Me: Elaine, we have no pictures together. Let's take a picture.. have you ever done a selfie?
Elaine: A what!?
Me: A Selfie?
I pull out my phone and flip the camera so our faces show up on the screen. She sort of giggles and, with a smile, says, "wow" as I snap a picture of us.
My sweet friend Elaine is 40 years older than me, has no cellphone, doesn't use the internet and has never taken a selfie before. We are quite the unlikely pair, but I love how the Lord does that. I have met so many friends that I would never expect to get close to, but surprisingly have become my closest friends! Elaine is one of those friends. The other day, we took a walk and picked tomatoes in her garden as we shared stories about our lives. There were the funny stories and good memories, but we also shared about some of the hardest and darkest days of our lives. There wasn't one time that either of us had our guard up – we felt comfortable enough to be open and vulnerable with each other.
I haven't always felt comfortable being myself and sharing vulnerably, but I've found that there is something so freeing and humbling about it. I remember the first time I let my guard down. It was scary. It was the Lord I was talking to the first time I admitted I was broken, weak and desperate. I was too embarrassed to admit it to anyone else. Even though sharing my heart with the Lord didn't feel like a safe thing to do, I did it anyway out of pure desperation. I was on my knees in the bathroom when I poured my heart out. I thought it would be intimidating talking to the Big Man Upstairs – the Creator of the univers – but I didn’t feel the embarrassment I thought I would, nor did I feel shame or guilt. It was hard to know what I was feeling at the moment, but now I can only describe it as God's grace and love. It grabbed hold of me that day in the bathroom and it was as if the Lord himself was holding me in His arms saying, "You are deeply loved and fully accepted Kara, just as you are!"
I’ve always struggled with feeling like I don’t belong or that I just don't fit in. I’m not sure why that is. I’ve always had friends and a great family, but that lingering insecurity ate away at me for a long, long time. I couldn’t seem to shake it, but after that experience in the bathroom something changed in me. Not instantaneously, but over time. I began seeking the Lord after that, sharing my heart with Him regularly and learning His truth. That’s when I began realizing how toxic my thought patterns were. I was shocked at all the lies I was believing, such as, “You don’t belong. You aren’t worthy. You’ll never fit in. You aren’t good enough. You are ugly. No one likes you.You are alone in your struggles, etc.” So many lies, for so many years. That’s when I started to realize that the greatest battle we’ll ever fight in this life, will be between the ears.
I discovered that in the Lord’s strength, I was able to fight back and, to my surprise, WIN battles! (Ephesians 6:10-18) Every day, month by month, I experienced more and more freedom from the lies. I didn’t realize that it was my toxic mind and thoughts that were telling me who I was. My thought patterns controlled every decision I made and essentially held me captive for so many years.
As I began to learn who I was in Christ (who the Lord made me to be, not what my toxic thoughts were telling me), the more freedom I would experience. There is something truly miraculous that happens in the mind and soul when you discover who you were made to be. It was only when I discovered that, that I was comfortable enough to be vulnerable and to be my true self with others. As I began living free, I started finding true and authentic friendships. I cherish those friendships so much – the people who I can be my true self with, yet they don't hightail it the other way. They see the weird anxiousness I exude at times, a mind that often overthinks, my tendency to talk too much or crack jokes that are only funny to me… yikes… they know my struggles and see my weaknesses, but they still love me. I’m grateful to have those people in my life.
The Lord, He is a friend like that. He wants to set us free! (John 8:31-32) If you don’t know how truly loved and fully accepted you are by the Lord (just as you are), that’s a good place to start! I pray that you discover that, because me telling you that isn’t going to be enough. Seek the Lord with all your heart! (Jeremiah 29:13) There's nothing better than feeling the freedom of the weight being lifted and the chains breaking!