I’m currently reading this book, and as expected, it is wrecking me.
I’ve long struggled with adulthood—no surprises there—but for all the wrong reasons, I think. I struggle because I’ve somehow believed that being adult means shoving down every part of you that came out when you were a child. Essentially, I labeled every part of “kid-me” a mistake, something to be overcome, and believed that I needed to be ultra-capable, ultra-responsible, ultra-organized, and ultra-productive. That’s a lot of ultras. I’m tired just reading those. And perhaps that’s why I’m really tired in my real ultra-adult life.
“Some of being an adult, though, is about protecting and preserving what we discover to be the best parts of ourselves, and here’s a hint: they’re almost always the parts we’ve struggled against for years.”
–Shauna Niequist, Present Over Perfect
When I read that sentence, tears welled up in my eyes. I was struck by the revelation that I had battered my self for years, trying to rid myself of all those parts that make me, me. I have spent a good (well, decidedly BAD, but BIG) amount of time being unkind to me, trying to change who I was, thinking that it was necessary. That somehow to be loved, to be a functioning adult, and to be a valued person, I had to fit a mold. And that mold was nowhere close to who I actually was on the inside. As I sat with the sadness of this realization for a moment, I was struck by a second realization:
I can change.
I can be who I want to be. Who I was created to be. Who I AM.
I saw myself as this fragmented being, at war with oneself, and I decided I was tired of that. It’s exhausting, hurtful, and leads to a defeated, depleted life. And just like my salvation story, I have to start with forgiveness. Immediately I penned these words in my journal:
I’m so sorry that I have struggled against you all these years. Please forgive me. I have pushed you, prodded you, and punished you when you haven’t performed exactly as I thought you should. I have given you strict, unfair, and unattainable rules that have boxed you in and trapped you to the point of soul-suffocation. I have scolded and scathed you, willing you to become someone you are not, and should never be.
I have set impossible standards, hypocritical and contradictory standards, and penalized you for not meeting them. I have been cruel, unfair, and unforgiving. I would never in my most horrible dreams treat anyone—friend or foe—the way I have treated you. I’ve given you no space to breathe, no nourishment for your thirsty soul, and no mercy for the mistakes I’ve forced you to make. You are not those mistakes, anymore than you are the attempts at not making them in the first place.
You are you. God created in you a free spirit, and I have tried to tame and enslave it. God created in you a creative passion, and I have tried to tone it down, for goodness sake—what will people think?! God has created in you depth and layers of richness, and I have told you to hide it, because it is just too much for people. God created in you a hunger for solitude and for time in his presence, and I have told you that it’s not enough. There is so much more to you that I have barred you from discovering, because I’ve taught you to fear what’s inside you. You have not been able to follow a clear path because I’ve bred in you a deep mistrust of your own heart’s desires.
Even now, you’re thinking “what will so-and-so think if I share this with them? I can’t feel this way—I’m not allowed. It’s self-indulgent.” And that’s because I’ve taught you to think people won’t love you if you show your true self. I’ve taught you that being yourself is selfish.
The truth is, you are loved. You are held. You are enjoyed. You are you, and you don’t need to be anyone else. People who love you have told you this for years, and I’ve told you not to trust them. But, God help me, I will change. I will be kind to you. I will be gentle. I will treat you as I would a dear friend. We can be at peace now. Truce. We can discover who we are and what we’re made for together. It will be ok.
I finally feel my disjointed self coming together. I finally see a way forward for me—all of me. I don’t need to be an adult. I can just be me. Maybe I need to examine what “kid-me” used to be like. Maybe I would like her. Maybe we could be friends.
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
If Jesus is truly the center of my life, and he informs and shapes the way I live, it’s time I treated not just my neighbors this way, not just my enemies, but myself also.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me. And help me to do the same.
If you feel at war with yourself today, if you’ve treated yourself badly, it’s time to fess up. It’s ok to be kind to yourself. More than ok–it is necessary. Write yourself a letter, bold and ridiculous as it may seem, and ask forgiveness. The world needs you, not some twisted, contorted version of yourself that you’ve tried hard to curate. (<–That idea came straight from my wise and loving spouse. But I thought it was worth sharing. Someone besides me probably needs to hear that today.)