What makes a person who they are? Do you find yourself acting certain ways around different people?
I thought I knew who I was. However, whenever someone would ask me a question about myself I struggled to come up with an answer. I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I didn’t really have any hobbies. Was I quiet or loud? Introvert or extrovert? The truth is that I stayed pretty quiet and usually answered questions with a mediocre response.
Not until recently did I discover that a lot of my identity was dictated by my parents-mostly my dad. Now, my parents were great and I had a wonderful childhood and feel very privileged to have grown up how I did. But-image was very important.
Growing up as a pastors kid I felt like I lived in a glass house. I had to act a certain way, dress a certain way, talk a certain way. I couldn’t discuss anything that went on at home. Ever. Nothing terrible ever happened. As a teenager I did get yelled at quite a bit but who doesn’t? I still couldn’t tell anyone or vent my frustrations. This caused me to put up walls.
My dad told me that I should become a teacher. He listed off reasons like…you get holidays off and don’t have to work in the summer. I told him that I didn’t like kids so I would make a terrible teacher-he said it doesn’t matter if I like kids or not. Umm okay. The time came to start applying for colleges and I wanted to go somewhere far away from home. California specifically. My dad has it in at Olivet Nazarene University so guess where I ended up going? Yep. ONU. With no major in mind and none that interested me at that school I went. For two years I went to classes and tried to find my passion. The whole process was so stressful that I developed chronic migraines my freshman year and a stomach ulcer my sophomore year. At the end of my sophomore year I told my parents that I didn’t care to return to ONU.
The summer after that second college year my dad told me that I needed to do something other than just work. I had to have some sort of education. I found myself being enrolled in cosmetology school. I didn’t hate it. In fact I loved cosmetology school but my love for the profession ended there. Once I got into the actual business of it I hated it. Salon people can be mean and I was constantly bullied. My dad told me that it didn’t matter and that “sometimes you have to endure things like that to make money”. Umm okay.
Three months after Luke and I got married my mom suddenly passed away. My life spiraled upside down. I didn’t know how to act. I started building walls all around me. I cut off every single person who was close to me. My personality changed. Sarcasm became my defense mechanism. I used humor and sarcasm to hide the pain that I was truly experiencing. I never sought help for what I was going through. I was terrified that something awful would happen at any minute and so I pushed people away. I truly lived in a sarcasm filled haze topped off with non stop cynicism. Satan was feeding off of that and I let him.
After bouncing around different jobs and deciding that nothing fit me I landed at a local news station as the “front desk associate”. This required basically no skill and I honestly loved it and still miss it. It was there that my identity began to change. I went from being a wife and daughter who placated everything her father said to new mom.
My world was turned upside down again. This time for the better. I never dreamed that I would love being a mom. But I do. It’s the hardest job in the world and I’m constantly exhausted but it’s so great. However, my true identity was still hiding. My whole world revolved around this new human being. I was super sensitive. I couldn’t take the tiniest bit of advice or even a compliment without flipping out. I was building more walls.
Ephesians 4:24 – And to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
One day things changed. My dad moved in with us, his health declining rapidly. I developed a voice. I was able to stand up for myself and fight for what I believed in. For the first time in my life I didn’t ask my dad for permission to do something and I made decisions based on my heart and mind. I fought for what was best for my family and though it was hard-it was the right decision. We were drowning in a sea of unknown hell. When I finally confronted my dad and he decided to move to Florida for good there was a peace between us that there never was before. There was no longer this tugging in two different directions. I was finally developing my own identity and it felt so good. My dad apologized as he got in the car to leave. That was the first time he had ever done that.
As I stated in previous posts, I was able to go to Florida and see my dad one last time. I was able to get closure and tell him I love him. It was so good. After he passed it was as though a burden lifted. Not to say that my dad was horrible but he just liked things a certain way and I was raised to do life the way that he wanted me to. I wanted very much to make my dad proud. I think I finally succeeded when I told him we would be okay. He looked at me with a trust in his eye that I had never seen before.
2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
It’s been several months since I’ve started uncovering my true self. Walls are starting to come down. I’m honest about what I am thinking and the sarcasm haze is drifting away. I’m cultivating new relationships. I’m depending more on God than on pleasing other people. I don’t have a lot of expectations. I’m living each day as it comes and enjoying the little things instead of living in constant worry. I’ve been asking for help. That is something that I never did before because “we don’t ask for help” was something my dad had told me. How silly is that? How can you survive without asking for help when you are struggling?
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 26:36
Who are you living for? Are you living to please other people? Are there walls built that should be torn down? Maybe some walls should be built between you and some bad decisions. Whatever it is take your mask off and be true to who you are. The only thing that matters to me now is that I live my life according to what God has planned.