There were a lot of things people didn’t warn me about prior to getting engaged, such as how being engaged doesn’t look anything like it does on social media. I think it’s too easy to get caught up in this idea that the season of engagement is supposed to be purely blissful and filled with photos, presents, and romance. For the benefit of those who are currently engaged or going to someday be engaged, I’ve put together a list of things that I have learned over the past four months on what planning a wedding, preparing for a marriage, and being engaged is really like.
. . . . .
Eighteen Things No One Told Me About Being Engaged
1. You will feel somewhat guilty for every decision you make pertaining to your wedding when your parents’ money is involved.
Very few of us have the privilege of coming from a well-off family that has thirty grand to spend on their daughter’s special day. I am not one of those few. My mom gave me a budget and at first, her number sounded too high. As time is passing by, however, I’m realizing that it’s pretty difficult, if not nearly impossible, to have your dream wedding without costing your mom and dad a couple (and by couple, I mean TEN) of thousands of dollars.
2. You will wonder if your flaws and weaknesses will end up being the downfall of your marriage.
If you knew you had faults before, you will certainly realize the gravity of them when you get engaged. All of a sudden, you’ll realize that someone is COMMITTING THEIR LIFE TO YOUR CRAZY, MESSED-UP SELF. And you’ll wonder if you’ll be the one to ruin it all. As a result, you will go into self-improvement overdrive. When that doesn’t work, you’ll think that maybe you should just do them a favor and break the whole thing off.
3. You will wonder if YOUR PARTNER’S flaws and weaknesses will end up being the downfall of your marriage.
If you thought you were critical before, then you haven’t seen nothing yet. There’s something about the idea of “wow, I’m going to spend the rest of my life with this person” that sends you into obsessive, crazy mode. You will nitpick every single thing they do, and become familiar with the phrase, “you better not do that when we’re married.” When fixing your partner’s problems doesn’t work, you may even think that you should just do yourself a favor and break the whole thing off.
4. You will mentally size up anyone and everyone’s engagement/wedding rings.
No matter how breathtakingly beautiful your ring is, there will be someone whose diamond is brighter and whose band is more intricate. And even though you’ll claim that you don’t care about the size of your diamond and you think your ring is perfect, you will start to wonder if people are judging you based off of yours just like you’re judging them. But of course you won’t vocalize these thoughts because 1) you would break the heart of the man who spent all that money on it, and 2) who wants to be that woman who isn’t satisfied with the ring she is supposedly in love with? By the way, having these thoughts, I’ve realized, is not dissatisfaction. It’s insecurity. There is a difference.
5. You will feel like you’re already married, which only makes things more difficult.
I’m going to be frank with you: there’s nothing worse than having to say goodnight and retreat to separate beds when you know that in just a couple of months you’ll be in the same bed every night. When you get engaged, sleeping with the love of your life (and no, I do not just mean sexually) is no longer just a dream or fantasy to you; it’s soon-to-be reality. But just because it WILL be true doesn’t mean it is just yet. And waking up to that fact isn’t fun at all. You will not only hate climbing into bed alone, but you will even hate brushing your teeth, cooking breakfast, and going grocery shopping alone. You will be so fixated on the future in which you and your partner will finally be in the same home that you will begin to loathe your separate lives. AND NO ONE WARNED ME ABOUT THIS. Maybe people danced around it and said things to me like, “oh, you will want a short engagement.” BUT I THOUGHT THEY WERE JUST TALKING ABOUT SEX AND NOW I KNOW IT’S SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT AND IT SUCKS.
6. You will secretly (or vocally) loathe purchases that your partner makes with his money.
Because soon his money will become your money. And there’s no way you want to see all of your money going towards comic books, iTunes, and computer speakers. You want that money to go towards the nail salon instead. Did I mention that you’ll discover your fiancé’s abhorrence of credit cards is an actual PHOBIA that he will USE AGAINST YOU EVERY TIME HE SEES THOSE STUPID CARDS IN YOUR WALLET??? Just don’t get them if you think they might be an issue, folks. Dave Ramsay was right; money fights are real.
7. You will realize that you no longer like some of your ideas of being a thrifty bride.
Like when you look at wedding dresses in thrift stores and on Craigslist. Buying someone’s used wedding dress might be pragmatic, but it certainly is not all that romantic. The first time you try on a brand new wedding dress in an actual wedding dress store, you most likely won’t check another thrift store or Craigslist post again. You will also realize that just having a chili bar at your wedding, though cute for the Fall season, is not going to fill the stomachs of your family members and friends who drove eight hours or stood in line at an airport to see you get married.
8. People will make you feel like all you are is a bride.
Never-mind the fact that you have a ministry and personal goals and school and a blog. When people see you, the first thing they’ll talk to you about is the fact that you’re getting married… and then the conversation will end.
