Throughout the course of my life I have felt a lot of pressure to be extraordinary. As a child I was small, quiet, awkward and I struggled in school. I was the target of the school bullies. I dreamed of growing up to be beautiful and famous. Then I would go back and visit all those bullies and they would see that I had become better than them. I carried this fantasy into my adulthood, never liking who I was and always trying to become that amazing person that I had made up in my imagination.
I’m not going to sugarcoat this. That is a horrible way to live. I have spent most of my adulthood hating myself. I have been married for 22 years. For the first 19 of those years I was convinced that my husband was lying when he told me I was beautiful. I didn’t see beautiful when I looked in the mirror! I was an extremely defensive person. When someone got too close and I was afraid that my flaws were about to be exposed, I lashed out.
The most exhausting part was the striving. I was always striving to become that person that I had dreamed up when I was a little girl. Perfection was the goal, and it was killing me that I couldn’t get there. There is a precious hymn, “In Christ alone”, that I refused to sing. The part that says, “When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!” actually filled me with rage. I would stand there in church, looking composed, but I wasn’t. I screamed inside! I did not know how not to strive and I was absolutely miserable.
But, praise the Lord! He brought me to the end of myself. Now when we sing that hymn at church, I belt it out with all my heart. It’s actually become one of my favorites! I don’t strive anymore. I don’t care what people think of me anymore. I don’t pretend to be something that I’m not anymore. I have learned how to truly love others. I have learned how to step out of my comfort zone. I have learned that it’s okay to be exactly who God created me to be. I have finally stopped living for the image in my head and I am focusing on becoming more like Jesus.
A few weeks ago I was talking to someone and I was saying that the forties are great. It’s the time in my life when I finally stopped caring about what people thought of me and started being myself. Another friend, a guy in his late twenties, was laying on the couch with his eyes closed. I thought he was sleeping, but he had been listening. He cleared his throat and chimed in, “Um. Excuse me, but why do you have to wait until your forties to live that way?” He’s right! I wish it hadn’t taken me so long. (But I’m not going to beat myself up because it did!)
So there ya have it. Last time I told you that I can say that I love life now. I can also say that I don’t hate the girl in the mirror anymore. God is so good and patient. I am thankful that He has lovingly brought me to this place of joy and freedom. And, He can do the same for you, if you will just be still, and let Him.