Monday, November 5, 2018

Pursuer of Purpose

I took scissors to my hair in 9th grade. It wasn’t a good decision, but something needed to change. The blonde locks of my youth had turned into a mousy brown that no amount of Sun-In could remedy. I was officially a brunette—an acne-faced, frizzy-haired, and (now) unevenly ear-length bobbed adolescent brunette. I had been denying the effects of puberty for a few years, but I couldn’t live in the ignorance any longer. The self-cut was a bold move, a regrettable move. It was a move that spoke to that stage in my life. Independent. Able. Willing. Strong. And probably, in reality, it was an attempt to hide a whole lot of insecurity.

You matter. 
It's a statement I struggled to believe for much of my life. I constantly wanted affirmation that these words were, in fact, true.

Prove it. I would typically spit back. Because (I was sure) if I really mattered, then my life would be different. People would treat me different. God would have pulled through on the array of different requests I had thrown up to Him.

So, naturally, it's easy to go through life believing the opposite is true: you don't matter.

I'm finding more and more that I'm not the only one who has walked in the wake of this lie. I'm not the only one who has suffered through it, who has agonized over the rejection, who has desperately attempted to prove to herself that maybe it's not true. Because, when you believe the lie--it's not really a lie. It's your reality, it's the voice you hear on repeat in your head: You don't matter.

When you live your life believing somewhere at the core of who you are that you don't actually matter, it seems to play out in a variety of different ways. Some people self-harm. Some people try to fight the lie, trying to prove that they do matter to someone or to something. Some people try to pretend it's not really there.

I think I did a lot of fighting and a lot of pretending. I tried to find validation in boys. Or sports. Or grades. Or being a "good Christian". Or having a sweet haircut. Because, if I was loved by someone, or if I was MVP, or if I was an A-student, or a really great Christian who read my Bible and prayed, or if I was hot... wouldn't I matter? Wouldn't that amount to something? Wouldn't that mean that I had done something right?

For one of my classes this past year, we had to detail out our entire life story in such a way that caused us to examine our strengths, our passions, our purpose. At the same time, we were asked to walk through the events where we had face opposition and look for the commonalities in them. As I made my list, I began to see a core lie emerge: You don't matter.

In so many instances throughout my life, I could see the devil at work in his attempt to persuade me with this blatant attack. You don't matter. For so long, I believed it. For so long, I pretended to be an upbeat, happy-go-lucky girl that was winning at life. In fact, I think I was so good at pretending that I actually started to believe that the facade was true. I started to believe that the success mattered significantly more than whatever was going on inside. Avoidance and pretending seemed to be working. 

But, on one harrowing Thanksgiving break in college--all my walls collapsed. I remember sitting at the table and after an awful statement (made by yours truly) caused quite the commotion among the family... being broken. Like, fall on your face, weeping type of broken. Broken because there was this flood of all the things I had pushed back for years suddenly surfacing in the mind of my 20-year-old self. Words that had been said. Things that had been done. Every single one of them communicated the same thing: You don't matterYou never have

I ran that night. Out of my parent's house and into the arms of my oldest brother who had chased me out the door. He held me tight and wouldn't let me go, despite my every attempt to escape his grip. You matter. You are loved. He proclaimed truth. His direct opposition to the words I had unknowingly believed for so long felt like a bright light suddenly shining in my dark world. It hurt. It made me mad. I wanted to fight it. But it was exactly what I needed to hear in that moment. 

I wish I could say that from that moment on, I've never believed the lie. But, I think that moment was only a step toward a necessary healing that would take years and years to be complete. In fact, I would have to admit that at any moment of opposition I encounter, it's hard for me to not immediately jump to a place of thinking I don't matter. 

This same class assignment required a re-naming of ourselves as we begin to embrace more of our giftings and strengths. As I processed through all the life events, both the good and the bad, I ended up with this "new name": Pursuer of Purpose.  It speaks to the way I interact with people and the way I long for things to be in my relationship with the Lord: purposeful. I want Scripture to have purpose, to move me toward action. I want my actions and life to reflect the purpose that I believe Scripture calls me to. I want to overcome the challenges, but allow them to have a deeper significance, for there to be purpose to them. I want to learn from the past and to know how I can use the elements of my story for the Lord’s glory.

This lie that I keep coming back to seems to counter this passion and desire of mine in a way that attempts to strip me of purpose. You don’t matter. And if I don’t matter, how can I do anything good? How can there be purpose in anything that I do?  It seems that if the enemy can convince me to believe the lies, it can easily veer me off on a course to be self-absorbed, especially in a way that doesn’t reflect forward-propelling purpose. Instead, I’m debilitated, feeling sorry for myself and wrapped up in my own sob stories and heartaches. Instead of asking how the Lord can use what I’m going through to impact the Kingdom, I’m caught up solely in what I’m going through and how it makes me feel about myself and the Lord. I’m void of purpose. 

When I believe the lie that I don't matter, it becomes more about what the Lord can do for me, instead of what He is doing in me and how I can live more intentionally with those around me.

Now that I am more aware of the connections, I am able to see how I might be better able to recognize the lies and be more equipped to resist and act in such a manner that is true to my design. This involves stepping back, being aware of what is really going on and how it may be an attack and a deterrent from my calling. 

In fact, awareness of this allows me to react to the lies differently, in a way that can bring me back into a place of better understanding that sometimes the opposition is there to distract me from what I am meant to do. I love what Charles Spurgeon wrote in his sermon, Satanic Hindrances:

If Satan hinders you, I have already said that this opposition should cheer you. If you can trace the opposition distinctly to Satan, do not sit down and fret. It is a great thing that you can actually trouble the great prince of darkness and win his hate. …Stand out against him because you have an opportunity of making a greater gain than you could have had had he been quiet. You could never have had victory over him had you not engaged in conflict with him. …Press on then; the more opposition, the more honor.[1]

If I can approach the hardships and challenges in a way that still enables to me to live out my name, my design—to pursue purpose—I think there is greater victory to be found in this story that I am living as I quest after the things the Lord would have for me.

I matter
Not because of anything I have done or haven't done. Not because of how I look or because of what I have to offer. Simply because the Creator of the universe calls me daughter.

There’s a consistency of the Lord reminding me of who He is and of His love for me. He is constantly addressing the core lies, the doubts, the hurts, the worries—and reminding me that He is God and He is good.  It isn’t always the speediest process or when I think I need it to happen, but it happens exactly when I actually need it to happen. God remains faithful, unchanging, and steadfast and the patterns of His appearance in each of these scenarios in my life prove that. Not only is He communicating that I am His, but He is communicating that He wants good for me. The process isn’t just about salvation, but it’s also about being His daughter and a co-heir with Christ. 

It is always humbling, always beautiful, and always Him coming to me, exactly where I am, and being exactly what I need Him to be. 

He's coming to you, too. 

[1] Charles Spurgeon, Spiritual Warfare in a Believer's Life, ed. Robert Hall (Lynnwood, WA: Emerald Books, 1993), 123.