The Holiness of Being You

Judy Garland once said, “Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else.”

We all deal with the nasty comparison bug. Some days, even a few minutes spent browsing instagram or facebook sends me into a downward spiral. Those nasty lies that whisper “You are not enough” creep in like a poison being injected directly into my heart, and I’m willing to bet it happens to you too. Because the grass always seems much greener on the other side of the screen, right?

As a college girl, and as a person in general, it’s easy to get sucked into the cycle of comparison. And as much as I want to tell you that Ms. Garland’s quote is one that keeps me going, if I’m honest, I find myself over and over again having to remind myself of the wise words President Teddy Roosevelt once said: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

And isn’t that true? How much of our lives are we spending with hearts aching to be like somebody else, or even a better version of who we are now? How much time do we spend dreaming up our ideal lives over pinterest, or promising ourselves that tomorrow will be the day we change, or setting excessive goals for sometime in the near future and being crushed when we come to that date and realize we aren’t even close to the person we dreamed of being.

I don’t know if you struggle with any of those things, but the paragraph above has been my life for so long and to be honest, it’s exhausting. We all love to post our first rate selves on social media, but all that’s done has allowed an avenue for that thief named comparison to lodged himself inside our bones, minds, and hearts, weighing us down. I don’t know about you, but personally, I’m quite tired of it.

Usually for me, a blog post is a culmination of thoughts about an experience I’m trying to work through. Writing for me is one of the best forms of therapy, and I usually have thoughts stirring in my mind for quite a while before they actually get typed out. But this one hit me out of nowhere. As I was making a cup of coffee this afternoon, thoughts of the way we strive and compete were flooding my mind. I was tired of looking at instagram, tired of talking about myself, and even tired of being around certain people because it only felt like a big one-upping fest. That’s exhausting to me. I hate trying to keep up in order to do enough or be enough, and with the “gift” of constantly knowing how “wonderful” everyone else’s life is at all times, it’s hard to not get sucked in.

But here’s what hit me as I made my cup of coffee: Trying to be like everybody else is a disservice to the Living God who fearfully and wonderfully made me. There’s a holiness that arises when I am most authentically me. There’s a holiness in being you.

Pretty strong revelation as I wait on my Keurig, right? Okay, God. I hear you loud and clear.

As I spent last summer in the majestic mountains of North Carolina as a camp counselor for seventh grade girls, I couldn’t get Psalm 139:14 out of my head. The psalmist writes, “I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” For some reason, the first stuck out to me, even though I’d heard it so many times before. And so I wrote it everywhere. I placed a sign over the mirror, wrote it out for each of my girls; I seriously put it anywhere and everywhere I could. Because it mattered. I wanted my girls to walk away after the three weeks they were in my care knowing that they were beautifully, fearfully, uniquely, bravely, and wonderfully made.

And somewhere in the process of trying to sink that passage into their hearts and their heads, I started to believe it about myself, too.

It’s just such a waste to spend our lives trying to be like someone else. I have some pretty incredible friends, but trying to be just like them is not beneficial for anyone, especially for me. The world only needs one of them, not two, not one hundred. And the more I strive to be like someone else, the farther I get from who God uniquely made me to be.

This blog is just a little over a year old. But before this blog, I’d had at least two other spaces where I’d tried to write. And I always ended up deleting them or stopping because it wasn’t fun for me. It was the most draining thing in the world. And you wanna know why? Because I was trying to write the way my favorite bloggers write. And the truth is, I my blog never measured up because I’m not those people. And no matter how incredible each person’s life appears in the format on my screen, those people aren’t me.

So in the space and rest of camp, God started giving me words. He started stirring my heart to write out both praises and heartaches to him, basically pouring my heart out onto paper. And when I came home and decided to capture these moments together in one space, this lovely little blog was formed. And yes it’s plain, and probably a bit wordy, but I LOVE it. I’m genuinely proud and so incredibly thankful for this gift. Because it’s actually mine. When I stopped wasting my time trying to fit the mold of others, I finally got to be me. And boy, was it liberating!