9. You will find the perfect wedding dress, purchase it, take it home, and then spend the rest of the time leading up to the wedding thinking about whether you should return it.
Is it really the most flattering one? Are you sure it doesn’t make my waist too large? But is it too fancy? Too big? Too plain? You will begin to doubt everything about that dress sitting in your closet, even though you felt like a beautiful princess when you first tried it on and all of your family members cried when they saw you in it. FOMO (or the Fear of Missing Out) will take over in ways you never realized it could.
10. You will realize who your real cheerleaders are.
You will find out whether or not your parents are really all that fond of your significant other. If they actually are (and thank God this is the case for me), they will shower you with more love than you ever anticipated. You’ll begin to freak out and think that maybe they just want to get rid of you. Why else would they be throwing so much money, advice, and free furniture at you? It might be shocking to see just how supportive your family is (and if they’re not, it could be equally as shocking to see just how indifferent or insensitive they are). You will also begin to realize which of your friends are cheering you on and which ones could care less as long as they get a seat on your big day.
11. You will accidentally turn into a Brideszilla in front of your fiancé.
Your fiancé will pretend to know what they’re talking about when it comes to wedding planning, and this will only piss you off. You will start to rant about how hard you’re working to make this day perfect while all he does is ask stupid questions and make dumb suggestions. “NO. JUST NO. STOP IT. I TOLD YOU LAST WEEK THE COLORS ARE CORAL AND NAVY. DON’T YOU LISTEN TO ANYTHING I SAY?!” will actually come out of your mouth in a very loud decibel. You won’t realize just how obsessive you are until it’s your wedding day on the line.
12. People will assume they are invited to the wedding when they actually aren’t.
I’ve never seen this happen in movies and I’ve never heard anyone tell me that this has occurred with them, but trust me — it happens. All of a sudden, the people you haven’t talked to since high school start commenting on your photos and asking questions about when they’re getting an invite to the wedding. This is highly uncomfortable, and besides just pretending I didn’t see these comments, I haven’t figured out a polite way to handle them so far.
13. You will fear coming across as narcissistic or self-centered when you talk about getting married on any form of social media.
You’re excited and kind of want to brag! Not in an “OOO, LOOK AT ME” kind of way, but in a “wow, can you believe that this guy picked me and we get to have a future together?” kind of way. Even though you will see many forms of “spotlight” statuses on Facebook (i.e. getting a new job or making the Dean’s List), you will become paranoid that everyone hates everything you post on social media relating to relationships, love, being engaged, or marriage. You know that saying, “you hate me cuz you ain’t me?” You will think this is actually relevant to you now. You will also think that you being engaged and posting about it is the only reason people are unfollowing you on Instagram.
14. You will consider running away and eloping just to spare yourself from any more wedding stress, not to mention the torture of the wait.
As time goes on, you get more and more fed up with all of these decisions you’re having to make and all of these months you’re having to wait. Who cares about guest lists and catering menus? You’re just ready to seal the deal and get on with it! Let’s elope and just start our lives together NOW! Grandma will forgive us, you frantically tell your fiancé as you grow more and more desperate to escape the engaged life.
15. You will ask Google wedding-related questions on a daily basis.
Such as “how to address Save the Dates”, “who pays for the honeymoon”, “how to tell someone to not bring a plus one” , “can my mother be my Matron of Honor” , “how to pick your bridesmaids” , “how to fake calligraphy” , and “do I wear my engagement ring on my wedding day.” Yes, I have had to Google every single one of these things. The Internet is an amazing place.
16. You will feel like you don’t fit into some of your social circles anymore.
Bible studies for singles or students just don’t seem to be tailored for you anymore, and even hanging out with single friends, even though you swore getting engaged wouldn’t change anything, doesn’t excite you as much as it used to. You will find that you relate to them less and less, and you will cling to the people around you who actually are in long-term relationships because you don’t feel like the odd one out around them. Yes, being engaged can actually be isolating, especially when you’re a twenty-something still in the throes of college.
17. You will be more self-conscious about how in shape you are for your wedding day than you are any other time of the year.
Even though you’re fine with your weight or your size for most of the year, the pressure to have the perfect body becomes way more real when you get engaged. You know that those wedding photos will be around FOREVER and you want to look hella good in them (or at least just have super toned arms since the whole strapless dress thing). As a result, you will fixate on exercising and eating right, which, FYI, DOESN’T MAKE YOU A GODDESS OVERNIGHT. In case you didn’t get the memo (because I sure didn’t), it’s going to take some time to break out of the sedentary lifestyle you’ve been in for the past four or five years. So good luck forcing yourself to run on the treadmill that faces the mirror and shows you just how awkward you look on that treadmill. Who do you think you are — a runner??
