Forgive me; this might seem tangential. (You knew it was coming.)
I grew up in church, nestled between my two sisters – wavy blonde locks, shiny patent shoes. We played MASH on the back of our bulletin and passed notes to our cousins, hoping someone had the 411 on whether or not our mothers planned to stop at Rax after the sermon. Sundays meant roast beef sandwiches and chocolate chip milkshakes, verse memorization and dusty hymnals.
The pews were padded.
So was I.
For the record, I’m grateful for the innocence of my childhood. Divorce, drugs, abuse – these were not struggles we faced in our immediate circle. We were protected. Bubble-wrapped with a series of good fortune, high expectations, sheer luck.
God was a presence I felt occasionally, on select Sunday evenings in youth group or at the Christian summer camp I attended. I was a good kid; compliant. Respectful. I didn’t ask a lot of questions.
I don’t think I wanted to know the answers.
In college, I shed the bubble wrap and looked for friends like me, who – on paper – lived a similar lifestyle. The padded pews had grown more comfortable, soft enough to fall into easily with little thought. I joined bible studies and wore t-shirts and attended retreats, conferences. I learned a little. I questioned a lot.
I heard many testimonies of faith during my years in the church – testimonies of reformed drug dealers, bankrupt businessmen, recovering bulimics. People with a before and an after – a to and a from.
But I didn’t have a before. So I feared I wouldn’t have an after.
And I began to think God only worked in big, mysterious ways, and surely He wasn’t interested in my before. It wasn’t messy enough. It didn’t make for a good enough story, on paper. Where was my story? What was I doing wrong?
So I started to write my own story. I stayed in the padded pews, but I stopped looking at the stained glass cross and, instead, started looking at my seatmates. I searched for approval from supporting characters, determined to measure up to the people who I thought had written better stories than my own.
Of course, it didn’t work. (It never does.) Personal convictions can all too easily become agreed-upon standards when we base our definitions on the ideals of others.
And – in a way – I gave my story away. I compromised my gifts and talents and interests to listen to the voices of well-intentioned authors writing their own stories:
-You’re a designer? Don’t you feel that contributes to a materialistic culture?
-Christian mothers shouldn’t work outside the home.
-Adoption doesn’t solve anything.
-Beauty is an idol.
(For the record, I disagree with the above statements wholeheartedly, but I believe the senders of these messages were rooted in good, pure intentions.)
So today, I’m reclaiming my story – not as the author, but as the main character. I will no longer play a supporting role in my own life. I am handing the pen to something bigger than myself – a God I trust that created me to fill a purpose, or maybe a string of tiny little purposes. The God that made me precisely, exactly, delightfully the way that I am.
Right now, that means I spend my days researching trends and changing diapers and designing products and deleting emails and speaking at international events and saying another prayer and brewing another coffee and traveling the world and reading a chapter and kissing skinned knees and battling imperfections and curating art and frying bacon and changing my outfit and honoring my husband and writing essays and styling lookbooks and singing lullabies and searching for that ubiquitous missing sock yet again.
It’s the one that was written just for me, for this moment. And I want it to be dotted with words of truth, not numbers of scale.
Here’s to nailing our stories on a cross of grace, not a ruler of expectation.
Here’s to growth.