Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Broken Image in a Shattered Mirror

I don't have a chapter in posting condition for you all yet. At the moment, it's a mangled mess of words and scenes yet to be placed in order. However, I wanted to post something personal, for a change. I don't do that often, mainly because I loathe opening up to people, even those I consider my closest friends. But after much introspection and God shoving my eyeglass in the right direction, I've learned something about myself I may have otherwise missed.

In a college psychology class (of all things), we recently discussed motivation, touching on characteristics of people with Type-A Personalities, and the Need to Achieve. Both described me nearly perfectly, with some of the identifiable factors as being competitive, preferring clear goals and feedback, displaying regulated efforts when working on a long-term project, persistent toward goals, and accomplishing more in school and in work. Not a month before highlighting that topic in class, my mom and I discussed my work ethics after one of my stress-induced meltdowns (for the record: I hate admitting that I cry. Ever. If I could purge myself of select emotions and simultaneously my tear ducts, I would in a heartbeat). During that conversation, she mentioned something that stopped me in my mental tracks and prompted me to reflect on it. She said that I base my self-worth on my achievements in academics and work (be it my performance in sports, my actual job, my writing, etc.).

To understand where I'm coming from and why this realization struck me the way it did, bear with me while I share a bit of history.

From early childhood, I've always sought competition and achievement. That desire stemmed from a deep well of internal motivation and propelled me forward in nearly all aspects of my life that even mildly interested me. Even things that I loathed, I sought to earn the highest mark possible, (well, in all but math. However, even it remains one of the only exceptions). Some people seek out competition in physical beauty or popularity, in that way striving to be considered better than others in their social group. Others seek admonition in the arms of a relationship partner. Honestly, I've never considered myself that pretty, and I've never cared about other people's views about my physical appearance. I'm not fishing for compliments; I'm merely stating my opinion, which I honed with the knowledge that beauty only lasts a few decades and popularity ebbs with the social tide. Relationships break up (and frankly, I don't see the point in investing my heart in someone until after I graduate high school). I realized that beauty was irrelevant. I accepted the fact that I cannot bear to linger in crowds and that I shy away from the spotlight.

Physical appearance and popular esteem may open doors, but intelligence opens worlds.

 So instead, I resolved to be intelligent to the point of straining and stressing and working myself into the ground in order to maintain my sense of identity until recently, when I discovered that I've spent years of my life staring at a broken image in a shattered mirror.

For over a decade, I based my identity off how well I met my own expectations. Failing meant a loss of that, a loss of who I am, a loss of my self-worth. A loss of my pride. I forgot that my worth isn't in what I can and cannot accomplish. It isn't in beauty, popularity, or relationships either. It isn't in whatever else you may base your self-esteem on, because I know we all cling to something or another.

We should seek our identities in Christ. I've struggled beneath the weight of the oppression that is the idea of failure. While it loomed over me, my pride taunted me, beat me when I fell, waved my short-comings in my face. Jesus Christ is the exact opposite. He carries me when I fall, fills me with hope, and uses my failures as lessons.

As a Christian, He is and should be my identity. I am His child, and nothing I do alters His perception of me, which is one of grace and love. Not my perception of trepidation and dismay.

Long ago, I chose Philippians 4:13 as my life verse. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it reads, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." To me, seeing it was like seeing a mirror of who I could become. But that mirror broke with the confines of humanity. When I was younger, my focus lay on the line that says, "I can do all things." That, right there, was my identity. That was what I hoped to see when I looked into that mirror, but due to my distorted image of myself and the fact that I sought it in the wrong place, all I saw staring back were the broken shards of a fractured image.
That verse contains a deeper meaning for me now. My worth is in Christ. He repairs the mirror. His is the reflection I strive to see staring at me from the other side of the glass, not my grades, not my intelligence, not my accomplishments. Those, like beauty, fame, and relationships, fade away. In the end, they're all shattered mirrors. Christ's image, His love, His appraisal of you and I does not.