18. You will forget that God has always provided for you.
If you’re moving out of your parents’ home when you get married, you have both the excitement and fear of being out on your own. You’re imagining all of the things you and your spouse will do together while also worrying about how you’ll pay for those things. You’ll be creating budgets that you don’t know will actually work and you’ll be making financial plans that you don’t know will actually stick. And as you fixate on money and homes and material things, you will begin to see life more out of the lens of an anxious woman than a woman protected and taken care of by the Creator of the universe. You will forget that God has been there with you every time you’ve been alone and confused. You will forget that he has shown up in miraculous ways in your life, that he answers prayer. You will think that you have to do everything on your own. But you don’t.
. . . . .
My lovelies, being engaged can be an intense and anxious time. Besides the constant fantasizing of just how amazing your life will supposedly get when you’re finally married, there’s also the fear of the unplanned, unknown future. Both of these things can stifle your closeness with God if you’re not careful. This is something I’ve been experiencing firsthand and am hoping to encourage other women with if anyone is finding that they, too, are letting this chaotic wedding season take their eyes off the true Prize.
My last conclusion on this whole being engaged thing is that it isn’t as great as it looks in the movies or on Facebook, but that’s perfectly fine, especially when you think about how short of a period this is in the grand scheme.Years down the road, when Grant and I are wrinkly and grey, this season will be remembered as a blur. We will have graduated on to bigger things, like having children, buying a home, having a career, and seeing our family grow. So I’ve decided that while I’m in this “waiting period” called engagement, I’m going to try to relax and enjoy life as much as I can.
Whisper a prayer on my behalf when you think of me, please. I could use it.
And if you’ve learned any lessons from being engaged that you think other women could benefit from, please feel free to comment below! I know that I for one am desperate for more knowledge. I’m already building my long list of questions for our premarital counselor. Lord have mercy on him and on us. It’s going to be a bumpy ride, but I’m ready.
A few people have been hinting to me that I may be not as committed to marrying my fiancé in seven months as I claim to be. This usually happens right after they ask me how Grant and I are doing or what being engaged is like because I end up being honest with them. I tell each and every one of them that it’s weird and it’s hard and I’m sometimes scared.
Yes, I do fear marriage. And with this fear comes another fear — that my fear of marriage means I can’t possibly be ready to get married.
But here’s what I’m learning: my fear of marriage does not primarily stem from my lack of confidence in Grant to be my husband. My fear of marriage primarily stems from my lack of confidence in God to make a way for Grant and I.
Confession: When I first began dating Grant fifteen months ago, I was pretty sure we wouldn’t last. Grant didn’t open doors for me, he was too strange for my taste, he hardly asked how my day was, and he was a terrible kisser. I had my own issues, as well, including but not limited to my infatuation with my ex-boyfriend, my consistent insecurities, and my lack of trust in Grant’s commitment to me.
I honestly can’t explain why we kept going, why I didn’t break things off with him from the get-go. I guess I was just curious to see what might happen. I wondered if Grant could change (because of course, I was more selfishly concerned with him changing than myself).
And he has changed in a lot of ways since we began dating, but not because of my own power. Grant has changed because of his God-given strength and the hand of God in his life. Yes, I have played a role in Grant’s transformation (I taught him to kiss, after all), yet I’m not the one who’s made him into the man he is today.
After undergoing a lot of changes in my own life these past fifteen months, the same is true of Grant relating to my transformation. Grant has helped me believe in love again, but he has not been the one healing my heart. He’s not the one who has made me into the woman I am today. That work has been of God.
Now here we are, getting ready to commit our lives to each other, and I’m scared all over again. I’m wondering if Grant and I can keep changing enough to actually make this whole marriage thing work.
We are still so messed up — my insecurity and anger somehow feeding into his fear and passivity, and vice versa. Fight or flight kicks in. Sometimes I am still about ready to quit. So yes, when people hint that I may not be all that committed to marrying the one I love, they are absolutely right.
I am not committed to marrying Grant if it means that I’ll forever be this woman and he’ll forever be this man. This, to me, means a doomed marriage and a miserable life.
If there’s no chance of change, transformation, or growth, what good would “for better or for worse” be? We would never know anything better or anything worse. We would only know sameness — the same fights, the same pain, the same joy and love every single day. I don’t want that. My love for Grant at forty better trump the love I have for him now at twenty. I don’t want to make a commitment that only means reliving this season over and over again for the rest of my life.
You probably don’t want such a marriage either. We naturally crave growth and progress, no matter how much we love the person sitting across from us at the table.