And that’s what I want for all of us. I still struggle to battle this thief of joy on a daily basis. It’s a daily choice to actually be who God created us to be. It takes a whole lot of guts and will probably cause you some pain along the way, but Jesus said in John 10:10 that “the thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy, but I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” THAT is what we exchange when we put down our weapons of comparison and one-upping and finally stop struggling, choosing to settle into our own skin; real life, full life, JOY happens! For Pete’s sake, people, JOY! Joy and life in exchange for being myself? If that doesn’t make you excited I don’t know what will!

It’s not about standing out, it’s not about making a name for yourself, but instead Jesus offers us life, if we just humble ourselves and finally believe what He’s been telling us all along, “My beloved, you are already enough. You are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Yes. Let that settle into the deepest parts of your soul for a moment, you. are. enough. You. Right now, as you are, not that version of you that’s lost twenty pounds, or finally has a boyfriend, or has whatever you think will prove you’ve “made it.” You RIGHT NOW are enough. Whew.

So what’s it going to take for you? What sort of things do you need to add to your life that make you feel completely and fully alive? What sort of things make comparison rise up in you that you probably need to cut back on or eliminate completely? For me, it’s a lot more writing and the Word of God, a lot more being with people who encourage and inspire me; and it’s a lot less social media, a lot less worrying about how I’m going to measure up. Because it’s a known fact that I’m never going to hit the mark, I’m always going to be on my way, not arriving. But that’s okay, because there’s grace for today and truth that I am enough.

The truth is, the world doesn’t need another Mary Cate Ownby. The world does need Jesus though, and the world needs you. Not you trying to be me or trying to be someone else, but you being you, and you becoming more and more like Jesus. And when we finally live in that peace of being who Jesus created us to be, we can celebrate the glorious Creator and all of his creation, ourselves and others included.

So what are you waiting for? Go, and live out of the name Jesus calls you: Enough. Do something you love today, something that makes you come alive. And find someone else to celebrate, calling out the glorious things that make them who they are. Instead of trying to compare and compete, celebrate the parts of them that are different from you, because they have something to offer the world that you can’t. Because you have something else to share. And neither gift is better than the other, because both gifts are needed. We just have to be brave enough to enjoy ours and celebrate others instead of wishing we could switch.

It’s so freeing to know that we were made to share our special gifts, so liberating to stop striving and rest in the joy that we’re enough and needed just as we are. And what I love most is that when we are filled with the joy of knowing we’re enough, something changes. A little bit of heaven comes to earth.

Let’s be brave my friends, and rest in who we are. Let’s celebrate the people around us every chance we get, and let us go out with a benediction by my all-time favorite author, Shauna Niequist:

“You have stories worth telling, memories worth remembering, dreams worth working toward, a body worth feeding, a soul worth tending, and beyond that, the God of the universe dwells within you, the true culmination of super and natural.
You are more than dust and bones.
You are spirit and power and image of God.
And you have been given Today.”  

Be blessed. And go out and be you.

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The Coming and the Going

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For my friend who is a friend above all friends. I love you so.

For so long I was a person of permanence. Read, I was terrified of change. In fact, I loathed it. Change is uncomfortable. Change is scary. Change involves letting go of something I love.

But college has its way of forcing you to grow, of shattering the paradigms in which you once lived. Every semester is radically different from the next. You never know who you will find you have become as the semester closes. And you never know who will come into or go out of your life.

Change is such a funny thing. I chuckle at myself as I write this because last year was such a learning curve for me. Of course I’ve had people come and go before in my life. In fact, I’d even willingly left relationships myself. But for some reason it was harder for me to let go this time around.

Because letting go meant that I failed, that I didn’t try hard enough or do enough. Failing meant that I wasn’t enough. Because why would someone push me away unless I wasn’t worth fighting for?

But here’s the deal. We’re broken people. And broken people do broken things. Really crappy broken things, like break your heart, or choose to find another best friend, or back away without giving you any reason. And once we can come to terms with the fact that we’re broken, the fact that we do hurtful things as well, I think, with the help of Jesus, we can learn to hold onto people a little more loosely and instead cling tightly to Jesus.

