There are mornings I spend just wanting to climb back into bed. I want to start over and pretend like the past few hours of my life didn’t happen. Either I made a mistake or I wasted time, and instead of coping with it, I let it affect my attitude towards my whole day. Nothing seems redeemable in my eyes, like my morning is a casserole in the oven too far burnt to save.
The other day, I told my therapist about this problem of mine, and she naturally had some wise things to say.
“Perhaps you need to create a reset button for yourself, something that you physically do as a declaration that you are starting your day over. Instead of sitting in your failures and shame, you can “hit” the reset button and choose to start over instead of letting those things affect your whole day,” she told me.
I went home kind of excited after that, not because she told me how to solve all of my life problems, but because she gave me something to do. I now had something to work towards and aim for. My task-driven personality thrives off of these things.
So I did what she said.
I pondered what my reset button would be for a couple days and I settled on showering. Yes, I decided taking a shower will be my reset button. It will be my way of cleansing myself of all my morning impurities and mistakes. Any time I feel like I got off on the wrong foot, I’ll step into the tub as one person and step out of the tub completely different. Genius, right?
But then there are times that doesn’t work. The wiring in my brain won’t let me let go. I know I should be able to move on, but the perfectionist in me is screaming lies about my potential and my worth. How do you fight that? I’m twenty years old and still feel like a five-year-old cowering in the corner when they’ve done something wrong.
And this is when I need to cry out those pocket prayers, the four-letter sentences you reserve for times of desperation. Lord, I need you. Jesus, please help me. Save me from this.
Sometimes I feel God’s presence immediately, but more often than not, I have to wait for it. Because I have so many doubts and anxieties, it takes a minute for the reality of the supernatural to sink in. And every time, I’m surprised. Wow, God! You showed up! Of course He did. He does that, you know. But you can’t tell that to the girl sniffling on the couch who just got out of the shower and feels like she’s out of options.
I had the privilege of preaching to the middle schoolers at my church this past Sunday. After working with middle schoolers for over two years, I’ve seen my passion deepened and my gifts strengthened in ways I never expected. But when I’m given an opportunity to speak to them as more than that obnoxious girl who plays all the games on Sunday morning, I sometimes hesitate to take up that offer. I get scared of not having anything to say (as always, though, I find that I do have things to say. I’m a writer, for crying out loud!).
I gave a sermon on Sunday about being thankful and how thankfulness is preceded by hope and followed by worship (check out Hebrews 12:28). I went home pleased and exhausted. As soon as I reached my bed, I collapsed into it and didn’t wake up until two hours later.
But when I did wake up, something wasn’t right.
A storm was raging outside my window and something was raging inside my heart.
I was angry and upset with Grant (for reasons that don’t need to be discussed) and I called him to communicate these feelings to him. After an hour of arguing and whining and yelling and interrupting, we reached a point where the silence between the two of us was deafening. I’m holding my phone, fuming. He’s holding his phone, frantically trying. We’re miles apart in both distance and understanding.
And the shame washed over me.
Here I was, arguing with this man who loves me so much more than I give him credit for, and I just preached to a room-full of kids on thankfulness. I felt like the fakest faker in all the world. I preach God’s Word and can hardly live it out.
And even after realizing the fault in my attitude, pride was holding on too tight for me to just let it go. Four-letter sentences could probably fix this, but I could hardly muster one word.
So I thought one word instead. The smallest pocket prayer.
And as I was laying in my bed and holding my phone, still fuming, and he was laying in his bed and holding his phone, still frantically trying, something happened. Orange shone through my closed blinds. My room was glowing all around me. I turned over onto my stomach and peeked through the blinds behind my bed, and what I saw rendered me speechless. The storm that had been raging as we were arguing was gone, and what was left in its place was a beautiful sunset. And let me tell you, this sunset was beautiful but also eerie. Everything was tinted orange. I had never seen anything like it before.
“Grant, look out your window,” I whispered to him through the phone.
“Why? Are you there?” He asked.
“No, just look.”
I hear some fumbling and then silence. He’s speechless for a second, too.
“Everything’s orange,” he said.
And just like that, the cold exterior around my heart melted.
“I love you,” I whispered.
“I love you too,” he said back.
Tears started falling down my face as I again recognized the beauty of this man I have in my life.
And I again realized the beauty of God’s presence after what felt like a never-ending, raging storm.
That’s silly, Jessie, you might be tempted to say.
I know it is. I know it’s silly to put so much stock into one orange night. Just like it’s silly to put so much stock into showers and metaphors and reset buttons.
But when it comes to God, I don’t want to put anything past Him. I don’t want to say He can’t show up and change things.
I’m sharing this because it helps me. I write to process and I like to share what I write so I’m not alone. But I’m also sharing this because I know that things I write has helped people feel less alone, too.
So this one goes out to the perfectionists, the ones too hard on themselves, the ones wishing for reset buttons and life-sized erasers. Sometimes your reset buttons will work, but sometimes they won’t.
And when they don’t, I pray (literally praying right now) that you allow yourself to accept the grace only God can give. The grace to be yourself. The grace to move on from mistakes. The grace to let go after arguments. The grace to again set about practicing what you preach.
I need that grace. I know that come morning, I’ll probably need it just like I do many other mornings. I know that there will still be many days I leave my house feeling frazzled and disappointed. But there’s grace for when I’m feeling inside-out on those upside-down mornings.
And there’s grace for your mornings that are like that, too.
Dear friend who just relapsed,
I heard you gave in to the lies again. You were holding out for a while and fighting pretty hard, but the voices in your head just got so loud and you didn’t know what to do. So you caved last night.