With this in mind, I think it’s perfectly reasonable for me to sometimes come across as ready to jump ship; I am scaring myself silly by picturing a stale, unmoving, and unsatisfactory future! A marriage like that could be considered one of Dante’s layers of hell.
But here’s what calms my fears: my growing faith that God is a God of hope, renewal, and transformation.
And when I call to mind God’s provision in the past and remind myself of his promises in Scripture for our future, I am so ready to commit, I’d elope today.
I’m like Noah yelling at Allie: “It’s gonna be really hard, and we’re gonna have to work at this every day. But I wanna do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, you and me, every day.”
Noah can say this because he knows that people don’t remain the same. He knows that they’re going to have to work at being in a relationship every single day for the rest of their lives. Allie is going to have to let go of her fears, as well as her fiancé and her desire to make her family happy. And he knows that over time, they will both have to become different people because only then will they have a chance at a thriving future together.
“Will you do something for me? Please? Will you just picture your life for me? Thirty years from now? Forty years from now? What’s it look like? If it’s with that guy, go. Go! I lost you once. I think I can do it again if I thought it’s what you really wanted. But don’t you take the easy way out,” he begs Allie as hopeful, teary-eyed women everywhere root for them.
When I place my confidence in God, I once again become aware that the people Grant and I are right now are not the people we will be forever. We are being transformed into Jesus’ likeness “with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
As I become more God-aware in the context of our marriage, it doesn’t seem so frightening anymore. It’s still going to be hard, no doubt about that. But it sounds do-able, so do-able that Scripture actually boasts about it.
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior… Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless… This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:22-23,25-27,32).
God boasts in his design of marriage because it is like the beautiful relationship between Christ and the Church. And such a beautiful and sacrificial relationship can be a reality for wives and husbands, no matter how much a profound mystery it may be.
Grant and I want this kind of marriage for ourselves and we believe we can have it. Though we are flawed and doomed to disappoint, God is perfect and faithful to provide.
The transformation that’s required of us as a husband and wife is up to him (and he’s already begun the work). The finances we will need for our shared life will have to be provided by him (and we’ve already seen him provide). The faithfulness marriage calls for will be nurtured and strengthened in us through him (and as you can see, I still have some faithfulness left in me yet). All the glory really must go to God.
I’m not writing this post to defend my decision to marry Grant. I’m actually writing this as a reference and reminder for myself. When I am tempted to focus solely on who Grant and I are in this moment, I know I’m going to need a fresh dose of God-awareness. I have to remember that transformation is taking place and it’s only because of the power of God that we’ll ever have a chance of glorifying him with our relationship for the rest of our lives.
And if you’re thinking of marriage or working towards marriage, then let this be a reminder for you, as well. A beautiful, Christ-centered marriage can be a reality, but not because of your own hard work and merit. You will always fall short and your partner will always fall short. It’s only because of the goodness and power of God that a beautiful, Christ-centered marriage can be a reality.
And if all of this is true, you and I don’t need more fight or flight; we need more faith.
The kind of faith that makes you look at your partner in the eye after they’ve failed you for the hundredth time and helps you say those three words, “I forgive you.”
The kind of faith that makes you bring your partner’s burdens to the feet of Jesus instead of just your own because you know there’s an enemy coming after your partner when you’re not even around and only God can protect him.
The kind of faith that knows that you are not responsible for the growth of your partner and God’s charge for you is to simply love them and build them up despite any frustration, bitterness, or pain.
The kind of faith that empowers you to love with more than a cheap, earthly, conditional love. The kind of faith that will sustain and protect you before your vows, as well as long after them.
I am praying and hoping that God grows this kind of faith in my heart, as well as Grant’s. Right now, I am also praying that he grows this kind of faith in YOUR heart because I know there will come a time when you’ll be scared, too. And when that day comes, I pray that you won’t listen to the lies and you will instead pursue truth.
The truth is that becoming the husband or wife you desire to be doesn’t happen overnight, and you won’t get the husband or wife you desire to have overnight either. Important, sacred things like marriage take time. God’s work takes time. Do what you can with what you have right now, but trust God to do the rest.
Marriage was his design; he will see it to completion (Philippians 1:6).
“You’re not a failure,” he reassures me.
“I know I’m not a failure, but I feel like I’m failing.”
There’s a difference, you know.
I know deep down that there’s a reason I’m here. And it’s not to have a simple career with a simple marriage and a simple life. My purpose is more complex than that (with a sprinkle of passion, too).
But what do you do when you feel like you’re so far from reaching that purpose? When it feels like you’re constantly wandering away from what you thought you cared about, when it seems like everyone has something to say about where your life should go?
The truth is I struggle with feeling good enough for anyone and everything. I want to please them all, I do.
