My whole life has been about gauging just how much of my true self I allow people to see, because for as long as I can remember I’ve been told that I am “too much.” I’m too loud, too dramatic, too excitable, too blunt, too eager, too honest, too aggressive … I could go on, but this list is starting to bum me out. It has been a long and hard road, full of struggle and serious mental battles between who the world tells me I should be and walking in the firm truth of who God created me to be.
The year after I graduated high school Madonna came out with a new album, and being a child of the 80’s I ran out to Wherehouse, bought it and listened to it over and over again. There’s a song on the album called “What It Feels Like For A Girl,” and in the chorus it says “Strong inside but you don’t know it / good little girls, they never show it / when you open up your mouth to speak / could you be a little weak? / When you’re trying hard to be your best / could you be a little less?” That song wrecked me…who am I kidding, it still wrecks me. When I first heard it, it was like someone had been listening in on every single conversation ever about my too muchness.
There were many moments and interactions throughout my life that helped to create this lie inside of me. If I close my eyes I can still feel the crushing blow of being told that I was an accident. I had found a picture of my mom and a guy who looked a whole lot like me. My mom and I sat in my room and she shared with me that my stepdad was not my dad (I kind of already knew that) and that my biological dad was a high school boyfriend of hers. I asked why he wasn’t in my life and she said “Well, you were an accident and his family wasn’t okay with it so he didn’t stick around.” At that moment, every single thing I had ever been told was wrong with me suddenly my “truth”. If I was an accident, then surely my big personality was a mistake too. (I feel like I need a disclaimer here – my mom was amazing – a little ditzy with a leaning towards picking the wrong men and not as careful with her choice of words as she maybe should have been – but amazing nonetheless.) That was a defining moment in my way of thinking, and there were so many moments that cemented those beliefs inside of my young self.
My Grandpa (my stepdad’s dad) would hold his hand up and mimic turning down the volume on a stereo any time that I spoke. Literally, any time I spoke. And then he would ask me “Are you sure it happened that way, or are you being dramatic?” You can see how this lie was scraping itself into my soul. Over and over my head would whisper “No one wants to hear what I have to say anyways”. My Grandma (my stepdad’s mom) would say “Sweetie, we just love you, even though you’re not our own, but you need to calm everything down.” It was as if my very existence was all just a bit too much, like if I could just peel a few layers off, everyone would be much more comfortable.
As I grew, I found that most people thought that I was too much of something – as if God had been adding ingredients to me and the cap spilled off of the shaker he used and I was ruined. I was an overly spiced meal – just a bit of flavor is good – but too much makes you want to gag. That was how I began to see myself and I began to dial back my personality to make other people comfortable.
Junior High did not help (has it ever helped anyone???). Peers and teachers told me to play it cool, my muchness was annoying (they didn’t articulate it that way, but the sentiment was the same). “Don’t be so excited that you got invited to the Roller Skating Rink or people will think you’re lame. Don’t be too eager to raise your hand with the answer, nobody likes a know it all.” I’ll never forget my 8th grade boyfriend saying that I was just like Cher in Clueless (a statement he still claims was a compliment) I was crushed. That girl was way too dramatic about everything. I made a mental note right then and there to dial my personality back a bit more.
As an adult, I brought this belief with me into my church life. I would get passionate about volunteering in a new ministry, but then I would dial it back and ultimately give up for fear of people thinking that I was being too excited. I would feel moved by the Holy Spirit to speak into someone’s life, but I was worried that I would be labeled too bold or aggressive. I would want to raise my hands in worship, but then I would get worried that people would think I was too passionate. So again, I dialed it back. I dialed it so far back that it cooled off, and my passion died in the years that I needed it most.
One random day a friend of mine invited me to Church. I dragged my tired, broken, exhausted self in and prepared to be told once again to be quiet and conform and be a cookie cutter Christian. Surprisingly, that was not the message that day (or any other day since). I liked it, there was something different about what was being said, and, as promised by my friend, people there were my age with tattoos.(Selling points that make a misfit feel safe.) Not long after, I sat in service and the pastor said “You were made on purpose, for a purpose.” I couldn’t breathe, and after a few minutes I realized that I was crying. Not once in my life had I heard that. That statement wormed its way into my brain and floated around. That day God began a very slow, but deeply needed work in me, and that church became my home.
Two years ago I decided that I was ready to shake off of all the things that I wasn’t. God started unearthing all my buried stuff. I heard him tell me that never speaking of past pain and saying “I’m fine” is not the same as true healing.
I couldn’t move forward and step into who I was supposed to be without dealing with the things from my past.
I needed to change my mindset if I wanted to change my heart. I had tiptoed into ministry (itty bitty baby steps) and I was telling women that they were made in God’s image, and that he doesn’t make mistakes, but my own heart didn’t believe that. Slowly, at His beckoning, I began to really be myself and share who I was with other people. The more I was my true self, the more I found people who loved me as I was. I was surprised by a few friendships – because some died, and some blossomed in new life-giving ways.
Do you believe that God created us from nothing, that he saw you, your whole life and created you still? Do you believe that the whole cosmos spin because he wills it? God doesn’t make mistakes”
Words I challenged my sister with during a phone conversation last year, that the Holy Spirit used to remind me of my own truth. No more dialing it back, no more watered down version, no more Christy-lite. Over the last two years I’ve had to ask a lot of uncomfortable questions, the kind of questions that make your soul feel heavy because you’re wrestling with your entire mindset. But, if I really believe that God doesn’t make mistakes then I have to believe that I was made much on purpose – every single loud, bold, dramatic part of me that makes some people uncomfortable has a purpose. That’s true for me, and for you.
How many of us are not walking in the truth of who we are? How many of us have been told lies about how we were created and have shrunk back when the world needs us to be big? How many of us are pretending to be a perfectly created version of what we feel like the world needs or wants? How many of us are not being enough of what we are supposed to be? That is not God’s desire for us. We need to stop going to the world to tell us who we are and start going to the one who created us.
He made me loud because God gave me something important to say and it must be heard. He made me bold because there is no place for shyness when it comes to Kingdom work. He made me excitable because soul saving work is exhausting and we need encouragers on the sidelines reminding us why we started. He made me blunt because this isn’t about a hippie lovey-dovey Jesus who just wants us to be nice, no sir, this is about where we spend our eternity and we cannot risk misunderstanding. He made me eager because someone has to stop talking about it and just get down to doing it.
“I made you on purpose, for a purpose.”
I am not an accident. The cap didn’t fall off and accidentally give me too much of everything. My muchness is needed for HIS work. Going through my bible looking for verses (because I couldn’t only quote Madonna) I came across a verse that I highlighted two years ago when I fist felt a stirring to be much more. – Funny that the girl who felt like too much, would find the spirit calling her to be more.
2 Corinthians 6:11-13 says:
“Dear Corinthians, I cannot tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small but your living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection: open up your lives. Live openly and expansively.”
I am not talking to you from the finish line. I am in the thick of it. I’m in that uncomfortable place of knowing that work needs to be done but also being exhausted by the work that’s currently happening. But friends, God never intended us to live small quiet lives, we are meant to be loud soul shakers, waking up the dead. No one ever started a revolution by being shy and quiet, and revival is what He calls us to.