I have been struggling lately. I have been struggling with the question, “Who am I?” There are so many possible labels: a wife, a friend, a Christian, an advocate, a member of my community, a woman, a dreamer, a runner, an organizer, a finance assistant, a blogger. Yet when I consider those labels, I don’t feel I embody any of them completely. I have this unrelenting want to add the word “BETTER” before each title. I want to be a better wife, a better friend, a better Christian, etc. All at once. All together. All to perfection. And as I wonder about who I am, I begin to feel overwhelmed with disappointment at my elusive potential.
That is where my biggest struggle lies: in the want to be “better” than how I perceive myself. Focusing on that want which seems so unfathomable, unapproachable, and unreachable, I recognize I am viewing my life from the base of a gigantic mountain. I can see multiple trails I could claim as my path, each with a directional sign reading who I yearn to be. Yet I feel if I choose one path, then the others will go unaltered. Never being explored, never being grown, never being conquered.
Smarter hikers than I would venture down a path to see where it leads and then retrace their footsteps to explore another trail. Stronger hikers than I would choose one path, complete it, and return to the beginning to begin anew. Not me though. I want to take all the paths at once without giving any specific label up. All or nothing is what I felt was necessary to give my life meaning and purpose.
I found myself praying at this multi-directional trail head for weeks. How could I be a better wife while simultaneously attempting to be a better friend and a better runner and a better active member of my community? There did not seem to be enough minutes in the day or energy in my body to keep up with everything necessary to make me into the person I felt I needed to be.
Then Sunday happened.
It amazes me in the ways God can speak to me. He either gives subtle nods that have me constantly second guessing if I’m reading the signs correctly or He drops something so obvious into my lap that I’m left dazed at my own ignorance.
Sunday’s sermon was that mountain being dropped onto my head, dazing and enlightening me into shame of my own stupidity.
A guest pastor gave the sermon. He was a director at Life Action Ministries, an organization that believes in calling people to authentic Christianity in order for the gospel to shine brightly out of lives transformed by God’s presence and power. He spoke about the brokenness of our world and the effects of sin on society. He talked about renewing our spirits to revive not only ourselves, but the world as a whole. And his method of doing this was by saying “YES!” to God every single day.
The sermon as a whole was specifically aimed towards saying “Yes” to God when it came to our faith and spiritual well-being. This pastor spoke on topics of selling ourselves short when it came to being followers of Jesus and how our actions today effect a number of outcomes tomorrow. Spiritually, I needed to hear this message because I am constantly worrying if I am a good enough Daughter of Christ.
However, the message hit me in all aspects of my life.
I began to see my life as a series of Yes’s and No’s. Sometimes I chose to say Yes to a path of my own and rely on myself to not trip on the obstacles along the way. Yet looking back, I know that when I chose to say Yes to the paths God directed me towards is when my life truly flourished. My best Yes’s were those where God led me!
One prime example of these differences in Yes’s were when I was led out of my pre-House lifestyle. House, as some of you may remember, is my young adults Bible study group. Prior to House, I had focused mainly on drowning my unhappiness with late nights and a careless attitude, dating the wrong people because I lacked knowledge in what I deserved, and caring more for earthly matters than my eternal soul. I sought pity. I sought relevance. I sought anything than what I had been taught through my Christian upbringing truly mattered. I was choosing to say Yes to an overgrown, boulder-strewn trail. I didn’t like who I was becoming, but the thought of turning off-course to a path of revival was scary. I felt I would be heading into that unknown alone, and I knew there were a lot of burning bridges to be mended before I could make it to the summit.
When the time came that I finally realized I no longer had the strength and endurance to cut my way through the briers of my own path, I turned to God. I knew I needed to go down the path of revival, but I also knew I couldn’t lead myself. Life Action puts the Path of Revival in good terms: my first step was to find humility. Then honesty, repentance, forgiveness, and obedience. None of these were easy obstacles on my own, but by saying Yes to God and His leadership, I began my journey.