Get the help you need, she says. You don’t need that kind of help, another tells me.
Let him be there for you, I’m told. You’re asking for too much, I hear again.
Focus on what’s right in front of you, they say. Don’t wait to chase down that dream, the others say.
All I can think is, I’m letting them down. I’m letting myself down. I’m letting God down.
I know I’m not a failure because I keep showing up to this thing called life. I know I’m not a failure because I keep putting one foot forward. But I feel like I’m failing, or maybe I’m just constantly falling — constantly falling in and out of love of different ideas thrown at me on how my life should look and what I should try to be.
While people are telling me to do this or that, what I’m hearing is, you have to be perfect. Or at least better than this.
And that word — ‘perfect’ — has been haunting me for many years of my life.
I have often looked to the one who loves me and surely must know me best, and I have said, I don’t feel good enough. But none of his reassurances have really done it for me. They don’t settle the chaos in my gut. They don’t stop me from searching and fumbling and hurtling and screaming. If anything, they just give me ideas in my head of how much better he is for me than I am for him.
So I’ve been learning, slowly but surely, that I have to stop always looking to that one. He’s ‘my everything’, but he’s not my everything. He holds much of my heart, but he’s not the one who can mend it.
Yes, yes, I need Jesus.
Because even though I come to the Cross with a trail of mistakes, all Jesus sees is me. And the way he sees me is unlike what other people see in me.
The world praises me for my performance and gifts and the good things I’m working towards. Meanwhile, he rejoices in me simply because I am his.
And if that doesn’t sound like the most beautiful of romances to you, let me break it down for you.
I am in Christ, and therefore I am no longer just myself. I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). This new creation isn’t an improved version of myself; it’s a version of myself that is unlike myself. It’s like Jesus (Galatians 2:20).
If the idea of no longer being ‘yourself’ and all of a sudden being like Jesus doesn’t sound too pleasant, let’s take a look at who Jesus is.
Jesus is victorious. The conqueror of death. Blameless. Holy. Pure. Perfect life. Perfect love. Perfect.
Why yes, I would love to be more like Jesus. Because have you met me apart from Jesus?
I myself am a hundred thousand miles from being perfect, but in Jesus’ eyes, I am all I need to be because I am his. I am perfectly his. I am perfect in Christ.
All those things he is — victorious, conqueror of death, blameless, holy, pure — I now have resting in me. He let me in on the mystery of the gospel. And the mystery is this — Jesus came to save the lost and restore the broken. Now that I know, I can’t un-know. Now that I am brought into his kingdom and have been chosen to be his holy and blameless daughter (Ephesians 1:4), I can’t not be that woman.
This is the truth I hold onto when I start to hear those taunting words, you’re not good enough.
They’re right, you know.
I’m not good enough. I’m actually even better than that.
I know that these things I’m saying aren’t particularly profound. They’s actually just foundational truths of Christianity. If you don’t think they are, then maybe you’ve been too picky with your Scripture.
The reason why I’m even sharing these things is because I know that you question if you’re good enough.
And I want to be the voice — no, I want Jesus himself — to tell you, yes, you are.
And for once in your life, I want you to believe it.
Yes, you might feel like you’re failing and falling and every ugly thing in between. But look at WHOSE you are, not just who you are. You might feel overwhelmed and trapped by these varying ideas of how to find that perfect life and be that perfect person, but you can be freed by the knowledge that you are perfect in every way in the heavenly realm already.
It’s a process and a pretty long one at that. I think it’s called sanctification, which I kind of see as a constant, never-ending journey to the dumpster. We always have more to dump. There’s always something to rid ourselves of (and we usually have to rid ourselves of the same things over and over again).
For today, let’s start by dumping these lies that we have to live up to everyone’s expectations and be this perfect person for people just as messy and lost.
If you need help dumping those lies, it might help to imagine you shoving them into Jesus’ scarred hands and screaming, TAKE THIS BECAUSE ONLY YOU CAN. It sounds a little forceful, but I think those lies could use a good shove.
And when you start to make some progress in this whole dumping thing (because I trust that you’re not just going to read this, close your browser, and walk away), take some time to remind yourself that it’s not you making this progress. It’s the Holy Spirit in you. It’s the work that’s already been done on the Cross, the victory that’s already been secured for us.
Don’t dump the pressure to be perfect and then make yourself feel better by thinking that you’re closer to being perfect.
You’re not closer to being perfect, at least not here on earth. You’re closer to being free and you’re closer to looking like Jesus, which are two things infinitely better than getting everyone’s approval (including the approval of your own perfection-seeking self).
And when all of this is said and done, live out the rest of your day and prepare for another fight. It’s okay that there will be another fight because you are a fighter. I know you’re a fighter and not a failure because you keep showing up to this thing called life, as do I.
