Who am I?
Is this not the question that each of us, at our core, longs to have answered? We go to great lengths peeling back its layers, not making it far before observing that another layer, a sub-question to the main question, has emerged. Complexities arise with all the opportunities we have to define ourselves based on:
- What we do [behaviorally or occupationally]
- Our likes and dislikes
- What we do and don’t agree with
- Our skills and talents
All of these may truthfully point to who you are as a person and even aid in your self-discovery. I decided that the twenty-sixth year of my life was going to be my year of self-discovery. I wanted to know who I was uniquely as Joshalyn. I was putting my heart and hands to exciting internal and external happenings, and I wanted the Lord to reveal to me exactly who I was in the process. As it is with Christ, He responded to the invitation with plans to do immeasurably more than I asked or imagined (Eph. 3:20). As I look back on the year, I can say that in His wisdom and love He was calling me far beyond self-discovery into soul-discovery, because the self is confined to the boundaries of our time on earth, but the soul is who were are eternally–the part of us that lives forever.
During this time of soul-discovery, I grew more in admiration and love for myself, but not because of anything I could have done, created, or willed on my own. I grew in love for myself as Christ revealed more clearly His love for me. Apart from His love and grace that covers my wrongdoings [and wrong-thinkings, and wrong-sayings] I only became discouraged and frustrated by the fractured ways of my heart. I wasn’t most moved by any new uncovering of information about myself more than I was impacted by the greater depths I explored of God’s character.
I began the year reading the illustrated version of the classic, Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. The tale follows the story of Much-Afraid, a downcast cripple oppressed by the aimless life she lives surrounded by her family members in the Valley of Humiliation–who wouldn’t want out of a company of relatives named Bitterness, Resentment, Pride, and Self-Pity? What Much-Afraid desired most was to be beautiful and made perfect in love, and it was only the Good Shepherd who was able to take her on the journey of becoming so. Nervous but hopeful, Much-Afraid began the journey to the Kingdom of Love, but responded in bewilderment when she realized that her guides weren’t taking her up into the high places where the Kingdom was located, but down into lacking kinds of landscapes: the deserts and valleys. She is certain that this must be a misdirection–if the Shepherd was leading her to the high places, surely He wouldn’t have her going through places of lowliness. The Shepherd assured her that this was no contradiction: the low places is where she would be made ready, perfected, and fully equipped for the high places. This journey would be a journey of grace.
I’m not sure I realized the immeasurable extent of God’s grace in my own life until I needed it most. It was in the low places of my relationships, my influence, and my efforts where I realized what was once a threatening reality: my efforts were no longer enough to get me where I needed to go to accomplish what needed to be done. Now let’s get something clear: even my best efforts were never enough, but self-sufficiency has a way with convincing otherwise. Jesus came not only so I wouldn’t have to put in the effort of righting my wrongs, or even keeping up my rights, but also so I wouldn’t feel the need to—that my mind and heart wouldn’t even approach that place of striving. Receiving grace is understanding more fully Christ’s covering of sin. Not only does He cover it; He eradicates its effect. My role then becomes resting in Him and allowing Him to cover me. That’s what covers do; they invite you to rest.
At the climax of Much-Afraid’s journey to the Kingdom of Love, she finds herself where she never expected to be: giving her whole self as an offering, without the self-actualization of beauty and perfection in love. It was in that place of self-surrender where Much-Afraid offered herself without the conditional exchange of receiving what she’d requested at the beginning of her journey. All her lessons in the low places convinced her that it was far more worthwhile to pursue the Shepherd’s way than her own. She died to who she’d been and came forth a new creation with a new name: Grace and Glory. And so, in the unconventional way that she couldn’t even conjure up in her own head, Grace and Glory received all that she’d been promised, and so have I: grace for today, grace for tomorrow, grace for all my days of soul-discovery, and the promise of the Shepherd’s active presence every step of the way.
Grace-filled and Glorious,