I've been doing a lot of processing lately. Both inwardly and outwardly. (Thank you friends who received the outward ramblings of the processing. Thankful for your listening ears and for joyfully processing the good and bad alongside me! Big hugs to you.) I think a lot of driving from place to place has been the birthplace of all this inward processing. Traffic used to make me so anxious, but I've realized I do my best thinking, praying, and listening when I move slowly. I've learned to be thankful for long(ish) commutes to and from work each day.
This week's commute has had me thinking about all kinds of things, but especially about some weaknesses that I once thought were strong points.
Like the fact that I used to be so stinking driven.
So driven about anything and everything.
I couldn't sleep most nights growing up because I had so many ideas and thoughts and fixes and projects. I've always been a big-time dreamer. And I used to be really great at putting action to those dreams too. In elementary school, I used to brainstorm business plans for hours. I constantly had a lemonade stand outside in the driveway, greeting cards I was creating to sell, a wedding I was planning for a make-believe friend through magazines and advertisements I found (pre-pinterest days), a club/organization I was designing to save the world- all before I could even drive.
Any challenge or goal inspired me.
I remember one year, I had a teacher who challenged us to learn all of our multiplication tables and for each set we memorized, we'd earn a topping to add to our plain vanilla ice-cream sundaes. We could come in before class to take our timed multiplication tests over a period of two months to earn each of our toppings for the grand celebration party at the end. I went home that night and memorized them all. Over and over I practiced. I earned all the stickers on my sundae chart in less than a week. My ice-cream had oreos, chocolate syrup, m&ms, caramel, hot fudge, rainbow sprinkles, and whipped cream. Achieving this challenge fueled me. Doing it in record time was the cherry on top.
One year, I went to Best Buy and purchased Dance Dance Revolution. One of my cousins had purchased it over the summer and had mastered all the advanced levels. I danced-danced for fifteen hours the next day. Non-stop. Straight driven. Until I had mastered and memorized all the levels.
Tryouts for a sports team? SATs and ACTs? Applications for the college I had challenged myself to get into? Each mini challenges and to-do's I could check off my "I achieved that" list. Bring. it. on.
But just this past week, I was in my car. In traffic. I didn't feel rushed. I didn't feel like I had to do something or be somewhere or be something. I didn't feel like I had to achieve. The restful feeling was unusual....and I started beating myself up about it. WHY DO I NO LONGER FEEL DRIVEN? Shouldn't I feel driven? My first thought was- something is wrong with me. Why am I feeling this way? and I began questioning Jesus- What the heck is going on here? WHY AM I NOT FEELING DRIVEN?!
A few days later, I received a hurtful text message. And I felt a familiar fire return in me to just perform. and do. and to achieve. and to perfect. And my first quick impulse inclination was to go to the gym and just run and run. It wasn't a thought of "oh I have to do this to channel my energy healthily and to feel the goodness of exercising" but of "OH I have to do this to prove to myself that I am capable of doing something that makes me feel like I have worth."
I felt like that text attacked my worth.
and brought my "drive" back.
And then BOOM. It hit me.
Home was not a safe place growing up, but an unhealthy environment. Hurtful words and actions fueled my feelings of worthlessness and I felt unwanted and abandoned. I now have come to realize that my drive for perfectionism during this time (& growing up) had come from an unhealthy place of proving that I was worth something to my own self because I was not receiving or accepting truth from anywhere or anyone else.
It wasn't about all the toppings on my achievement sundae. When it came to Dance Dance Revolution, it wasn't about the competition. I didn't even tell my cousin or others that I had too mastered all the levels. It wasn't about being skinny in high school when I cut calories and lost a lot of weight when I definitely didn't need to. Or when someone told me I couldn't run a 5K, and I went home that night and ran 6.2 miles for the first time to prove it to myself I could. It wasn't about perfect 100s on papers. I didn't even tell anyone about this stuff.
I just had to prove to my own self that I was capable. I had to prove to myself that I had worth. When I thought I was mastering my to-do lists and challenges, I was really mastering my own self-worth through control and perfectionism. This was my drive. My freshman year of college, before I came to know Jesus, I would make to-do lists each day and each week. If I didn't complete the lists, I hated who I was that day. I wasn't enough. I was not successful. And I bet the enemy really enjoyed that too, because when all this was going on, I looked like I had myself pretty put together. Making good grades and exercising and eating "healthy" and working and checking things off and covering up that everything at home was not all cupcakes and sunshine.
This past week commuting, I've realized that I have been at rest in knowing my identity is in Jesus Christ. Not in achieving my to-do list. Not my gym goals. Not in affirmation in knowing I belong. I have nothing to prove. To myself nor others. Because I'm not driven to seek that affirmation from anyone or anything else. And it has felt like freedom. Jesus died on the cross for me- and my freedom is in knowing Him!
My relationship with Jesus began in college after I was invited to a retreat and truth was spoken to me for the first time. A few months later, I was invited to live with a group of girls who continuously poured truth into me. I'll never forget leaving that house each day and someone would yell out, "Hey! DON'T FORGET YOU ARE WORTH MORE THAN RUBIES!!" (Proverbs 3:15) or "You are fearfully and wonderfully made!!!"
(^^also, knowing y'all has changed me. Thanks for loving me like Jesus loves others)
A friend yesterday told me that my life looks like complete sunshine. (social media can be deceiving) And in many ways it is!! God is so good and his blessings are abundant! But life is also messy. And I am a hot mess a lot of the time. And as I dig deeper and deeper into the Word and knowing who God is, I've realized the more and more I am broken and need a Savior. I am nothing without Him.
Goals and checklists were my personal measuring sticks. I sought affirmation from these gold stars most of my life because I wasn't receiving affirmation from a healthy place and I was not following Jesus. I now know because of who I am in HIM, I have nothing to prove. I am enough because of my identity in HIM.
Control: Jesus is in control. I do not have to worry about having my needs being covered, the past, the present, or the future. Jesus has got it all covered!
Worth: Last year, I was sitting with a group of tenth grade girls on a weekend retreat and asked them to each go around the circle and say one thing they like about themselves. After a long pause and lots of awkward "I don't know's," not one single girl could do it. They could easily do it for each other. But for themselves? They couldn't see their own worth. And my heart was broken for them! Hey girlies, YOU ARE WORTH MORE THAN RUBIES and are Daughters of the King. You are fearfully and wonderfully made!! In His image!
Jesus died on the cross for me (& you). God not only knows where I am, He knows who I am. He knows what I'm going through, why I'm going through it and how I feel about it. He knows me better than I know myself. He cares about me personally. My worth is not controlled by me and my drive. or me and my achievements. or others. My worth is not dependent on others' views of me! My life is in the hands of the maker of heaven.
Driven: My drive wasn't being fueled by the Word, but by the world. I had my definition of "driven" all mixed up. I want to direct my drive to those who are hurting and don't know Jesus. Or who need me to be the hands and feet of Jesus. With all the political changes these past few weeks, my heart hurts for my refugee friends I have been able to meet and know each day at work. These are people. People matter. God sent His son to die for people who matter. No matter where they are from or what country they are in. Lord, direct my thoughts, passions, and interests. Make me more like you each and every day!