transformed

She was radiant. I always thought my friend was beautiful, not just on the inside but on the outside, too. But she didn’t think so. Today, you could tell she felt pretty. She felt good. At church she was the center of attention and everyone was lavishing genuine compliments on her. Although she’s never cared much about clothes, she tried something new. A friend helped her select several new outfits, and you could see a world of difference in the way she carried herself. She was transformed. It was all about feeling good in what she had on.

As Christians, we are robed in salvation. When we were baptized, we were dressed in heavenly robes. If we truly understood this, we wouldn’t mope around. We wouldn’t feel unattractive, uninteresting, or all alone. We would carry ourselves completely differently, heads held high, knowing that the robes we wear allow our inner beauty to shine forth. We may have been fairly pretty – or above-average handsome – before, but it’s not until we realize how much those garments do for us that we really shine.

When the natural isn't working

I haven’t written much lately. I just haven’t felt like it. I’ve been grumpy and impatient and tired. I don’t want to be around myself. Nobody else wants to, either. I’m finding myself closing in, not wanting to do things with friends. I’m worried about the economy, about making ends meet, about what’s going on in the world. (And since I typically live on Planet Kelly, a secluded alternative world unaffected by international news or current events, that’s saying something.) People tell me it’s understandable; I’m under a lot of stress. My mom has cancer; my old house has been on the market for 18 month with no offers; my workload is heavy and I have a lot of responsibility. On top of that, I’ve read a couple books lately that sparked a bad attitude about church. I love my church and I love God and there’s no reason in the world to stay away, but I’m finding myself pulling back. I’ve let a belligerent attitude seep into all areas of my life, and I find myself eschewing obligation, avoiding my duties, and resenting things that used to bring me joy. My attitude has rubbed off on some friends, or theirs have rubbed off on me, or a little of both, because every time I see anyone it seems to turn into a gripe session. So what’s going on?

God’s been trying to tell me, but I’ve been in such a funk I haven’t heard him. Until enough people told me in enough different ways that it finally got into my thick skull.

My pastor, Nathan, mentioned that when the natural isn’t working, we need to turn back to the supernatural. Of course. It’s so simple, but we make it complex. But the truth is, I’m not relying on God. I heard about a sermon in which the minister declared that sheep aren’t supposed to be pack animals. It’s not for us to carry. A scripture that is oft quoted to me pops to the surface: My yoke is easy and my burden is light. So if it’s heavy, I have to assume it’s either not of God, or I haven’t really handed it over to Him to carry for me. Cast all your cares upon the Lord, we sing in a worship song. And lastly, someone tonight quoted another Scripture: Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts. Nothing works as long as we’re the ones doing the work, as long as we’re trusting in our own power and abilities, as long as we believe we are able to do it on our own. The minute I try to do it on my own, I’m withdrawing my trust from God. I’m not relying on Him for my daily bread. Manna is only good for that day; we can’t store it up or it will rot. He has new blessings waiting for us tomorrow, so there’s no reason not to take what is being offered today. And what he’s offering me today, and every day: to carry the weight of this world’s burdens. To lift them off my hunched shoulders and effortlessly hoist them onto His strong ones. To do the impossible, to do the tiresome, to do the weighty, boring, overwhelming. To do the large and small things both. To do the things I want to do, and the things I don’t want to do. To lend me His might, and His power, and His strength, and His kindness, so that I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. He has promised, and He is faithful.

Boring

I used to think of myself as fairly interesting. I enhanced my education with as much “extra” as possible, all the classes and I thought would be fun or beneficial but were not actually required. I was a graphic design major, but I did an undergraduate fellowship in mathematics. Worked in a photo lab. Campaigned for a political party. Designed theater posters. I traveled when I could. My summers during college were filled with different types of experiences – working as an arts & crafts counselor at a summer camp, squeezing in some extra classes at college, backpacking around Europe and then studying in England, interning at a cutting-edge ad agency.

But now? Now I look at my life and think how boring I’ve become. Inside, I still feel like the same person, but I sometimes worry how others might see me. I’m a mom to three children, which means I’m often filling a behind-the-scenes role of support, preparation, and practical things like driving and doing laundry. I’m a wife, which means that I willingly gave up my own identity and name to build something new with Tim, but I cannot now be separated from an identity shared with him. I’m a graphic designer, and I do work that is seen all over the country, but no one ever knows or cares who did it, just whether it does its intended marketing job or not. I have a bunch of lovely, dear friends for whom I would do anything, but the very nature of true friendship means that it cannot be all about me. I am only a good friend (or daughter/mother/wife) when I put aside all that I am and become one who helps bring out the best in someone else.

When I left college, my achievements were fairly impressive on paper, but inside, I never felt good enough. I was driven to perfection, and always aware of how far below that mark I was. Now, I beat myself up less often for my failings, and instead put most of my energy into becoming less self-absorbed and more involved with others. I’m fine with who I am, what I’ve done, and who I’ve become when I’m around the people I know, secure in their acceptance and love of me, but when someone who knew me “back then” comes along, I feel almost desperate to prove my success. Why does it matter, I wonder? Maybe it proves to me that I haven’t done as good a job as I would like to think, that I haven’t mastered the art of being humble, of selflessly nurturing and caring. Or maybe it pulls me out of this sheltered cocoon in which I live and reminds me of my competitive nature. Or maybe it’s simply the awareness that these people may not use the same standards to measure success and achievement, that they may not see the value in willingly serving others, in giving support versus receiving accolades. I sometimes fear that they might think I’ve sold out, given up, failed to achieve what I set out to attain.

Lord, help me to stay true to course – help me to continue to see my worth through your eyes. Give me the faith to renew my belief that I’m right where you want me to be, because I know there is no other place that I’d rather be than where I am with you right now.