I can’t help thinking about all the times in the Bible that Jesus was abandoned. People walked away from him all the time. He hard some hard truths he was trying to teach people. And for many, it was too much. Jesus was too much. When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” John 6:60. And the crazy part to me is that Jesus let them walk away. He let his disciples, his students, his close companions, leave. And that’s something I don’t think I could do. We’re all taught that we’re supposed to stick it out: friendships, relationships, through thick and thin. But when the going got tough, many walked away from the Savior of the World. Not just some guy rambling. God incarnate. And they just walked away.

And Jesus knew beforehand it was going to happen, and he just let them go. See, I’m the type of person who can’t stand not being liked, and if not liked at least appreciated. If I get wind of someone’s frustration or annoyance with me, do I give them space and stay my distance? Oh, no. I bull out all the stops and whistles. I do all the right things, I get low and I serve, I compliment, it’s a miracle I don’t break into song and dance belting Please don’t leave me, I’ll do anything. Just love me, love me, say that I’m worth it.

And Jesus let them walk away. Even when his closest friends betrayed and denied him as he was led to his death, He STILL gave them grace. He knew it was going to happen before the words left his disciples mouths.

I think that’s what I’m learning about life and relationships. People are only in our lives for seasons. People come and go. And it’s not something we should fear or be cynical about. Not letting people in only leaves us in a terribly isolated place. But instead there’s this balance. This razor-thin line of welcoming people in and graciously letting them go. It’s not easy. It’s quite painful, actually. But it doesn’t mean we failed. It doesn’t mean we failed.

It just means we have to stare at Jesus. When many of Jesus’s disciples walked away, He turned to the twelve and asked, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:67-69).

Really great people are going to leave their mark on our lives. But the truth is the marks aren’t ever really appreciated in their full measure until that great person is no longer there, at least until they’re not living with us in the grimy day to day moments. Lord Tennyson once wrote in a poem that “It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all,” and although you all are totally judging me for using such a cliche quote, you know it’s kind of true. If we keep our hearts locked up tight until we die, in order to spare ourselves some pain, we’re going to die painfully alone, which is probably large population of the world’s biggest nightmare. So we have to open up. We have to let people in, knowing full well that those certain people might not always be there. Every once in a blue moon, we find a person who remains a forever friend, but we’re not eternal and life has its ways of creating distance even between us and those we love most.

But in order to live, in order to experience any rich life at all, we have to be willing to feel. We have to be willing to love. And we have to be willing to let go when it’s time to walk away. Sometimes the fight just makes things messier. And even though it’s never, let me repeat, never easy to let a relationship fizzle out or to part ways with someone we once help so dear, as a follower of Christ, we’re left with a promise even when we feel we’ve been left alone. And the promise is this: we’re not alone. This is not our forever. Yes, while on this earth we will mourn loss over and over again, Psalm 90:5 says that life is like a dream that is gone when we wake up. It’s so fleeting, and yes we should deeply enjoy it, but eternity will make this time feel like a funny dream, where we laughed and cried and wore funny clothes, but a fleeting dream none the less.

The brokenness of this earth is not forever. And there is a Savior who is coming back for us. His coming back to fight and rescue on our behalf. And even sweeter than that is the truth that he already has promised that he will not leave us, even while we live life here on earth.

So yes, it’s hard. It’s freaking painful and terrible for things to change. For relationships to change. It’s even scary to realize that we ourselves have changed. But God is a god of comfort. He does not leave us or forsake us. And he uses all things for his glory and our good. And that often times looks nothing like what we had planned. But it’s a much, much sweeter reward letting him have the glory, letting him lead the way, instead of clawing for control. It’s sweeter to rest in his arms and smile through the tears and watch things change, watch people walk away, because even when we can’t see it and even when we don’t understand, we can trust that he’s good. Sure, he’s not safe, but, man, he is good.

I can’t make it through life without other people. None of us can. It’s a gift to experience the love of others because when it’s pure, when it’s true, and yes, even when it’s hard, it always points us back to Jesus. We just have to be brave and stare at Him. May we become people whose hearts are gracious and arms are only holding loosely as people both enter our lives and as they leave.