Put down your Pen

Do you remember the day you held your first diary or journal in hand?  It was like a rite of passage into womanhood.  It wasn’t just about penning petty crushes or your life bucket list.  Sure, those moments of time were captured.   But it was more about your story.  The story of the life you wanted, the one you dreamed you would have, and how you would record the inspiration and insight along the way.  For me, it was about being vulnerable, and loving myself enough to acknowledge on paper the hopes and fears that were in my head and heart.  It was about making something new, when the past seemed blotted or the future, unknown.

 

Think about opening up a new moleskin journal.  The spine is stiff, the pages are blank and fresh, and the chapters are unwritten and mysterious.  You hold a pen in hand, and part of you wonders if the next chapter will be better than the last, less mundane and more extraordinary, with unknowns crystallized, or simply the fruition of “the best is yet to come.”  But part of you hesitates.  Why?  Because, like me, you know that maybe a part of your story isn’t as beautiful and perfect as you want it to be.  Or, it isn’t like your friends’ stories and you feel like an outlier.  Or, you feel stuck to the story you’re living – the one that has grown comfortable like shoes, but too easy to slip into every day.  Or, maybe you just don’t even know what you want your story to be or where you want it go; in fact, it feels safer to just stay where you are.  Quite frankly, maybe you’re so caught up in thinking that others’ stories have greater value and societal meaning than yours…so, you shrink back.  You feel behind, or simply not enough.

 

I think loving yourself well requires us to first re-define how we celebrate and own our stories.  Like my best friend said the other day, Champagne is needed to celebrate the small victories, not just the big monuments.  In fact, the Psalmist, David, praised God because he believed that He had already written his story, and instead of striving to write it himself, he could simply embrace it, and live it.  In the 139th Psalm, David says: “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it well.  My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made…intricately woven.  In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”   

 

Maybe we’ve gotten it wrong for too long and that’s why we hate on ourselves, and our stories.  We open the first page of our life, holding a pen, and not only place pressure on ourselves to write our story, but then crash in disappointment when the chapter doesn’t end the way we want it to, or when the chapter we want never seems to come.  For a long time, I think I have subconsciously believed that I was the author.  That I could fill the blank pages.  And that I could change the direction of a particular chapter or even my fellow characters.  At times, I’ve even believed that the ending I could write, that I’ve wanted to write, would be better than how God would pen it.

 

But, isn’t it true that sometimes the best things, people and opportunities that have come into our lives were the very ones we never expected or asked for?  I wonder how we can dedicate so much time curating our Instagram stories (and comparing our own to others) when we could be actually living out our stories – walking down the street with our eyes open to the possibility of a beautiful Interruption – a simple surprise in the day’s story of our lives.  Instead, we have become story-masters – moving from scene to scene, updating anyone and everyone, and hoping for as many people as possible to “like” and therefore affirm our story, when if we were truly honest with ourselves, we wonder deep down if we ourselves would hit “like” on our own story, too.

   

I believe that loving yourself well starts right here – acknowledging that pop culture and societal norms can’t curate the perfect story, and neither can we.  But when we let go of all expectation and intention, we are set free to embrace the story of our lives that God has already authored, and is perfecting right now, for us. 

 

Yet, freedom always comes with a price – the price of pride, our egos that cry, “Look at me!” Indeed, loving ourselves well means coming to a place, in the quiet, raw, unveiled solitude of our souls when we are rest with ourselves, because God is at rest with us too.  Not as we need or want to be, but as we are today – in the present moment.  Not needing or grasping for more, not calling for others to fulfill the desire for love and self-worth we hunger for, not even building our self-confidence and worth on what others have said of us in the past, or who the world thinks we have become.  Rather, this freedom is found in embracing the truth that by God’s grace, we are what we are, and His grace to us is not in vain.

 

When I moved to Kenya at the age of 24, I remember sitting on the plane reading “Out of Africa” by Isak Dinesan, and comparing myself to this incredible Nordic woman who in the 1950’s, was such an outlier to society as a single, Western female who chose to spend most of her life making such a deep impact on the African people. How could my year abroad be nearly as extraordinary as hers was?  Before I even had the chance to compare my story to hers, I read her words that directly stopped me in my own tracks:

 

“Pride is faith in the idea that God had, when he made us. A proud man (or woman) is conscious of the idea, and aspires to realize it. [She] does not strive towards a happiness, or comfort, which may be irrelevant to God’s idea of [her]. [Her] success is the idea of God, successfully carried through, and [she] is in love with [her] destiny.  People who have no pride are not aware of any idea of God in the making of them, and sometimes they make you doubt that there has ever been much of an idea…They have got to accept as success what others warrant to be so, and to take their happiness, and even their own selves, at the quotation of the day. They tremble, with reason, before their fate. Love the pride of God beyond all things.”

 

Friends, loving the pride of God is loving His pride for you.  Loving yourself well starts not with competitive pride that either lords over others’ stories, or with self-shame and pity limps in pain or disappointment over the story you have.  Loving yourself well starts with being conscious of God’s idea of you, accepting the happiness of God’s idea of your story, finding success IN that present moment, and carrying it through; in effect, falling in love with the pages that you are living in, and the chapters you are contributing to.  Ultimately, pride finds faith in God’s making of us – not as we wish we could have been, or others expect us to be, but in the very person we embody.

 

I don’t always love myself and my story well – in fact, I may shock you in saying that at times, I have hated my story, because I lived too many years placing pressure on myself to walk out a story similar to others.  But, steadily and with each passing year, I am learning to embrace it as it is, and await the beauty that will come in time.  I don’t need to occupy myself with things too wonderful for me, because I am shadowing the great Author, and know He has good things coming.

 

Are you in love with your story?  Are you leaning forward because you believe that on today’s page, and the next page, it’s going to be good?  Not just sort of good, or mirroring the good you see others have – but perfectly good for you.  No, not every scene is serene.  It is messy.  It is filled with tears, pain and loss.  It requires failure, acceptance, refinement, and faith to move ahead.  It shocks our system when the unexpected comes.  It ebbs and flows with other characters – some who stick around for life, some we only knew for a season, and some who maybe were only meant to make an appearance in a couple chapters.  It is raw and vulnerable. But your book is beautiful, because it’s the first, last, and only edition anyone will ever get to see.

 

Love yourself well, my friend.  Don’t just read the lines, skim the pages, or try to cross out the parts you wish you could forget forever.   Love your lines, and live them well.  Embody them, play your part that no one else can play, and focus on every word the Author has written for you, because you never know where the red herring is going to be.  If you peer too long at the book your neighbor is holding, you might just miss your best moment of all.

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