And following God brought me to a beautiful clearing of my life.
I earned friendships with the most honest and supportive people imaginable. I went through many trials that ultimately grew me into a stronger and wiser individual. I faltered many times, turning back and looking at the path I once walked, but I never turned to salt. Instead, I might trip and scrape my knee, but I picked myself up and endured the pain until finally the summit of that stage in my life was reached.
Nonetheless, the mountain continued ahead, and life went on. I hadn’t reached the end. Instead I was given the option of continuing to say Yes to hiking up my current course or choosing another path. Free will is a gift from God, after all, and the choice was mine to make.
In the same way, sometimes I said No to paths I knew were the Godly direction and chose to go my own selfish way. And though those No’s brought a lot of growth and wisdom through life lessons, they also brought a lot of hurt and sorrow.
One such No was when I wanted to keep walking my current course, but there was clearly a blockade in the trail. God kept subtly giving me signs, but I shook my head No at Him and continued up anyways. I was in a floundering relationship where I provided support with hardly any in return. The trail I was attempting to climb was turning to sand and washing away under my feet, but I fought to move forward still. There were no tree branches to help pull me upward, there was no covering to protect me from the headwinds. I kept saying No to the signs God was handing me and instead tried to force love and adoration and respect into a relationship that never was bound to have those emotions reciprocated. I gave more and more of my heart until I had no more to give, and I came tumbling down the mountainside when the rainstorms finally gathered and let loose.
It’s amazing how when you allow people to make more withdrawals than deposits into your life, how out of balance you will find yourself. You get to a negative space and you’re not sure how to “close the account.”
For me, when that unhealthy relationship ended, I found myself knocked out of breath from the avalanche. My heart was hardened from the fall. My happiness and willingness to listen to God ceased. My negativity was at an all-time high when I was at an all-time low. I felt isolated in my situation, feeling heavy emotions of depression and hatred for everyone involved. I chose to be a victim of the mountain, and I blamed everyone involved including God.
But He wasn’t who led me on that path, was He? No, I had chosen not to abide by His clear signs stating “Trail Closed Ahead” and wandered forward on my own. Looking back, it is so clear the paths He meant for me to follow instead. I stuck to my own crummy intuition though. I made excuses. I tried to convince myself the path was not as bad as it really was.
After the tumble down, I tried to shake myself off. I tried to be strong on my own. I defiantly began climbing a path of Self-Yes. I clung to other unhealthy relationships like a lifeline, I relied on pills and drinks to numb the pain, and I made decisions unfamiliar with my character for the sole purpose to hurt those who hurt me. I wanted to do what I wanted to do, and my situation became worse due to my own leadership. My life became a dark, sunless void as I went further and further into the forested hills that I was creating for myself.
It wasn’t until I turned back to God that my life made a drastic change. (Surprising, right? If only I had remembered my lessons from previous “No Times” as well.) As I said No to my selfish path and Yes to God’s directions, I began to find rays of sunshine again. A light through the treetops showed roots to step over so I wouldn’t trip. A clearing brought warmness and happiness and laughter. The forest was dying away and I could see the next summit for which I was aiming. It was obvious that following God meant a life full of love and contentment.
And so I continued to say Yes to Him.
Life was great, and I believed the reason wholeheartedly was relying on God to direct me. I centered my life on Philippians 4:8:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.
By taking the examples of what a God-pleasing life entailed, I attempted to live by this passage in my thoughts, words, and actions. And I found peace.
I know that if I had chosen to say No to reconciling with God, I would not be where I am today. God not only led me to a healthy and complete relationship with G, but he led me to stronger relationships with my family and friends. I was able to see those who were meant to be a part of my life and why I needed to close the accounts with others. My career flourished, my other responsibilities and hobbies blossomed, and I found contentment in the person I was. I loved myself and I was eager for the future God had awaiting me.
