter. Sitting here to write this, I grab an old journal and search for a certain entry. I end up reading through most of the journal, moved by the way that this pervasive feeling has lingered with me for so long now.
In one entry from last year, I recalled the time I shared, in tears, with a friend, “I feel like everyone around me is starting new adventures and new chapters and I am stuck in a long-ass, hundred plus- page chapter in a Stephen King novel.”
It happens sometimes, this circumstantial steadiness, this stillness. I sit and watch as my social media feeds swell with images of the bright and smiling faces of the newly pregnant, newly married; the brand-new home owners, degree earners, and promotion receivers.
I take this all in and my deflated sense of ego throws a pity party, asking, “What about me? What have I done? What am I worth?”
And then my ego, in attempt to recover from this embarrassing lack of accomplishment, enters a vicious cycle of needing to better than everyone else: to have longer hair, clearer skin, prettier clothes, more money, the cuter house, the best-trained dog; to be the smarter one, the wiser one, the holier one, the one immune to the bends and shifts that is our humanity.
And it’s screaming at me now, my ego. It howls as a beast with all four paws stepped on.
These past few weeks, I have not just felt stuck: I have have felt unremarkable. And, and for someone who was always been told that they were “Set apart,” and “Amazing,” and so unlike her peers, this feeling has created a deep sense of shame. I stare in the mirror and feel there is something inherently plain about me. I do not feel special. I have been faced with my own humanity in very real ways and upon realizing I am just like everyone else, I feel I have lost the one thing about me that gives me value: being better.
Am I still “beautiful, inside and out,” if I am just like everyone else? Am I still “amazing” if I haven’t accomplished all the things others’ have accomplished?
Without the start of anything new and noteworthy, am I still worthy? By being so fully human, am I still beloved?
In her book Big Magic, writer Elizabeth Gilbert describes the differences between our egos and our souls. The soul is where healing and magic and creativity happen; ego is where dismissal and competition and walls are formed.
There is no movement in ego. It is a stone wall, a stagnate place, a bitter and hardened soil and I try to cover it up with sod to at least make it look pretty.
My ego wants to win,
My soul just wants growth.
The picture on my desk reminds me of this, reminds of my truest desire. I do not truly long to be better than everyone else, I long simply for motion. For energy. For movement, for clarity and creativity.
The woman in the drawing is a clear depiction of who I am. The woman with the fox in her hair, gaze steadily forward. This is a woman well-acquainted with the forward motion of her own life, of her own creativity; she is a woman fully trusting in the subtleties of God’s storytelling, the deeper, quieter, below-surface-level work he is consistently doing in order to renew us to a true knowledge according to the image of the one who created us (Colossians 3:10). She is also one who knows that the most effective growth and forward motion is not often easily measured, especially by circumstantial changes.
Pairing beautifully with Sam Larson’s drawing is a poem by Justin M Roberts. Together, they remind me of the unwavering truth my ego cannot touch:
There are countless ways
to answer the question
“What is God doing?“
or even “Where is God?”
but the most reliable
and fundamental answer
(also the truest)
You are always what God is up to
You are always
the Beloved Dwelling Place
of the Divine.
– Justin M. Roberts.