We need to keep doing this. It might get easier. It might not. But THIS is our purpose, the reason for why we’re here. We are here to live as Jesus calls us to live — free. Free to love. Free to dream. Free to fight. Free to hope. Free to live a godly life. Free to seek the Lord.
We were never meant to be enslaved to approval-seeking. We were always meant to be his.
People have been telling me that I’m brave for writing about the things I do and putting myself out there the way I do, but can I just fess up to the honest-to-God truth that I have a hard time receiving that?
I don’t feel brave.
I feel desperate.
I don’t sit down with my laptop and Bible and ask myself, “Jessie, what courageous and bold things do you wish to declare over yourself and people today?” I don’t crack my knuckles as I set to writing and feel like I’m doing something victorious or brave.
You want to know how it really goes? While crying and praying and reading and thinking, God occasionally hits me with something that I can’t get out of my head, a truth I so desperately have longed to hear. And it’s so prominent, I feel the need to immediately pull out my laptop and write a post. I think to myself that if I can write these things down fast enough and put it out there for the world to see, then maybe I can believe these things for just a little while longer. I’m desperate to grab onto these truths before they escape me and I’m faced with another frustrating, tear-stained day.
You see, there are lies all around me and they are skilled in the art of imposing forgetfulness where truth is concerned.
I’m grateful that my attempt to grab onto truth and peace means something to you, but it doesn’t feel all that brave to me. Despite the messages I receive, the gratitude and compliments that come my way from strangers and friends, I feel like just one girl who pecks away at her keyboard because she simply doesn’t know what else to do.
The idea of me being brave feels farfetched in my mind, like a label I could never earn even as it’s shoved in my face by people who don’t really know me.
Writing doesn’t feel like an act of bravery. It feels like an act of desperation.
I am desperate to push these things out of me and place them onto paper or out into the world because the things God speaks over me are often forgotten when the enemy’s lies come back.
If you were really so brave, you wouldn’t hide behind a computer. You’d say things to people’s faces. You wouldn’t be so shy and force yourself to be alone. If you were really so brave, you wouldn’t be curled up in that chair, unable to move. You’d be out there, doing things. You’d be productive. You wouldn’t need to beg for strength just to face another day.
This morning, I was curled up in my bedroom chair, unable to move. I knew I should get up and do something. I should open my Bible and sip my coffee and believe the things God says. But instead, I was staring at the wall, questioning my existence, wishing for a different and improved version of the Jessie I live with every day.
And then I got a text that said things like how God is going to heal me and He’s going to answer my prayers and bring me out of this sadness. And all I wanted to do was retort with, “but I want to be healed now.” And I meant it. I was desperate.
Get on your knees and pray, I was then commanded. Whether the command came from heaven or from my mind, I was so desperate that I somehow found the strength to leave my cushion of sorrow and do just that in the middle of my bedroom floor.
Praying like this is a rare occurrence for me. Placing my knees on carpet and bowing my head to the ground felt foreign and awkward. Yet humble prayers soon tumbled out of my mouth. I don’t know what to do. God, I need you. I don’t even know what to say. I’m desperate.
Somewhere along the way, my desperation drove me to madness. I was mad enough to spit out the words, Do something! I don’t want to be this way. I want to feel lovely and beautiful and graceful. I don’t want to feel weak like this anymore.
I want to be brave.
As I was on my knees and these words escaped my lips, a story of a desperate woman came to mind.
When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. (Luke 7:36-38)
She was desperate. She was so desperate she was willing to enter in this man’s home, despite the judgmental things he would say about her. She was so desperate, she was willing to approach Jesus, give him her nicest perfume, and let him receive her sorrowful tears. She was so desperate, she found herself on the ground, grasping for even just his feet.
She was so desperate, she became brave.
And I realize now that maybe this is me, too. I see desperation while I am told I am brave, but perhaps the two can both be true.
Maybe I am brave after all. Not because I say bold words and write my heart out for the world to see, but because I’m desperate enough to sit down and do this. For myself. For you. For God.
I’m so desperate for the truth to be declared. I’m desperate for healing in my life. I’m desperate for God to be glorified through me. And this desperation has driven me to say things, do things, and believe things I wouldn’t otherwise. If I were this image of a normal nineteen-year-old with average hopes and stable emotions that I envision, would I have anything to say when I sit down to write?
I’m desperate and I do like to think that I’m brave. On a good day, at least. Who’s to say where I’ll be tomorrow? In the morning, you might find me again in my chair, unable to move.
But when I do move (and I always do), may my mind believe bold things, my hand write great things, and my heart know that I am brave.
This is my prayer. Not just for me, but for you, as well.
