I had a chance to view Steve Jobs's 2005 commencement speech for Stanford on YouTube the other day, and he shared a specific bit of insight that I find helpful in recounting my story to you: "You can't connect the dots of your life going forward; you can only connect them looking backward."
Boy, do I know that to be true. Ten years ago, you would have found me operating at high-speed performance. I had graduated high school with top honors and such extracurriculars as co-running the school yearbook, leading worship in my high school youth group, discipling young girls at my church, and working four nights a week as a waitress. I had an active church and social life, a boyfriend, and what felt like a second part-time job applying for college scholarships. I made it to college, at which point I took 18 units a semester, got another part-time job that quickly ramped up to 30 hours per week, volunteered to tutor inner city kids in the afternoons, eventually got engaged, and was suddenly married by my junior year. Life was cooking, and I was handling it. Wasn't that what I had always done?
Because, really, when you take a girl who has learned the unpredictable nature of the world and you give her raw talent and eyes to see other people, what you get in return is someone who shields her most intimate self from the world, offers the strength that she has to others, and depends on every asset she has but her heart to make her strong. In other words, she bets her very existence and survival on her core competencies and her mind. But as I shared with a good friend recently, just because you're competent at something doesn't mean it's what you're meant to do. Sometimes it just means you did what you had to do to get by in life. That's what had happened with me.
The thing is, I didn't know that was what had happened. I thought my ability to succeed at everything I set my mind to doing was what made me good. I thought keeping myself free from depending on others was an asset to my character. I thought it held me up in other people's eyes, and even the eyes of God, since it made me someone other people and God didn't have to worry about too much. To be honest, there was a certain amount of pride to be found in that. But also a certain amount of sadness.
So then I read that infamous book I told you about. You know, the one that opened my eyes up to grace and how I didn't think Jesus had any real thing to do with me. The book not only helped me see I actually believed these things deep down but also that I had come to depend on the ultimate wrong thing: me. And somehow the idea got through to me that God had much more to offer me than that.
Within two years, this notion had gripped me. And slowly but surely, everything in my life came to a grinding halt. I just stopped doing. No more journaling. No more Bible reading. No more volunteering my time. No more going out of my way to connect with people in my life. I shrugged my shoulders at anything hard. I stopped trying to remember every minute detail of every single interaction or experience I had. (My memory is still recovering from this.) I experimented with curse words and wondered what it would be like to smoke. (Still haven't followed through on that last one!)
A lot of key people in my life didn't understand why I was doing this. I remember, in particular, one person fighting with me and saying, "This isn't the Christianne I know. The Christianne I know would toughen up and fight through this and go out there and do something! The Christianne I know was going to take on the world!" But I stood my ground. I knew this was unlike any action (or, I should say, inaction) I had taken in my life, but somehow I knew it was monumental. It was something I had to sit with, in order to let whatever was trying to happen, happen.
Somehow I knew that I was asking God to show me what it actually meant for Him to love me for who I was and not what I could do. I knew He said this was how He loved me, but I didn't know what it meant to experience or receive that kind of love in reality. All I knew how to do was to bolster myself up with more deeds and accolades, in order to make Him proud of me and send me off into the world "all grown up." I didn't know how to just be, and still be loved.
The irony is, in the same way He'd given me the gift of seeing and loving others, He was helping me through that time to learn how to be seen and loved myself. He was giving me back my heart, and now He's going to use me to help give other women back their hearts, too. Stay tuned for more.