Before Evan & I got married, we took part in some pre-marital counseling with a pastor. It was an awesome experience (of what I can remember. These days, I hardly remember anything from the day before.), and I still think about the things we discussed back then. We took a personality assessment of sorts, and one of my favorite nuggets from it was my husband’s confidence rating. He literally was off the charts, confidence so high that the bar graph couldn’t hardly contain it. (I’m slightly exaggerating.) But, it was funny and true of the guy I married. He knows who he is, and he doesn’t have any shame. It’s a quality I admire so much in him, a confidence in his identity as a man, in his Creator, and in our marriage. When I’m unsure, I can rely on his assurance.
But, that was a little over four years ago. We were pretty naive back then, and a lot of life events throughout our marriage have changed us, mostly for the better. Evan is still certain of himself. I, however, have noticed that I struggle more than ever in knowing myself. In knowing my confidence. In knowing that the photos of me only four years ago really are of the same woman I am today. Well, actually, they aren’t. A lot of life has changed my soul.
I used to volunteer at a youth center before I had my boys. I spent my time loving a lot of middle and high school-aged kids, laughing, and investing my prayers into their lives. I still think about them often, praying their dreams have taken flight or that someone else is helping them find them. It’s what we do with younger generations: we pray over them & hope they find the greatest successes. As I’ve gotten older, I realized that I don’t pray as often for those I care for. People who are walking the same kind of roads we are as young, married parents don’t receive the same kind of cheers I used to give the young students I tried to minister to. I used to shout loudest, and now I only whisper little snippets of hope. And I miss it myself; the flow of encouragement and hope that comes with being even younger & hope-filled. I look at my fellow young mothers with young kids, young newlyweds, or married couples of a handful of years, and I feel like we’re all looking at each other with tired eyes, silently praying that one of us will be an ambassador for us. What comes next? You seem to be fine, are you actually fine? Don’t you think this is hard? Aren’t you pulling your hair out? Do you think I’m doing this right? Do you think I can do this? Things I don’t normally speak out loud, but things I’ve surely thought, wondered, doubted. She looks like she has this all together, but I feel like I surely don’t.
It’s hard not to look at everyone around us. I dapple in doubt when I do, wonder what things are really like behind closed doors, and I see my brothers and sisters in Jesus as my competitors. My confidence begins to reside in my establishments, my wisdom from life, and my uncertainty on my roads turns into serious roadblocks. I am not first to turn around and offer words of encouragement to those behind us, around us, among us. I don’t want to ignore the need we have for each other. And even as uncomfortable as vulnerability is, I actually do want to be seen. I want someone to remind me that Christ in me is enough. That my sisters who are walking the same kinds of roads as me don’t want to just stare blankly ahead, ignoring the conversation we could be having about how tough things can be, but how grace-filled and joyous the gospel remains. I want to look at the people around me and know we’re in this together. Not against each other.
I don’t always feel the confidence I used to. My wandering eyes want to see what everyone else is doing, how they’re coping, what makes them seem put together on Sunday mornings. I’m scared to be vulnerable because I’m scared others will say, “I don’t understand.” But reality is, most of us do understand, and we can understand if we bridge the gap between our silence and our fellowship. Christ in us is enough. Christ in me is enough. Christ in you is enough.
We change. But Jesus in us, the One greater than the one of the world, is enough. He is a fierce cheerleader, and I want to be that for others too. Behind me, around me, among me are some of the greatest sisters & brothers, if only I looked around instead of straight ahead. I need all of you too. My confidence is Jesus, yes, but my encouragement could be the, “You are doing so well, friend,” from the one striving with me.