We all need to be told that we are brave. We don’t just need the world to say it; we need God to declare it.
And yes, we sometimes need desperation to drive us to believe it and be it.
I’m wrestling with what it means to be authentic.
Because more often than not, I’m giving off a false impression of myself.
I’m not that calm, collected girl who walks into class with her coffee and combat boots, no care in the world. I’m not that wise, oh-so-godly girl who sits in Bible studies and leads worship because Jesus is all she thinks about and lives for 24/7. I’m not that confident, positive girl who just likes to laugh at jokes, meet with friends at coffee shops, and wear yoga pants (because they’re by far the comfiest things in the world).
I might try to look like that girl. And I might even succeed. But she’s not me.
Truthfully, I’m still figuring out what kind of girl I am. I’m still discovering my interests, likes and dislikes, and personality. I’m learning that I’m a lot like my mother, which brings into question how much of me is really me. I also know that I often mold into my friends, putting on a different mask to be around different people. And I know better than anyone that I’m a messy, complex person who is one way today and then a totally different way tomorrow.
Can the real Jessie Nyland please stand up?
In all of my wrestling, I’ve been learning a lot about myself, the world we live in, and God.
And here’s one of the most important things about being authentic that I’ve seen and am now believing: it begins with telling the truth.
You’re not going to destroy all those false images that have been built up around you overnight. You can’t dismantle all those lies just by saying to yourself, “okay, be YOU now.”
Odds are that if you have been pretending long enough, you’ve started to believe that girl is really who you are.
So authenticity has to start somewhere, and I believe it starts with telling just one truth. One scary but necessary truth.
And after that truth gets out there, you tell another one. And another one. Until eventually, when people see you, they don’t just see the girl with the nose ring, combat boots, and cool blog. The one who keeps to herself and seems to have her life together.
They see the truth.
They see the girl who’s insecure, weird, moody, and confused. They see the girl who’s struggled with perfectionism all her life, but is learning how to keep that under control in her relationships and everyday life. They see the girl who loves God, but has nowhere near all the answers to living a faithful, godly life. They see the girl who has no idea what she’s doing.
The art of being authentic is telling the truth so people can stop seeing one thing and start to see another.
And in seeing you in this new light, you are somehow given permission to keep being yourself. After all, once the truth is out there, you can’t really take it back. Might as well keep unraveling.
I think this is why I write the way I do, why I’m becoming more and more honest about who I am. I’m tired of the lies I think people might believe about me, the lies that say I’m fine and I love my life and my faith is on point and I don’t need help.
(and I’m also a little tired of the lies I believe about many of YOU. There’s nothing more crippling than the insecurity that comes from seeing someone in this perfect, Instagram-filtered life and knowing I could never be that)
Authenticity needs to be more common. I’m pretty sure I need it if I’m going to stay sane.
I made an Instagram like four days ago and I’m already considering deleting it because I’m OBSESSING over what filters to use, to hashtag or not to hashtag, and why-oh-why is this girl so drop-dead gorgeous and perfect while I’m…. not?
You see, this is hurting me. The lack of authenticity and vulnerability I see all around me is hurting me.
It’s why I took so long to tell anyone about my loneliness or sadness. It’s why I don’t ask people out for coffee or invite anyone to come over to my house. It’s why I feel awful after watching a movie with beautiful, stick-thin actresses. It’s why I feel like a failure in every aspect of my life.
I believe that everyone else in the world is pretty and perfect while I’m pitiful and pathetic.
And that’s not healthy or even true.
We’re ALL really good liars.
And I’m so tired of being one.
If we’re going to have healthy relationships with others and with ourselves, we have to start telling the truth. Yes, the scary but necessary truth.
And if we’re going to have a healthy relationship with God, we have to start believing the truth about who HE says we are, too.
This is my new philosophy and it’s taken me many years to get here.
Here’s my truth for today: I’m far from feeling secure in who I am. But I so badly want to be. And I’m clawing at these lies as fast as I can, hoping to reach the point where I can look into the mirror and say, “this IS you.”
I don’t think I want to be that perfect, happy girl in my profile picture anymore. I want to be a real girl. An honest one. And even though I know you might be holding onto your own false images, I hope you can feel just a bit more comfortable being yourself after seeing the real, honest me. I want to invite you into realness, too.
Can we please, for (literally) the love of God, start telling the truth? You and I both, hand in hand. Just pushing those truths out there into the blinding public eye so the lies can leave us in peace to be our true, beautiful selves.
All it takes is just telling the truth. One scary but necessary truth at a time.
God speaks to me.
I get really nervous when I claim that around people, particularly those who are not as… umm… pentecostal?… but He does. Through the Holy Spirit, He communicates to me. And no, it’s not an audible voice. It’s just a voice that I know and recognize in my head.