And now you’re hating yourself for it. Thinking you were so clean for so long and now it’s all gone to waste. Now you don’t know if you can stop again.
You broke promises to your loved ones. You broke promises to yourself. You broke promises to God.
You feel like the damage is irreparable now.
You feel weak. You feel defeated. You feel selfish and stupid.
But you’re still loved.
My feelings haven’t changed for you. God’s feelings haven’t changed for you.
You’re tired of feeling so weak, but let me tell you that you’re a fighter.
You weren’t defeated. You just lost a battle. But the war doesn’t have to be over. You don’t have to raise your white flag.
I know it’s hard to convince yourself to keep going, but you did it once and you can do it again. You can hold onto freedom. Christ died so you could.
. . . . . .
I’m so sorry you were hurting so bad that you didn’t know what to do but return to your former life. I wish I could’ve been there the minute you decided so I could’ve reminded you just how hard you’ve worked to be okay and how damn much you wanted to be okay.
You want to be okay. And you are.
It doesn’t feel like it right now. But you are.
Today was just one day. It was just one time. And yes, one time can change everything. It can make everything fall apart. It can lead to another time and another and another.
But it doesn’t have to.
You will still be hurting, the ones around you will still be sad, but you will have made a decision that will ultimately save you. If you would only just pick your resolve back up like I know you can.
. . . . . .
Let me remind you of who you are: you are a redeemed child of God. You are important. Do you know the lives you have impacted just by simply being you? By smiling that smile? By offering that listening ear, that compassionate heart? You are special. And that’s not something to be ashamed of. You feel things more deeply than most, and that is simply beautiful. Yes, you are beautiful. You are a beautiful being comprised of gifts and talents and love and grace.
You are also comprised of genes. And I know you hate your genes. You hate your chemical makeup. You hate that it feels like there’s so much crap you can’t do a darn thing about.
But despite the way it feels, it’s simply not true.
You can make a choice. Just like you did that solemn, brave day when you decided you wanted a better life and you knew God could get you there.
You’re not forgotten. God’s still pushing you forward. He has a plan for you, and it doesn’t involve this mess. You can still get there. I promise. God’s holding out his hand and I can be your cheerleader on the sidelines. Just one more step. And then another. I got you.
I love you.
The saddest thing I’ve realized is that for a majority of girls (myself included), being a woman is characterized by shame.
We are ashamed of being women.
And that’s not something you would normally say so blatantly and directly. Some of you might not even agree that’s true.
But when you look at the things we as women are ashamed about, the things we fear and worry about, the things we beat ourselves up for, it’s clear as day that we are ashamed of being the women we are. Deep down we feel like we’re too messy.
We’re ashamed that we are emotional. We’re ashamed of how easy it is for us to get our feelings hurt. We blame ourselves for not being more secure and fear that the people in our lives are going to leave when they realize how impossible it is for us to find emotional stability. And so out of that shame, we hide our feelings. We swallow our hurts and wounds and sometimes let people step on us so we don’t have to share our pain and risk being seen as lunatics. We’d rather be hurt and find ways to get past it on our own than own up to the fact that we are emotional, fragile beings who need assurance and hugs. We don’t want to have those conversations that reveal just how insecure and emotional we really are.
We’re ashamed that we want affection. We’re ashamed of our desires to receive those sweet “good morning” calls, find flowers on our doorstep, and be told that we are beautiful. We feel like men will look at us funny or find us impossible to satisfy and so we let things slip and allow others to treat us the way they want to treat us. We’d rather cry to ourselves than let on to the fact we require affection, affirmation, and admiration to feel loved. We’re ashamed of how hard it is to feel loved as a woman. We’re afraid that we ask too much and so sometimes we don’t ask at all.
We’re ashamed of our bodies. We’re ashamed that our bodies are different from other girls’, the ones plastered all over Pinterest with the clothes that fit in just the right way. We’re ashamed that we can’t pull off a single outfit that the mannequins wear in Forever 21. We’re ashamed when we’re too modest and we’re ashamed when we’re not modest enough. When girls with smaller waists and a smaller chest wear the same things in our closet, they’re seen as cute while we feel slutty. Because of this shame, this feeling that we ought to have a better body and better appearance, we resort to envy, discreet dieting, and shopping splurges. We constantly have to battle the lies we hear when we’re looking in the mirror. How is that we feel so confident without makeup one day and then feel utterly ugly without it the next? We are addicted to add-ons and trends as a way of fighting the lies and shame we have to deal with day after day.
We’re ashamed of being women. We’re ashamed of being highly relational and emotional. We’re ashamed of the way we care about our appearance. We’re ashamed of our insecurities and fears and weaknesses.
And that shame is killing us. It’s destroying us.
It’s making us feel less and less like the beautiful daughter of God we are. It’s making us hide more and more from the people who NEED to hear the truth so they can better love us and understand us.
I don’t know how this shame can be combated besides through God’s truth. And I know even then, it’s a matter of a girl’s heart. If she doesn’t want to accept the truth or doesn’t know how, she can be stuck in this shame for a really long time.
But what’s beautiful is when a woman does have her heart open. It’s been wounded enough times to the point where there’s enough cracks to let the truth pour through. So here’s the truth just waiting to pour through:
You are a beautiful woman. You were never designed to live in shame. You are beautifully made. God knows your heart and delights in it. You are made in God’s image. You are made to have emotions and feelings. You are made to care about relationships. You are made to be loved and accepted and cherished. You ARE loved and accepted and cherished. You are worthy of being romanced. You are perfectly imperfect. Your life as a woman is not to be looked down upon. Your life as a woman is meant to be celebrated. You are a woman worth celebrating.
I love you, sisters.