Transitional periods are tough though. I reached the summit of that beautiful hike on my wedding day. Since then I have found myself again struggling with my image.
Who am I?
I’m now a wife, but I find struggle in claiming that as my only label. As someone who once was overwhelmed with all her hats being juggled, that addiction is a hard thing to break. I sometimes find myself feeling guilty that I have “down time.” I knock myself for not jumping to return text messages to friends. I put myself down for not writing a blog post every day or allowing my workouts to go by the wayside. I want to be a great wife, but I also want to be a great blogger and runner and friend and, and, and…
It took the sermon on Sunday to remind me that maybe that’s the problem though — struggling with perfection rather than stopping to listen my Lord. Maybe I am confusing fulfillment in my life’s goals with contentment of the here and now.
I think it is time to readjust how I view myself and glorify God in all He has provided me.
Let me be honest with you, I had a breakdown a few weeks ago where I questioned what my purpose was outside of being a wife. I had put so much focus on preparing for marriage before the wedding that all other hobbies and past times were thrown to the curb. Now that life has gotten back into a routine, though, I realized I missed having things to do aside from making dinners and cleaning the house. Not that I feel any of my wifely roles are beneath me or not valuable, but because I feel I need to juggle more responsibilities to be valued in other areas of my community other than just my home.
I want to be relevant to more than just my family and friends. I want to be relevant to the world.
This is not something I believe is uncommon for a newlywed. After the excitement of the wedding, there are the slow times when you are attempting to distinguish your new self. While focusing on being the best spouse possible, you also want to remain an individual. I don’t think that want is a terrible thing, but I do realize it is not always inline with Godly ventures.
Sometimes a person falters as a newlywed by shifting too far to one side or the other. You may focus solely on being a spouse and lose yourself and the plan God has for you. Or you may focus too much on remaining an individual and not put in the effort necessary for a functional and lasting, God-pleasing marriage.
The key is to find a balance.
After Sunday’s sermon I realized that I am not reaching that balance and that I am selling myself short.
Who says I am not a good wife? Who says I am not a good friend? Who says I am not good in any of my roles except for my own sinful mind?
God led me to where I am today. He led me into my role as a wife, and He also led me into the role of being a finance assistant and a lifestyle blogger and a cancer awareness advocate.
In the same way, there were roles He told me to step down from because He knew I was becoming overwhelmed, tired, and distracted. Being the person I am, quitting anything, even for the sake of my health, is giving up. I disappoint myself by backing away. But God told me No for some responsibilities I felt compelled to complete. And it was when I listened to Him that my life was revived.
The roles I have in my life have continuously been rejuvenated. I excel, I receive praise, and I get promoted. Sometimes it is like a light is switched on in those areas, and I could trek full-steam ahead into unknown territories without any fear. And it seemed that even when I was hiking down one path, the others I simultaneously needed to focus on interwove with my current track. As I hiked the “wife path” those of friend, Christian, advocate, and others joined the route of my next big expedition.
So why should I not listen now to all the Yes’s He has before me? Why am I struggling with my current roles and wishing for even more to cascade down onto me? Why should I not strive to find fulfillment where I am so that I am prepared for what He has coming around the bend?
Today I say I will.
I say Yes to what is before me and I say Yes to being content with who I am right here, right now.
I choose to say Yes to God in performing my current duties to impact myself and others in a positive way. I choose to say Yes to God in finding fulfillment with who I am right here, right now. I choose to say Yes to God for the plans he has ahead of me and to lead me to the best outcomes possible in an unknown future.
I choose to say Yes in loving where I am and who I am right now, and trusting in God to mold me into a better version of myself each and every day. His purpose comes first, and everything will fall perfectly into place as I move forward in His peace.
Climb the mountain, not to plant your flag but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air, and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.
For those interested, here is the sermon as a whole for those who would like to witness this powerful message also: