Monday, February 23, 2015

Freedom

This year marks our 10th year in Orlando, Florida!
One seminary degree, two houses and three children later, we are still here.  I don't think I've ever been in one place this long.  You would think that would be a reason to break out a library wine and celebrate.  But I truly love change.  I long for change.  I miss the freedom to come and go as I please.  I miss immersing myself in other cultures and ecosystems.  And honestly, I miss home.

Being in one place for a decade makes me feel...well...stuck. 





My family moved around a lot when a kid.  So, consequently I am really good at meets-and-greets.  I am good at maintaining many acquaintances, and I think at this season in my life there are many women I would enjoy the opportunity to have deep relationships with, but time for any of us does not afford much socializing.  I've realized that if you move away from "the friends of your youth," only time provides longevity among friends and, as a mom of three, time is limited.

The deep affect all this moving around had on me was completely lost on me until I recently uncovered my biggest obstacle as a result going to four different high schools.  The teen season is that fundamental season for establishing an identity separate from one's parents.  But I never had a place to land for a long enough time to establish who I was in relation to others.  What I learned, instead of who I WAS on the inside and how I related to the world, was what I was good at DOING.  Every high school and church I went to cast me as the soloist, the lead actress, the "special;"  the leader in youth group, choir, drama team, children's choir director, etc.

This sounds great except that as an adult, I became afraid to fail as a performer.  It's all I knew about myself.  The stakes were too high and I lost the freedom to succeed or fail.  When I did perform, I held back.  When I thought I'd fail, I didn't even show up to try.  Saying "no" to an opportunity, receiving criticism, or falling flat had the same result:  DEATH.  "No" was equated with "death."  I carried so much weight from a handful of past "failures" and decisions to turn down dream opportunities. My favorite acting coach used to say, "Jump off the cliff!  Have contempt for the results!"  The results were all I had, the cliff was too high. 

I found my 
ENTIRE IDENTITY 
in my success (or failure) as a performer.  

This disillusionment became a real life horror in the last decade while getting my husband through seminary, losing my singing voice, being pregnant and nursing for the better part of the decade and then home educating those offspring.  I lost the best performing years, career years, network, and the resources to pursue it all easily after that season ended.   No wonder I thought I was nobody, that I thought I didn't fit in anywhere and wasn't good at anything. I felt like no one knew the "true" me.  I was using the wrong measuring stick.

Once I realized that I was measuring myself against how successful I was in only ONE facet of my existence, I was so relieved!  At first, after this discovery, I thought, then who am I?  Am I just relegated to motherhood, to being a godly wife?  While it's a worthy calling, it felt short-sighted as an entire identity.  It felt unfair.

Then the epiphany:  the Lord reassured me that I am HIS.  My identity?  I am one in trillions of individuals He has created for His glory - one of trillions that He has actually inserted a piece of Himself into.  I am not divine, but rather a unique creation from His divine hand, designed to mirror a unique facet about Himself that no one else can because He put it only in me.

I can tell you, with great relief and joy, that the stakes of needing to be onstage or directing a production lowered after this realization to the extent that saying "no" was a walk in the park.  I didn't need to DO anything except BE that unique individual God created me to be.  It sounds so cliche, but, for me, it was freeing.  Whatever season I'm in, wife, motherhood, vocal pedagog, performer, educator, conductor....all the seasons in one day....what matters is my faithfulness to what He has given my creative hand to output at that moment in time.  It's not ONE facet that defines me.  It's journeying with Christ.  "My beloved is mine, and I am his," Song of Songs 2:16.  He is my beloved; I belong to Him and am created by Him to walk with Him, to co-create with Him, and to glorify Him by enjoying Him forever.

I am no longer instantly jealous of an individual doing what I'd like to be doing.  Consequently, I still feel the loss when I see a friend's Broadway tour or hear of a colleague accepting a position of prestige in the vocal pedagogy field.  The difference is I FEEL THE LOSS, grieve it, but I do not reside in resentment or jealously.  I can truly be happy for that person and maintain my confidence in my God-given giftings that HE will see fit to bring to light at the times He so desires.

I recently jumped off the cliff:  I was able to perform a full-length two-person stage production which I actually don't remember much about.  I jumped off the cliff and rode the wave, completely immersed in my character that even my closest friend commented that she didn't recognize me.  It's fun to play and finally, FINALLY, to have contempt for the results. S.D.G.

Psalm 139:13-16 (The Message)

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
    you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
    Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
    I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
    you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
    before I’d even lived one day.