I was just listening to a podcast with two professional speakers talking about the ongoing struggle of being your own voice and not imitating others. Not settling into a routine that works for someone else but isn’t you.
Hearing that two professionals really struggle with this still helped me offer myself a bit more compassion in this area, but I have to say I’m pretty annoyed with the journey of finding who I am and what God is asking me to do.
As an Enneagram 9 - a super 9 at that I’m pretty sure - I have that awesome vice of sloth which mostly manifests for 9s by self-forgetting. It’s a crazy defense mechanism that we’ve developed over years that basically works to bury ourselves for the sake of peace and others. We remove our own desires, opinions, and comfort from the equation in order to keep our external environments calm and collected. It feels like an easy sacrifice to make because the last thing I want to do most of the time is rock the boat, and the thing I have most control over sacrificing is myself. And so I have for a lot of years. I think more than I know.
Yesterday I actually tried to think back to a point when I was unapologetically myself for myself. Not to impress or achieve, or ensure an easy path. Just me. And I can’t really remember I don’t think. When I press really hard and try to think back over my motivations over the years I can get as far back as 6 years old. Then I have big chunks of time missing from 6-9 or 10. Then I have a horrible taste in my mouth about who I was when I was a middle schooler.
I was 6 when I understood salvation. And when I think back now, I see that my 6 year old grasp of salvation was far more theologically solid than my understanding of salvation when I was 22. I remember when I got it. When I understood. And it was all centered on the love God had for me. He loved me enough to send His Son to face potential death, just to be my friend. Just to be in relationship with me. I can even remember the Holy Spirit whispering His love over me quietly, but confidently. My 6 year old brain went, “Well why wouldn’t I want to be in a relationship with someone who loves me so much?!” and that was it. My life changed forever at a young age. I remember that it was so dang simple. I wanted that love so I let it in. And then I ran out of my room after I was supposed to be in bed to tell my mom. I also remember not feeling a lot of pressure at that moment to convince people that they needed this love too. I knew that other people would just get it one day.
I think being 6 years old was the last time I truly understood who I am - a really loved daughter of God - that’s perfectly it.
There are a lot of years of religion with good intentions that have muddied those waters for me over lots of years now. And there are weird experiences that have made me forget who I am, or told me that who I am shouldn’t take up space. And now at 30 I’m trying to get back to the motivations of 6 year old me in this 30 year old self.
Here’s one thing that I have been told to forget about myself and have tried for a long time, but I think I might start leaning back into it… I really dislike traditional evangelism. The idea of it has never sat right in my soul. And I have TRIED over the years to embrace it. I had the colored bead bracelets that walked you through the Gospel story. I picked up colorful tracts and put them in my backpack (even though I was at a Christian school, but whatever). I mean really I would stare and read through my church’s tract wall almost weekly ensuring there wasn’t anything new that finally felt right. I’ve done door-to-door stuff. I’ve done VBS plans of salvation. I was in the play Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames a couple of times. I have done missions trips where we did a little of all of these things. I lived in New Orleans and I learned how to make beignets on a mission trip in Colorado… I have done traditional evangelism. The only thing they wouldn’t let me try was preach…cuz you know. 💁🏼
I’ve never related with the fear-mongering that traditional evangelism uses. Fire insurance. Whatever you want to call it. We tell people salvation isn’t fire insurance, but we use the idea of your house going up in flames to sell it. It’s always felt empty.
And when I reach back into my experience, back when Jesus showed up to me all the way at the tiny age of 6 what I remember is love not fear. I remember understanding the Gospel as something that built me up, not showed me how terrible I was. I remember the acceptance of that love was peaceful and joyful. Not difficult, not painful. I have a really terrible memory, so remembering these emotions and motivations is significant for me, and I think that’s what God wants.
I’m currently on a journey of figuring out who it was that I’ve buried over the years. Who I am that’s still down there trying to exist. And I keep circling around to that night as a 6 year old. It was November and it was a Wednesday. It was the night that God showed me who I am. The only bummer is that at 6 years old He wasn’t quite showing me how who I was would show up in the world for His glory. And that’s when I think Satan came in quick to muddy the waters and confuse the message.
I frequently admit that I get most frustrated over God’s timing. It’s so annoying. It never works out the way I would plan it. And I have to say, 20 something years of burying myself feels like really poor time management on God’s part. I know I’m not totally innocent in all of that, but there is also just some stuff I didn’t know until recently.
So here I am at 30 trying to figure out what God is calling me to do with who He made me. I sometimes feel like I get closer, but I think it’s like an archeologist digging up ruins. I get a small piece of something that doesn’t quite fit into the other stuff I found yet. So I have to study it and interpret what I think it could mean. I know the work of unburying is slow. I am pretty sure God’s timing in it is good. But the waiting and confusion in the meantime is annoying. I think to myself a lot “Can’t I just arrive already?!”
30 is still really young. I’m not dumb about this. Most humans hit their strides post-30. So while I’m still poking around in the dirt digging myself up, I’m trying to learn the lessons along the way. I’m hoping I don’t miss the significance of anything. I’m hoping I don’t give significance to a piece of trash that someone threw into the pile of my dusty life.
But you know what? There’s something very satisfied about being covered in dirt unburying and resurrecting something that’s been lost. The way it layers up on your skin makes you feel alive. The salty taste of the dirt you catch on your lips from time-to-time reminds you that you’re doing something significant, even though other people don’t see it. They just see you all covered in dirt looking like a crazy person in a hole. But you know, you’re up to something meaningful. You don’t know exactly what it is, or when it will surface, but you know it’s coming.
This is probably my most disjointed piece of public writing to date. It’s a stream of consciousness piece, and I’m not 100% sure why I opened up my blog instead of my journal to write it, but I did. Maybe it’s just to say, keep finding yourself. Keep looking. I bet, like me, your real identity is probably rooted in some identity of love as well. Happy searching, yall.