And it sounds a lot like myself. Which also makes me nervous. Why would I think a voice in my head that sounds like MY voice could possibly be God speaking to me?
That’s where faith comes in, I suppose.
Now don’t get me wrong: I’ve had times where I thought I was hearing from Him and I clearly wasn’t. I was trying to predict things and declare things in my life that I had no business predicting. Lo and behold, those things didn’t come to pass. I sometimes accused Him during those times, as if He led me astray. But then I realized it was just me mishearing, me wanting answers so badly that I tried to answer them myself. And that was even more discouraging. If I can confuse my voice for His voice at times, then could it be that I’m confusing my voice for His voice ALL the time?
But I know I’m not. There have been times when He’s spoken so clearly to my heart. That voice in my head guides me into His love. Sometimes it guides me to love others and speak into people’s lives on things I would never think to speak of out of my own power and knowledge. I am given insight, prophetic words if you will.
I know not everyone believes in this kind of stuff, but it’s all real to me.
Let me tell you something, though. About a year after I began actively hearing God, I stopped listening. Something happened where I just didn’t know if I could trust that voice anymore. I was “hearing” things about my future and my family that ended up not being right, and that just threw me for a loop. Things had never been so wrong. I had never felt so wrong. Guess this was all just a lie, I told myself. And that time of freeing, reciprocated communication came to an end.
But a couple months ago, I began listening again. I stopped trying to put Him on mute. What a beautiful time of whispers and assurances and loving guidance this has been.
But the thoughts still linger: What if it’s not real? What if this is just me? What if I’m just really good at talking to myself?
I’m afraid of both losing my faith and finding my faith. I don’t want to put up a wall between God and I, but I also don’t want to be naive.
I’m at the point now where I’ve decided that whether I’m right or wrong or a little in-between, I like this relationship thing I have going on with Him. It’s a give-and-receive, hear-and-listen kind of relationship that’s changed my view of God and myself.
The doubt remains, but right now I’m taking baby steps, sitting before God in the mornings and letting Him speak words to me while I’m trying my hardest to soak them in.
I think He understands how hard this is. Surely He’s not blind to the obvious— He’s up there and we’re down here, and there’s A LOT of room for misinterpretation and questioning.
When I was praying about these doubts of mine a couple days ago, I was led to these verses in Psalm 139:
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand– when I awake, I am still with you (v. 17-18).
If King David was given a glimpse into the thoughts of God, then perhaps God really is revealing some of His thoughts to me, too. After all, I have the Holy Spirit. And I don’t think God has changed His mind on wanting to communicate with His children.
And you want to know what I think? David probably wrestled with some of the same things. I mean, the guy was a king and then he committed this sin and ended up being hated and then was chased out of his kingdom. There’s no way he was just a happy-go-lucky camper who believed a hundred percent of the time that God was always there and speaking to him. And I know this because all throughout his Psalms, we see things like:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer; by night, but I find no rest (Psalm 22:1-2).
He asks the same questions a lot of us do. He dealt with doubt just as we do. And I believe that asking those questions and dealing with doubt is okay.
If God is trying to communicate with me and I’m slow to listen or believe, I don’t think He’s going to sit up there in heaven, shaking his head in frustration.
No, I believe He would pursue further. As Jesus took Thomas’ hand and showed him his wounds, I believe He’ll show me what I need to see, as well. He doesn’t want to leave us in our small-mindedness or doubt.
Look, Jessie. I know you don’t want to believe these words. I know you don’t think it could be true that I would want to speak to you and spend time with you just as eagerly as you do with me. But I do. Look at these wounds in my side. Look at my scarred hand. Look what I did so we wouldn’t have to be apart! And this Holy Spirit that’s inside of you now isn’t some fictional mass in your body. It’s me. I want to be your friend, your counselor, your guide. You don’t have to find your way in the dark by yourself. You don’t have to silence the enemy’s lies on your own. I’m here. Look at me. Hear me calling you now.
I’m being careful, only allowing myself to believe so much and take in what I know to be absolutely true. My faith is growing again, though. And I’m again finding some of the joy and peace that I felt like I was missing during that year of silence.
God doesn’t deserve to be muted. Even my own voice doesn’t deserve to be muted. I was given this voice from the Creator, was I not? I need to listen to both, discerning what is true and good and holy.
And I definitely need to kick that stupid satan’s voice out, too. Which is a work in progress.
I’m forever going to hear voices in my head and I want to pursue the truth that those voices are communicating to me while dismantling the lies that try to come between God and I.
I’m still scared of being wrong, but if I’m right— well, what a beautiful thing.
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.