“Mommy, watch my cartwheel. Did you see that one? Was it good? Did I do good? Look, I’ll do another one. Did you see that one? Was that one better?”
“Yes, sugar, they look great. They’re all great! You’re doing so good – getting better and better! Why don’t you go practice over there while I play with Jude?”
“But I want you to watch me!”
I was weary of complimenting. She was doing some lovely cartwheels, truly, but I’ve noticed with this particular child that she doesn’t want to do a thing unless someone is there to watch and acknowledge it. Cartwheels for the sake of cartwheels – this is not a thing that she can comprehend. You do cartwheels to perform, to impress, to awe.
I was recounting this story to my own mother – mostly in a, “She’s driving me crazy. She has GOT to learn to play on her own,” kind of way – when I realized that I am her. In every way. I have trained her to live and be this very way.
I am a performer – an affirmation needer. Writing for the sake of writing is not enough. It isn’t real unless someone reads it and it isn’t good unless someone says it is. Parenting isn’t rewarding unless I see results – and I’m not a good mother unless someone says that I am. I have given up on countless things because I was afraid that I was nearing a place where people were going to stop saying nice things about me and start letting me know about my insufficiencies in the area. Either that or no one was noticing me at all.
A thing isn’t real or valuable unless someone sees me do it.
This is deeply flawed, self-centered thinking. I don’t say that to be self-deprecating or harsh. I say it because healing lies just on the other side of acknowledging our brokenness – and in this particular area I am deeply, entirely broken.
I drift to the spotlight naturally – not always in a positive way. Sometimes I fling myself there, but for the most part I’m just an able-bodied volunteer. I can do a lot of things, and I’m not afraid to try. Is that true? Maybe I always fling myself there.
In sixth grade GAs, I became the designated pray-er. That was almost entirely because I was the only person in the class unafraid of praying aloud. But then the title just sort of stuck and in every class from then until I graduated, I held the title, and I liked it. I prayed sincerely and those prayers felt like they mattered – like they were important. But in my private prayers, I felt fearful to enter God’s presence. I felt like they weren’t even real or significant. And so a lot of my spiritual life became about what people saw. I didn’t tend so much to what they didn’t see.
At some point I realized that way of living wasn’t getting me anywhere in intimacy with God – and so I started talking real-talk with Him. And it was the most beautiful, glorious thing I could’ve done. I knew Him in a way I never had before. Because He saw me. I knew He saw me. And I knew He loved me – apart from anyone else. But then I started blogging and saying it all aloud. Every rotten piece of my journey, every struggle, everything God laid on my heart – I shared it all because it seemed like the best thing to do. At first it felt terrifying and therefore brave – but then it was like a drug. It was like – my thing – it became who I was – the girl who tells the truth about all of her hard stuff. And then I couldn’t stop and felt the overwhelming, compelling need to convey every moment I have with Jesus out loud for people to hear. It isn’t real unless someone sees it.
It’s been over a year since I wrote those words. It’s why I stayed a little quiet(er) here for a while. It’s why I’ve written and written and written in my journal, why I’ve read and learned and studied, but I’ve only really shared it all with God. Sometimes, particularly if you are a people-pleaser, it becomes important to remind yourself that looking to the King, bowing before Him, letting Him see every rotten piece of your heart while you sit quiet before Him – is where you will find your need to be seen quieted, where you’ll stop caring what other people think or see or know, where you’ll find rest.
What are you struggling with today? Is there any area of your life in which you need to do some wrestling, some reflecting, some drilling down?
If I drill down to the core my issue, it’s pride, always pride. I play Lauren Daigle’s Once and for All on repeat. I sing it loud and beg God for conviction, more conviction because, friends, conviction is for healing. It isn’t for shame or loneliness. If we can grow unafraid of conviction, if we can stand honest and true in the broad light of Jesus’ sacrificial love, we will walk into a boldness we have never known. We will walk into freedom.