I started a new book. It’s actually a bible study spin off of a book. I bought it used, probably, more than 10 years ago. It has somebody else’s name written inside the cover: Emily Ayers. (Ironically, my maiden name and maybe why I purchased it at the time.)
I humored this author and actually began to jot down the answers she wanted in the actual book. Normally, I just think them in my head, scared a book with my name inside the cover will turn up in the hands of someone who is not me.
*Pauses to flip through and see if Emily left any answers behind.*
The author was digging for something in this specific line of questioning. I didn’t know what yet. But I was all in, texting my mom for help recalling who my 6th grade friends were. (A year I’ve apparently blocked out for some reason?—)
I was in a full fledged walk down memory lane, writing in answers like, “I don’t remember caring about looks in 5th grade but I do remember wanting to shave my legs so bad.” Or, “Best friend-wise I’m always the third wheel. Always have been.” In the margin, I scribbled my pairs of best friends’ names over the years.. adding in the words: weird coincidence? Or intentionally guarded?
Then onto boyfriends, crushes, asking me to spill it all open on the pages. And then there it was, what she had been fishing for. I was now dissecting my inner self narrative’s origins. “By the end of high school, what seed was growing in your heart and soul regarding beauty?”
I have such a horrendous self image now, I was frankly shocked to remember and realize it wasn’t always that way. I had a crush in 5th grade. At a sleepover we called him and he asked me to be his girlfriend (with my pair of best friends giggling on the land line). I had a crush in 6th grade. He liked me back, too.
My dad said I loved the catch and release. I’d come home and fill him in on my current love interest and he’d tell me, “You’ll stop liking him as soon as he likes you back.” Not in all cases, but in most of them, he had his boy crazy daughter pegged. I dated a lot of cute boys. As a single 20 something, the “a lot” part bothered me. The “a lot” part felt like I’d never find the one. The “a lot” part was an embarrassing waste of emotions. But for this line of questioning it was a weird and interesting tally of every time someone didn’t think I was an ugly unlovable troll. (Culminating with 100 million tallies for landing the greatest, hottest, hunk I’ve ever laid my eyes on.)
Elementary, middle, early high school.. my self narrative wasn’t my worst enemy that it is today. I mean, I knew I wasn’t a model, but I had abs, a tan and a killer personality. And unless I’m remembering incorrectly, I was pretty content with this.
All of this to say… Today, I was able to trace back the moment, the season, the one person who drilled a hole in my boat of security. This one person made me feel poor, ugly and second best.
As a mother to two daughters, I wanted to hulk out in a rage at this epiphany. How could she have so much influence on the course of my self worth? I can think of a lot of unchristian things I’d do to some teenage doofus derailing my daughters’ confidence to such a degree.
Immediately and metaphorically, I realized I wasn’t alone in the boat of memories anymore. I had been taking on water for years. But now, there were two teeny passengers I’ve been entrusted with who are creating their memory lanes right now. How do I protect them from future holes in boats?
Then I remembered another one of the author’s questions to me earlier, regarding gifts and passions and strengths. It got me thinking about our identities in Christ. It got me thinking about how God has crafted, specifically and uniquely, these precious little lives with the exact personalities and features and desires and talents they are growing into everyday. It got me thinking, that if I start now affirming their identity, as God defines it, maybe the stupid girl jabs of the world will bounce off as the insignificant remarks they really are?
Then it got me praying, “Dear God, let your voice be the absolute loudest truth in my daughters’ lives. And please Lord, let them hear it always.”
Then it got Him saying, “Dear Jen, I want these things for their Mommy, too.”
Then it got the boat filling up with water again.. but this time from all. the. tears.