To the Lovely Center

I’ve always been very aware that I am a lot. Just – a lot of person for people to handle. I remember feeling aware of this at a very young age when I reacted strongly to something – not even negatively – just strongly, and people would look at me like they had no idea what they were supposed to do in response to my reaction. Or adults would say things through raised eyebrows like, “Wow! That’s something. You really feel strongly about that, huh?”

Too loud.

Too expressive.

Too silly.

Too smart.

Too chatty.

Too eager.

Too friendly.

Too much.

So, I very quickly began learning how to temper my too much-ness.

A little less loud.

A little less emotive.

A little less goofy.

A little less smart.

A little less wordy.

A little less enthusiastic.

A little less outgoing.

A little less.

I can remember specific instances and exchanges with people throughout my childhood – all the way up through early high school – when another person drew attention to how my overflowing passion was just – too much. And how I very quickly turned the inward dial down on myself.

In a lot of ways, by the time I reached high school, I’d learned to fly under the radar. I had lessened myself enough that I mostly just skated by unnoticed. I learned to live constantly aware of how others reacted. I became an expert at reading people. I never made a decision without checking the faces of those around me to be sure it’s what would make me the least significant part of an issue.

As I moved through college and into adulthood, I began making tiny steps back toward myself. My very passionate, very creative self. And gosh it felt good. It feels good. But I know there are still a great many things to muddle through, because the moment a person expresses their distaste for my passion or the way I express it or fails to think the things I dream of and desire or real and true, I feel beaten. Fully and completely beaten to lifelessness – I want to run back to the smaller version of myself.

And it’s very likely that others didn’t see this – don’t see this. Some people might say that they surely can’t tell I tone anything down. Others might say that they think I am a pretty confident person. And still others – the really sweet ones who think that they are above saying hard things out loud in front of people – might say that I’m just being dramatic.

Here’s the deal – I’m not telling you all this to make you feel sorry for me – or even annoyed by me! We all have junk. We might be really good at hiding it or coping with it or stepping over it, even, but I am willing to bet that everyone who reads this knows what it is to feel the pressure to be less of themselves for the sake of fitting better.

I see it happening in my seven year old and I want to scream. I beg God to show me how to guide her to freedom, to more of who she is in Him – not less. So that when she’s 33, she cares only what He thinks about her. So she doesn’t have to weed through the mess to get to the lovely center of who she really is. Because our God is a God of more, not less. Don’t hear me say, “Yeah! Pile on the sinful, harmful habits and call them personality traits so you can be free!” That’s lunacy. I am also not saying that we get to embrace ourselves at the expense of others. This is where this whole thing gets very tricky – and this is where we have to opportunity to do the most important thing of all.

Point to Jesus. Talk to Him. Talk about Him. Enjoy Him. Obey Him.

The reality is – all that insecurity is a direct result of thinking about our own selves far too much. How different things could be between the lot of us if we thought more about God, wondered at His glory, and wept over His grace instead of looking at ourselves and at one another. I might come off as a little much for the rest of the world – but not for Jesus – I don’t come on too strong for Him. You aren’t too much or not enough of anything for Him either. And I hope – lawsy I hope – that I am learning to celebrate others who are themselves – no matter how difficult or different or boring or exhausting they may be in relation to my personality. I hope that I am becoming a better see-er of and cheer-er for the one who says, “Whatever. I’m just me – and I want to know God better and more. Want to be friends?”

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