for the Perpetually-Single Christ-Following Dudes in the World, Episode 4: Identity, Insecurity, and Context
"This time, I'm not going to mess this up."
Have you made this promise to yourself before? Be honest. Probably.
Have you succeeded in keeping that promise? Be honest. Nope.
It feels great, though, to make the pledge. It's like you're turning yourself into a knight in shining armor. It feels noble. You want to do your best and be your best for the wife you seek and for the God you serve, especially if you've messed it up... a lot. That's a very good thing.
No more timidity.
No more half-hearted decisions.
No more mistakes.
It's actually... um... pretty delusional, though. Don't get me wrong. The sentiment is great. Who doesn't want to do things better than they used to, especially in relationships? But we're human beings. We're going to mess things up. Let's just be real about that for a minute, or a thousand.
It's easy to get anything wrong. Trust me. Hindsight has a way of making a guy crumble. And that's not just under the weight of the heavy stuff. It's the little things that trip us up, too. Our shortcomings make us question what we're made of, what we're capable of, and even if what we're hoping for in someone is real, or attainable, or if any of that matters.
It does matter. Things get awkward. The whole process of getting to know someone and discovering if you're meant to be together can be complicated and confusing. It's really easy to let it undermine our identity, but it doesn't have to.
There aren't many places anymore that don't require identification for something anymore. Take a look at your driver's license. You'll see a photo of yourself, your name, your birth date, etc. It's all stuff that's unique to you, because you are unique. You know, not to sound like a cheesy greeting card. It's true. That's how God made you. Even with the similarities we all have. You are set apart. It's great, but it can feel pretty awkward.
Let me tell you what it's like for me when I'm trying to get to know a girl I'm interested in. I'm usually totally cool for the first little bit, but eventually things start to slide. The first thing to go is my ability to say words. Ironic, isn't it? The writer, the lyricist, loses his ability to speak in a straight line when confronted with a beautiful girl he thinks/hopes he's compatible with. It's like the simplest word escapes me, things start coming out backwards a few times. Oh, then there's the awkward silences. The blank page. The word-lover's arch-nemesis. How do I respond? What do I say next? How do I recover from that idiotic thing that just came out of my mouth?
Stuff like this goes straight to my head. I lose balance. I don't want to mess it up, but I do anyway. It's just how things go, but it doesn't really feel like it in the moment. It doesn't feel normal, expected, or like anyone else could possibly feel as awkward as I do. It can be embarrassing, and you can get stuck on the embarrassment, even if it isn't really a huge deal. Rather than having your sights set on the one you're with, your sights are reversed. You start to look into the mirror rather than into the eyes of the one you're trying to get to know. It can feel like it's undermining the person you are because you're afraid that all they'll see is your insecurity.
Listen to me: this will not break you. You're more than the sum of moments you've fumbled. Nothing else that's good in you has been cancelled out by the awkwardness you feel. Even if you don't handle things as well as you think you should, it doesn't have to kill the whole day. It doesn't mean you stop rolling with the punches.
Your insecurities don't define you because they didn't make you. They didn't weave your bones into being. They steal your breath, not supply it. No, your identity is wrapped up in something much greater. Your true identity is found in your creator. You are defined by the fact that God intentionally made you, and He made you well. You are defined by the fact that even when you sin and stumble, He still loves you. His love was so powerful that from the beginning He decided to send Jesus to die in your place, so that rather than sin separating us from our Father forever, we could be together. That love is greater than the love we often seek down here.
Doubtless, you've probably been told that your insecurities aren't a problem, that it's totally fine. Maybe you're even waiting for me to say it. Well, sorry, but... insecurity is a problem. Or at the very least it creates problems. We all have them, whether it's saying words to girls and hopefully not turning into either of the guys in the video above (disclaimer: this is not my idea of how to meet girls, but I digress). Matter of fact, that entire last section probably proved the point.
Believe it or not, though, there is one good thing about all of that. Insecurity shows us the parts of us that are weaker than others. Doesn't that just feel awful? Who wants to admit to their weaknesses? Who wants others to know that they can be knocked off their feet?
Let's up the ante. Does anyone even want to acknowledge their weaknesses to themselves?
I know I don't. I have a really hard time with that. We'd much rather look in the mirror at a flawless image. Otherwise, why look in the mirror?
Actually, this is exactly why. It's good to acknowledge our flaws. If we don't, they are left unchecked. If they are left unchecked, they get worse. So why not face the awkward? Why not just let yourself be uncomfortable? It's totally okay! You're not the only one! Maybe even the person across the table from you is just as insecure. Pretending your own insecurities aren't real are just going to make the dividing wall greater. Nothing will put you in the same boat more quickly than admitting you're in the same boat.
Things tend to get easier with time, too. The more time you spend with people, regardless of how the relationship is defined, the more natural it becomes. With exercise, what is weak becomes strong. With practice, what was once clumsy stumbling turns into a graceful dance.
... but that doesn't make every insecurity go away. People like to believe, and to convince each other, that a moment will come when it doesn't matter anymore. That's some low-grade bologna. Probably expired, too, being so old. Eww. Did I just say that? (See, I do say awkward, strange things, and yet I don't stop...)
At the end of the day, we're left trying to reconcile what's left in our hands.
In one, we have our identity. We have the promises of God. We are His sons. We are heirs with Christ to everlasting life, free from sin, free from pain...
In the other, we have our insecurities. We may not be of this world anymore, but we're certainly in it. The flesh is still working against us daily. Satan is still there to whisper his lies into our ears...
In one hand, we hold truth. In the other hand, we hold lies. The two things that could never be reconciled are the two things we're full of. We spend days and nights trying to force the two to coexist though their natures are completely inverse, warring at every moment.
To quote an episode of Doctor Who, "The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don't always soften the bad things, but vice-versa, the bad things don't necessarily spoil the good things and make them unimportant." Even though this quote is about outside experiences, it's just as applicable to the experiences we create for ourselves.
The fact is, we're going to stumble.
We're going to mess up.
We're going to notice, especially when it comes to the ones we're meant to spend our lives with.
And they're going to notice.
... And they're going to mess things up, too.
No one is exempt, not even the ones we think of most highly.
That doesn't mean your life is going to be completely comprised of bad moments. There will be good, too. And neither defines you. Jesus does.
While we're down here on earth, we will be at war. And those who seek the truth, whether it's ugly or awkward, whether the issue is politics or romance, will watch the truth pull at the loose threads of lies, unraveling them until our true identity is revealed. We will discover new freedom in the truth the longer we live, and when we are taken home to be with the Lord, we will finally be able to see ourselves without the world and our own flaws obstructing our view.
Right now, the truth is that we have both at the same time. We are gold. We are imperfect, but we are being refined... by an extremely awkward fire.
Limbs can be fragile, but they can also be strong. Step out on them, anyway. You can drown in the ocean, or you can step out on it, knowing that Jesus, the one who gives us our very meaning, is there, and He can turn it into solid ground.
What do you have to lose?