Twelve years ago I went on a trip to Washington DC with a group of students from Mercer. We were taking a class on the Holocaust and Genocide, and a visit to the Holocaust Museum in DC was an optional learning excursion. I ran across photos from the trip recently and, no lie, excluding my roommate who was in the class with me, I didn't recognize one. single. face... much less names or experiences from the trip. When I really sit and think about it, I can vaguely remember bits and pieces from the museum... but that's all.
These are the things I don't remember... details, people and experiences that I know I enjoyed.
And these are the things I remember:
Being the "shy girl" and being asked throughout my childhood and into adulthood why I was so quiet... and shrugging my shoulders instead of answering. I could feel the looks I knew my various answers would receive.
Because one time I did answer... I told my new friends at my new big school that I was quiet because the boys in the small school I grew up in were brutal... and the looks I got the moment I answered their question were brutal... even worse were the looks I got when those girls returned to tell me that one of those boys laughed at me in response to their gossip... that's why I was so quiet.
Or maybe because of the looks I got in a high school class when I called a group of boys I lived with "guys," and one single stupid boy in the class mocked the way I said that word. I swore I would never say another word in that class... that's why I was so quiet.
Or the look I felt from the other side of the city and through AOL Instant Messenger the time I asked my high school crush if he had "seen any good movies lately?" Could I have asked a more pathetic question??? I immediately wanted to crawl under a rock and never again see his face to confirm the look I knew he was giving me from miles away... that's why I was so quiet.
Or when I started calling myself introverted instead of shy, and hoped this new label would magically make me comfortable in my own skin, but instead I continued to feel small and uninteresting when attempting to hold even brief and simple conversations with peers who claim this same label. The way they responded, they way they looked at me... that's why I was so quiet.
Or the time I mistook one sister for another, and watched an acquaintance nearby roll her eyes and walk away, and I swore I would never speak to this family again... that is why I was so quiet.
Or how I blamed private school for not socializing me well enough and for making me shy and socially awkward, but continually saw my sister and friends who grew up in the same school easily make new friends and hold conversations like it was second nature... and realizing it wasn't private school. It wasn't the fabricated looks and words that I had been convincing myself were real for years, and it wasn't even the looks and words that were real. It was me... it was me.
That's why I was so quiet.
That's why I ate dinner on the staircase at my best friend's house when I was ten years old instead of at the table with her family and the boys who lived with them.
That's why I ate lunch in my mom's office at my new big high school instead of the lunchroom, fearing I would be lost in a group of acquaintances who I knew would be judging my silent awkwardness the moment I showed my face.
That's why I refused to go to Sunday school with my peers well into adulthood, avoiding any chance of being called on and having to say any words whatsoever.
That's why I have one single memory of attending my church's youth group growing up. I felt out of place, uncomfortable, uninteresting, not spoken to, unwanted, judged and looked at. I grew up at this church, I grew up with these people, the youth pastor was great, but I never went back.
That's why I struggle to build genuine friendships and have a very small circle of relationships that are real and comfortable to me.
And that's why I hated every. single. person. who ever asked me why I was so quiet.
"IT'S ME!" I wanted to scream.
"It's because I know you won't care about me once you get to know me!"
"It's because I know I have nothing interesting to say, and even if I did I wouldn't know how to say it in an interesting way!"
"It's because I don't have the right hair or the right clothes or enough money and even if I did I still wouldn't be enough!"
"IT'S. ME. And I know you won't like me. Please don't try to like me, you'll only get my hopes up."
This is painful, friends. Kinda baring my soul here, and I would be lying if I said my keyboard isn't wet with tears as I type this.
Reliving hard memories and raw, extremely personal emotions is just very painful.
And to be completely honest, I still experience many of these same emotions and fabrications often. This probably has a lot to do with why we don't venture out too often. It's tough to get out there with all this luggage. It's heavy, I don't like carrying it around, but when I walk out of my front door it seems to just jump right on my back for the ride... and it's easier to just stay home... maybe we'll stay home this time, maybe it won't be so hard, so painful tomorrow.
What's even more painful than carrying my own luggage is seeing my girl, my four year old, precious, wonderful, sweet, silly, extroverted, never-met-a-stranger daughter showing herself to be exactly who she is: my daughter.
"How can I preserve her spirit? How can I protect her from losing who she is the same way that I did?" I asked Chris recently, after having seen her succumb to a friend's stronger personality and sit in gloominess for quite a while, the whole time promising me nothing was wrong.
This made me wonder... why was I so insecure in who I was? Why hadn't I bought into the truth? All those years I fabricated every look and reactions I truly believed were happening or would happen if I let a word slip out of my mouth, and I never searched for and embraced the one and only opinion that mattered and who He says that I am: Redeemed from the person I believed I was, claimed as an image bearer of the King. Never laughed at, never mocked from the Heavenly places. Known as beautiful, known just as He created me... known as HIS.
Very early in my life, somewhere along the line the truth got lost in all of the fear, worry and tears. Maybe it's chemical, maybe it's genetic, I don't know... I do know that it's lies. Every bit of it. And in every way possible, with Christ in front of me, I am intent on fighting these lies in my children's lives and minds and hearts.
She was barely three years old when she came home from school and asked her daddy why she wasn't pretty, and just four years old when she solemnly shared that her best friend was "replacing" her...
Believers, these are lies the enemy is constantly throwing at us, pelting us with discouragement, ugliness, looks, judgement, anxiety, fabrications... lies that tell us we are less than who we are.
Can we hand our luggage over to Christ and walk in the truth of His grace for ourselves and our families? Can we remind our children who they are through reading the words of God their Father to them? Can we pray His Scriptures for them daily? Can we even embrace the very parts of our own personalities that we have believed to be faults for our entire lives? Can we embrace them as gifts and teach our kids to do the same?
So... how did Chris respond when I cried to him over protecting sweet Mercy's spirit?
He brought Jesus.
Of course he did. Who else could teach me how to preserve her spirit and protect her from the enemy's lies?
Only Jesus can... only her Creator, who so fearfully and wonderfully knit her together. (Psalm 139) Only Jesus.
One of our favorite books is Praying the Scriptures For Your Children*. Jodie Berndt has compiled scriptures to pray over our children as they grow and go through different seasons of their lives. These days, I'm praying these specific words over my little ones, and as I pray these scriptures for them, I know these words are piercing my own heart as well:
When I was sixteen years old, my best friend and I decided to start running together. Two steps into our first run, she just about fell over laughing. "Why are you running like that??" It was about sixteen more years before I could convince myself to run again, and it required a lot of emotional work to get myself outside to do it... When I watch my girl running crazy in the backyard, complete freedom in each step, not for a second concerned about what looks someone might give her or what anyone might be saying, I find myself feeling a little envious. She has no idea that she runs like Phoebe, she's just being Mercy...
...and I hope she never stops running like Phoebe, reminding me what it looks like to live this life the way it was intended to be lived: abundantly.
In John 10:10, Jesus tell us, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."
Let's memorize that, friends, and recite it every time we want to hide and go silent, when the enemy attempts to steal our spirit, kill and destroy our joy and abundance in Christ. "Come on! That's not living! Let's go!" ...if we don't practice living abundantly in the skin God gave us, how will our kids learn to? So today let's commit to running forward, praying His scriptures, memorizing His promises and speaking them over our kids, remaining confident that He is working in this magnificent life He's given us!
*the link in this post to Praying the Scriptures For Your Children is an Amazon affiliate link