Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophecy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
I’ve been having trouble lately because I keep forgetting who I am. I can only seem to concentrate on the stuff that isn’t so pretty, like failure, less-than, the “nots,” the “never gonna happen”s. I can’t seem to shake that I just suck at everything and that I’ll never be good enough. It’s irritating because as a 29-year-old woman, I thought I was done with this. I spent a large portion of my life stifling myself because I thought I wasn’t good the way I was. And now I’m grown. I used to think like a child – because of this quality, I am unloveable. Love can’t conquer that. Then I grew up, and I thought I put the ways/thoughts/knowledge of childhood behind me. I thought I knew what was really going on back then, but I was wrong. When truth was revealed to me – that I was literally loved to death by the only One who really matters – I started to see the whole picture: who I am. Loved. Forgiven. Beautiful. Covered. Whole. New. Worthy. Pure.
This understanding – this face-to-face-ness, if you will – changed my entire world. Sure, I should always be changing and growing in who I am as Christ cleans me up, and as I start to look more like him. But there are qualities of me that are there on purpose, qualities that I always despised and hated about myself. Some of them were about my looks (hello, thunder thighs and frizzball hair!), but most of them were just me, like core parts of my personality. I just felt like I didn’t fit inside myself, like there was so much of me to go around that it would just explode out of me without control.
You see, I am a totally natural-born leader. I am very gifted in teaching. I LOVE being in front of a crowd – like I can literally talk in front of hundreds of people without the slightest fear, and I actually find talking one-on-one much more terrifying. I am so very good at being bossy. I make very quick and solid decisions. I like pro/con lists. I have a loud voice. I love to make people laugh or bring joy to them in some boisterous, silly way. I don’t like to listen. I don’t like to be alone. There are just truthful things about me. But even re-reading them, they come across wrong – they make me look like I think highly of myself, and that’s not a likable trait. I have just never been a very likable person. Most unlikable people don’t know that they are unlikable, but another one of my fabulous personality traits is discernment, so I have the unfortunate gift of being completely aware of how unlikeable I am to people.
I came to terms with this as I reached adulthood. I learned how to channel my bossy nature into servant leadership. I accepted that listening was super important, and I better learn how to do it. I started teaching and got some of that crazy bossy energy out by working with elementary-aged kids. I chose a life partner who compliments me in every way, who softens me and teaches me compassion and grace, someone who inspires me to both feel loved just how I am and feel challenged to continue making myself better. Together, these things helped me become a much more likable version of that unlikable girl I was for so long. I settled into myself in adulthood, and it was more comfortable.
Then my lifelong dream came true, and I started teaching high school choir. It’s the exact thing I have always wanted more than anything else. Things haven’t gone as well as I imagined. I could blame all kinds of things for it, but the most frustrating part is that I feel like the reputation that I built for myself of being an excellent musician and an excellent educator is getting tossed down the disposal (another one of my wonderful traits – I absolutely can’t stand to be bad at things). I’ve encountered so much hardship that I didn’t expect. I’ve been left out of things that I wish I could be included in. I regularly feel very small.
Interestingly, the flip side of this is incredible, immense joy. I absolutely love my students, even the ones who apparently don’t care for me. They have so much talent, and perhaps I feel like a failure because I wasn’t expecting them to set the bar so high. I feel very supported by my administration, which is a huge gift, since many music teachers never feel that way. I have been approved to do so many fun things already, even though our district’s budget is tight. I feel very small, but there’s so much hope. Plus it’s good for us to feel small – it helps us remember who we really are.
It’s funny how when things come in to clear vision, the ugly parts show, too. When I dreamed of being a choir director, I only could see the good hope – the meat-and-potatoes music, the students who could understand depth and critical thought, seeing the joy as they figure out that new skill that was out of reach before, the emotional and physical thrill of an amazing performance of a spectacular piece of music, the connection of esprit de corps – we are one team, and we all matter – I love it all. I’m surprised that I only saw in part, especially since I did teach in the public schools for 7 years before taking this position. I mean I should have known that it wouldn’t be peachy keen 24/7 in high school land.
I’ve been feeling split into a bunch of different directions because of all my mini identities. I need to be 100% mom, 100% choir director, 100% general music teacher, 100% musical director, 100% curriculum planner, 100% coworker, 100% researcher, 100% disciplinarian, 100% cook and house cleaner, 100% home flipper because hello we just moved and we still haven’t put the baseboards back on because they aren’t painted yet, 100% worship arts team member, 100% choir member, 100% professional development student, 100% better piano player, etc etc etc.
The truth is that I’m 100% Christ’s. Each of these little identities is just one part of the whole picture. The whole picture is that with these gifts, Christ has given me innumerable ways to honor Him with my life, to be with Him in it, to grow closer to Him in it. I keep taking it all on myself and then failing, but how would it change if I asked Him to join me in it? How can I be Christ to an angry parent? How can I be Christ while playing the piano? It seems a bit ridiculous, but bringing Him with me on these crazy adventures could add serious joy.
Someday I’m going to stand literally face to face with my Savior. It’s going to be cray. I can already feel it. I don’t know how I’ll react. But I do know that I will see the whole picture then, and now I can only see in part. I will fully know the deal, even as I am fully known.
I am fully known. God knows exactly who I am. He is more Mely-aware than I am by far. He knit every bit of me. He crazy-stupid-makes-no-sense loves every inch of me. He loves me more than I love my children. I just can’t fathom this. How can there possibly be stronger love than my love for those two? I can only see a part. But He does love me that much! He loves me fully. Because of this, I can turn around and love others fully. I can live a life that exemplifies this crazy-stupid-makes-no-sense love. His fingerprints are all over everything – doesn’t that just make it so beautiful? God’s calling for me isn’t necessarily any of these mini-identities, but it is for sure to point out His fingerprints in every person I encounter. If that’s all I do, I’ve done enough.
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them…We love because He first loved us.