Last week, February 26, I turned twenty four.
I’m not sure if it’s the even number, but for the first time I actually finally feel like an adult. But as I look back on the past year, I realize that I did do a lot growing up on my twenty-third year.
It was painful, it was difficult, my heart was wrung many times over until it felt like not a drop of blood could make it beat again, but somehow I kept going. It was purely God’s grace, nothing more.
Here are some of the lessons I have started to learn:
PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION
I had a birthday eve ritual. It began when I started in college, when I was about 17 or 18. Every night, before my birthday, I would do some reflecting, which was really a personal guilt-trip session. I would review and reflect on the past year, and always end up chiding and scolding myself for not doing more, not being more, not being enough. I would guilt myself so badly, and then at the end of the “reflection,” I would console myself with the thought, “I can do better this year. I can accomplish more.”
But now I am learning to enjoy the journey and trust God in the seasons He puts me. I am learning to embrace who I am at this moment, knowing that He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it. I am learning that in this lifetime, I will never be perfect, and God loves me all the same.
Also, my need for a sense of accomplishment only brings frustration. But when I am making choices from a place of trusting in what Christ accomplished on my behalf, I feel more relief and peace.
I AM WORTHY. I AM IMPORTANT. I AM VALUABLE.
I’m not sure when I began to believe the lie that I was not worthy, but somehow, I did. People hurt me, I have been judged and compared, I didn’t measure up, I didn’t accomplish enough, and all these somehow pounded and cemented in my heart and mind this vicious, cruel lie. And so my default interpretation in most situations is that I am not worthy, or important.
Now I am learning to embrace and live out my Identity, and it is this: that I am someone of infinite worth, a precious child of the Ruler of the Heavens, formed intricately from the womb, whose paths have been determined before the hinges of the world were in place, and who God Himself went down to the depths for and who He loved to the skies. I will, only by the everlasting grace of God, live with this Truth moment by moment.
EMOTIONAL MATURITY MEANS ACKNOWLEDGING MY EMOTIONS
A few months ago, I had a rather deep conversation with a person about the way I handle emotions. It was a long conversation, and finally she said, “Based on what you’ve told me, and based from what I know about you, you seem to tend to shun big emotions, and find a way to get rid of them, or ‘fix it’.”
That stopped me… and brought an epiphany: it is true! I do tend to tamp down “negative” emotions, especially if they are so intense. I think I actually even fear huge, negative emotions, because they make me appear less pleasant, or vulnerable, or less confident, or all of the above… and I do not want to appear as anything BUT pleasant, strong, and confident.
And because I’ve been avoiding and ignoring these for so long, the result is that I have become embarrassingly inept at handling them. Now I am learning to help myself by identifying and acknowledging my emotions. Instead of emotionally reacting, I can give a reflective response.
When I woke up on the morning of the 26th last week, I was at peace. It was a wonderful day, celebrating with my IGSL* friends and community, but amid the serenades and surprises and picture-taking, I became aware of a feeling inside me. It was not an intense emotion; in fact, it was a quiet, tranquil feeling. But its presence was solid and it drew my attention…
I finally realized that this – this was contentment. And I realized that for the first time since I was in college, I did not commence my birthday with a guilt trip session.
For the first time, I think, I am beginning, finally, to see myself the way God sees me: someone He accepts, delights and loves.
My birthday wish is that I will keep learning and living these truths, resting in God’s undying love for me.
*I am currently studying at the International Graduate School of Leadership (IGSL).