Today’s post is brought to you courtesy of my dear, sweet, online-turned-real-life friend, Krysten. (Some of my best buddies are girls I met on the internet first.) Krysten and I share a heart for justice and mercy and freedom and loving the poor. And she’s darling and beautiful and really, really funny.
I’m going to talk more about her later this week when I share some gorgeous pieces of jewelry she handmade specifically to raise money for our friends in Cambodia.
She’s been wrestling with some stuff lately, and I invited her to work some of it out here on my blog. Because I have a feeling we can all relate in some way. Some of us can probably relate to 97.5% to everything she writes.
It’s Real. Hard. Love. but with a twist, because we’re talking about loving ourselves and all that goes with that.
When I was little, my momma had this shiny, polyester-satin, floor-length, gold (read: canary yellow) nightgown. It had big, flowy, long sleeves, and always gave me a shock from the static that built up in it with just the slightest bit of movement. Looking back on it, the thing was hideous. But to a little girl playing dress-up, it was pure luxury.
I used to put that thing on, wrap one of her belts around my waist three times, then fluff out the nightgown over the belt until the bottom hem just brushed the tops of my toes, and I would walk around like I was a queen.
Once, some distant relatives came over and brought a boy with them who they said was somehow related to me. He was probably about 11 or so, and of course, I was traipsing around the house in that getup when they got there. Even as a little girl I understood that this boy was cute, and I was all of a sudden very aware of what I looked like.
I was nervous. He took one look at me in that Kmart polyester dress-up ensemble and said some words that I am pretty sure changed me forever…
You look like Princess Leia.
Commence with the blushing. WHAT!?
I knew who Princess Leia was. Everyone knew who she was. And for a moment, I was Princess Leia. Beautiful. Elegant. Admired.
Powerful stuff for a little girl’s heart.
Those distant relatives left after visiting for a few hours. But that rush of adrenaline that came over me from someone implying that I looked even a smidge like the most gorgeous lady I knew of? That was burned into my psyche forever.
I grew up, and I stopped wearing my momma’s funky nightgown (thankfully!) but that feeling stayed with me. It grew over the years and became sort of a drug that I needed on a daily basis. I tried to stay high on the attention of others, on their admiration of the way I looked and the way I acted, especially from the opposite sex. I was sort of a late bloomer, but by the time I was a young woman I had the curves and the eyelashes to get just about whatever I wanted from a man, and I had learned how to use those weapons. I was a textbook case of looking for my identity in all the wrong places. On the outside I looked so confident and carefree, but inside I was still that little girl playing dress-up and hoping to be noticed.
In my mid-twenties, I gave my life to Christ, and my eyes were opened to what I’d been doing. I realized that those types of attention-seeking behaviors are way beyond unhealthy, and that what I had been craving all along wasn’t the attention of others, but the love and connection that God made us for in the first place. This realization didn’t happen overnight, but it’s something that God has gently developed in me over the years.
That old feeling of wanting attention and hoping that people will adore me hasn’t gone completely away. Not by a long shot. It’s part of my old self, and it tries to hang on with a death grip. These days it’s not quite as obvious as me dressing up in a fancy nightgown, spinning around in the middle of the room full of people and saying “TAH-DAAAHH!!” It still pops up, just in much more insidious ways.
Since God shined his light on big, gaping hole of a weakness, and I’ve become aware that it is lingering around, I have tried very hard to fight against it. I know that my tendency is to grab the spotlight, so many times I have decided not to pursue something just because I’m afraid that little Princess Leia will rear her nasty little head and come out full-force, seeking all the glory for herself. I purposely avoid things that I feel like I’m supposed to do sometimes just because I want to keep from broadcasting what I un-affectionately call “The Me Show.”
But here’s the problem with that plan: I’ve been throwing out the baby with the bath water.
We’ve been focused on learning about Kingdom Authority at our church lately. Studying the definition of God’s authority in us as his ambassadors has really opened my eyes to something new. For many years as a follower of Christ, I have been trying to downplay things about myself that, although they once were used for evil, God has most certainly placed inside me for his good. In an effort to fight the monster of pride, I had been caught up in a different kind of pride…One that kind of looks like humility, but smells more like fear.
I saw that my confidence in Christ had been swept away right along with the old arrogance and longing for attention that needed to go. In trying not to grab the spotlight, in a way I had renounced my birthright. I was denying the gifts and talents that God meant to be used for his work, for fear that I might get addicted to the rush of approval once again.
Beginning to understand God’s Kingdom Authority has made me so aware of this big, fat, error in my thinking. God warns us against not thinking too highly of ourselves, that is for sure (Romans 12:3). Everything we do and have is because of God himself, no doubt about it. But right on the heels of that verse, scripture tells us to “think of ourselves with sober judgment” with the faith he has given to us. Just after this, several potential spiritual gifts are mentioned, and we are told to exercise those gifts that we’ve been given, not to shy away from using them because of what anyone else might think.
I have been pressing into this thought for several weeks, and asking God to take that fear away from me. As I have been doing so, I am seeing his power and authority showing up in my life as I’m stepping back into these roles that God has created for me. He is teaching me that my role as part of the body is no more and no less important than any other. I am seeing him move in ways I never have before. It’s growing my trust toward him and growing my love and appreciation toward myself as his creation.
My days aren’t perfect. I’m still a mess and trying to figure this all out. I still have to check my motives on a regular basis to make sure it’s not all about me. That little diva in me still shows up sometimes, hoping to prance onto center stage. But with some focus and a lot of prayer, I am learning to speak with the authority I have as the King’s daughter without having to become Princess Leia all over again.
What do you think? Can you relate? Any part of Krysten’s story resonate with you? We’d love to hear your thoughts.