"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16.33
I turn 28 in two days. This seems pretty young to me. I use to feel overwhelmed by how "old" I was getting, but somewhere after my 25th birthday I realized that was simply the shock of becoming an adult.
Now that I've stopped feeling overwhelmed (for the most part), I feel really young. Like a weird baby-adult. A babult.
Birthdays were always a big deal to me when I was in middle school & high school. I always thought I'd wake up the morning of my birthday... better. Like all the physically flawed bits of myself would have died in the night with my childish former age. This, of course, never happened.
When I hit college, it wasn't as much my physical flaws that I wished changed, but emotional, spiritual, & mental ones. I wanted to wake up mature, wise, sophisticated... basically I wanted to wake up as the coolest person on the planet. This, of course, also never happened.
So for a long time, birthdays would come and go and I'd always be kind of surprised, and disappointed, at how much the same I felt as the person I was on my birthday the year before. (If you think it says something about my personality that I expected some secret-birthday-magic change every year, even though it didn't happen any year previous, you'd be right.)
The thought never occurred to me to look back more than one birthday - probably because the younger you are you don't have a ton of birthdays to "look back" on, really. Now, though, I can look back AN ENTIRE DECADE, and find there someone who was legally considered an adult. (lolz)
I'm not sure if this introspective-birthday is now a habit of mine or what, but it happened unintentionally while reading Tim Keller's The Reason for God.
There is a section where Keller talks about the ramifications of humans placing their identity in things other than Christ: wealth, intellectual abilities, success, etc, and how (ironically) the more we place our identity in things that *aren't* Christ, the less we become. Eventually, Keller argues, we will only become that thing. We will lose who we are completely. Humans, trying to fill a need we were never intended to fill, wind up achieving the exact opposite of the desired goal. If you place your identity in being successful, you will become nothing but your success, and should you eventually fail, you will be nothing at all.
As I was reading this part of the book, a wave of deep gratitude rolled through me. I pictured myself, ten years ago, and saw a young woman who had placed her identity in many things outside of Jesus.
I had placed my sense of self in the hands of my friends, my intellectual capabilities, my accomplishments, the romantic interest of men, and my all around awesome-ness. As much as I'd like to say so, that last one is not a joke.
That young woman was also incredibly bound up in fear. The thought of any one of these identities being taken from me would kind of send me into a panicky restlessness: rejected by a guy I liked, getting poor grades, one of my friends being mad at me, the thought of never accomplishing anything, the thought of being flawed on any level deeper than, "Sorry I was a bit rude to you, I'm just really hungry," etc.
When one of them would be shown lacking, maybe not quite as stable as I needed them to be, I would fight. The fear of them failing me bound me more and more. Like a trap that holds you tighter the more you struggle.
When I realized that my false identities weren't going to cut it, my life crumbled around me. Who would I be if not (insert whatever)? Who would want me if I wasn't those things?
So instead of facing this hot mess of an emotional situation, I ran. Because I'm a babult and I deal with things, right?
I eventually fell into a heap of exhausted, empty emotions. That trap bound all the tighter from my own efforts to free myself.
Then Jesus came.
He began the process of stripping away each and every one of my false identities, he came alongside me when I was all bound up and placed His hand on my face, bent His head down and touched His forehead to mine, and said, "I am here, and this fear will not destroy you."
He pointed to those repulsive and beautiful scars on His hands and said, "Right here. Your peace is right here. I walked through hell and conquered it so that you could have access to me when you face your own hell, and I've got all the peace you need."
And He sat with me, slowly loosening those fear-bindings until they gave way. And then, even (especially?) when it turned out my fears might have been true, I faced them with a strength & peace that was not my own.
Now, I'm a woman who is a whole lot less than who she was ten years ago, but has by the grace of God become a whole lot more. And possibly the best part has been less fear, and more peace.
Peace, to me, is stronger than just an emotion. It does not (thankfully) require perfection, because it is far greater than our circumstances.
(This seems to be a running theme with these Fruit of the Spirit. That they are at their truest form when they blossom counter-intuitively.)
As I've learned how to place my identity in Jesus, in my scarred Savior, my self becomes more stable. I know the Lord is not done and though I have placed my identity in Christ, there are deeper and deeper places for Him to replace whatever junk I've tried to prop myself up on with Him. From what I've experienced so far, it is beyond worth it.
When I wake up in the morning, the woman who stands before me is becoming increasingly peaceful. Content. Steady. That is nothing short of a miracle.
So, even before my birthday came this year, I realized there has been quite a change. Though it has nothing to do with any ridiculous birthday magic.