Yesterday was Ely’s 60th infusion. SIXTY! I remember when we were waiting on pins and needles to be invited into the trial. That waiting period felt like forever. And then, like a snap of the fingers, 60. We are adjusting to our new treatment site along with everything else. Yesterday during our treatment, a new friend of ours stopped by to visit. She happens to work at the hospital so we get to see her fairly often on our infusion stays and it’s always a treat.
I had learned in previous conversations that she was a gymnast and so we got to talking about gymnastics again. I shared jokingly that I remember going to gymnastics as a really young girl only a handful of times. In one of my first few classes (it was a long time ago, so the memory is blurred), I was trying to hold my body weight up with my arms. I failed. Miserably. Our teacher, probably trying to be funny, called me “Spaghetti Arms”. And with that, gymnastics was over for me. Because I was now Spaghetti Arms. I have held that as an identity of myself to this day when I think about ‘Bekah and gymnastics’.
As I drove Ely home last night from our long day, that conversation came back to me. What I had always thought of as a silly little story, in that moment, struck me as prophetic. Because in that small interaction where I perceived myself to be criticized and not good enough, I ran away. There was no convincing me to go back to gymnastics after that. It carved such influence on me that I, Bekah, was not good enough. And when I think back through my growing years, I see that tendency played out over and over and over.
But then I also remember a few deeply influential characters in my life who saw potential and affirmed that in me. I think of my assistant coach of my competitive soccer team my sophomore year of high school. Coach Sammy was his name. For some reason, he chose to affirm, encourage and empower me. When Coach Sammy told me who I was, I rose to be that person because I believed him. I remember one particular game where I was warming up before we took the field. As I ran around the perimeter of the field to the opposite team’s goal, I pictured exactly how I was going to score on that goal and where I would shoot the ball. That day I scored not once, not twice, but three times into that goal. Coach Sammy was going to be late to the game, but when he got there, I ran over and told him what had happened. He beamed with pride and responded with, “That doesn’t surprise me one bit. You can do whatever you set your mind to.”
As I look back at all my different accomplishments and failures, I see my identity beaming with pride or taking a hit. I thought it normal, actually, to find my identity in what I did, what I accomplished, who I became. And as I grew older, got married, became a mom to two boys and then had part of that identity get severely stripped away from me, I got lost. It seemed that as I tried on each little identity, there was something that didn’t quite fit because I was now wearing grief and grief is kinda… lumpy. My identity clothing didn’t fall nicely over me like it used to. Soccer player. Student. Wife. Children’s Pastor. Mom. Happy person. Dependable friend. Always good for a smile. Straight and narrow. All those identities now felt lumpy.
This has been an interesting year for me. I have actually been doing a lot of soul searching and trying to understand who Bekah is. I didn’t expect to be in this soul-searching place in my mid-thirties. I guess I thought that’s what you spend your 20’s doing and then 30’s bring stability and confidence. Ha! But I know I’m not alone in this. I was just texting with a friend yesterday who shared the very same struggle and she is a 30-something too! Hmmm…
All through this life of mine, I’ve had this great insecurity of not being good enough. It translated as a fear of failure, one that caused me to take the safe road. To second guess myself and not put myself out there. To talk myself down to look like a failure before I actually was one so it didn’t surprise anyone, especially myself. It all came down to not believing that I, Bekah, was created as a beloved daughter of a King and that simply made me enough. So, my life has been full of overachieving and competitiveness and then on the flip side, stepping down from a challenge and choosing not to show my true colors for fear they would be ridiculed.
As we journey through our lives, we all pick up various identities along the way. For me, I was a soccer player, a student, a girlfriend, coffee lover. That changed to wife, children’s pastor, mom. Coffee lover remained. Then instead of growing into new identities, I felt identities taken from me. Career paths fell off as my need to stay home with my boys grew. I lost my oldest son, the boy who made me a mom, to a fatal disease. My identities shifted as I picked up griever, fighter, endurer, advocate. These were not identities I set out on life’s adventure to hold. Certainly not from this broken place, anyway. From a mountain top of success, sure! Bring it on… but in the valley of the shadow of death? Come on now.
But what this soul-searching has brought me to realize (and I have to give credit to Ted Dekker for this analogy) is that all of life is made up of building these sandcastles. My career, my relationships, my skill-sets and goals I set out to achieve – each one is its own unique sandcastle. And the thing with sandcastles is that they are temporary. Some are simple, some elaborate and detailed. Some we don’t spend much time on and some, we spend most of our lives building. We can choose to build them for the glory of God or for the glory of ourselves. And when the roaring waves come crashing up and over them, some we cheer to be taken down, others we fight to salvage, digging trenches to keep the water at bay. And some we grieve at the unstoppable loss as our sandcastles get swallowed up in the big wide blue. What Dekker shared (that I actually knew deep down but was transforming for me as I became awake to this) was that when those sandcastles get destroyed, the person who built them is not. Right? When you are on the beach, building your castle and the waves wash it away, you remain. This was an aha moment for me that I desperately needed to hear. When my identities get built up or washed away, the very core of me, of who I am and always will be, remains.
But who is that? (Cue inspiring piano music.)
I am a daughter of Yahweh, God- who created me because His glory and love was spilling out of Him so much so that He couldn’t hold it in. You and I are a result of His goodness, His love, His creativity, His wonder and mystery. We, without adding anything more, are purpose.
We are SOMEBODY because we are His. We are not these temporary sandcastles, these identities that get taken away by the shadows of this world. We are eternal. So, I am free to enter back in to this world, holding grief and whatever else feels heavy and ugly knowing that it isn’t me. It’s a sandcastle. And in the building of it, I see beauty that I previously would’ve called ugly and shunned it because I would’ve been afraid of how it defined me. Instead, I can see how those broken, ugly places woo me and teach me and bring me back round to who I really am.
His. Loved. Redeemed. Enough. Period.
(Check out the article I wrote for HomeFront Magazine for their January 2019 issue on Identity with this sandcastle analogy. There is an activity you can do with your kids to help get the conversation going with them on Whose they are and who they are! 😉)
Thanks for listening,