I’m standing in a small circle of 3rd grade girlfriends. We are laughing and talking (probably about boys). I can still remember the incredible feeling of belonging. I glance down at our feet and suddenly something inside of me freezes. I realize with clarity that I don’t really belong. It’s obvious. There are four pairs of shoes that are cute, girly and relatively clean. Then there are my shoes…cast-offs given to the ‘poor family.’ I can still feel the sense of sadness, shame and aloneness that gripped me.
I wonder sometimes if that’s why I have 30 pair of shoes today (I just went into my closet and counted). Granted, most of them are quite casual but I have options no matter what I’m wearing. To be honest, I don’t think about shoes all the time now…though I used to… too much. Why? Because somehow my identity got mixed in with my shoes. I never wanted to have the worst shoes in the circle again (though I don’t think I consciously saw the connection until later in life). Several years ago, for my birthday, my husband bought me a small pair of red ceramic MaryJane’s…the epitome of little girl shoes. He knew my story and wanted to re-frame it. What an incredibly loving thing to do.
I’m certain there are other experiences that have shaped my identity…most of which I’m not fully aware. But one thing is certain: I do not have to live in a broken identity shaped by my past. Neither poverty, alcoholism, abuse or any of the tentacles of childhood need define me any longer. I choose to establish who I can be…who I am. It doesn’t come without work — often with the help of others — but it is well worth the investment of time, tears and effort. I am what I am and that’s all that I am (better than Popeye the Sailor Man…).
I am no longer the sum total of my most broken parts. I am not perfect (far, far from it), nor am I the victim of my circumstances. I am in the process of becoming more whole and free than ever before (who knew it would take so darned long!). Again, it is worth the time and effort.
If you are person of faith you are promised a new identity. I am a child of God, adopted by a perfect, loving Father who has given me his name, identity and legacy. I have a future that is perfectly aligned with who God is and how he works. That is my place of peace and hope.
Even if you are not a person of faith, don’t remain stuck in the messages from your past that tell you, you are not enough, you are too broken for hope. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and who think you are fabulous…even though you are a bit odd. That’s okay. In fact, that’s great!
Eph 2:10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Jeremiah 31:3 Long ago the Lord said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.
Isaiah 43:1 But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.
1 John 3:1 See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!… .