Personal growth is exhausting. I’ve said that so often in 2021, it might as well be my life motto.
It feels like I’ve grown more in the past year alone than I have in the past decade. That’s saying a lot considering the emotional rollercoaster I’ve been on since 2011. I’ve been an adult for ten years now. I’ve been on a healing journey for ten years now. Ten years ago, I wrote a letter that started as a “Dear Future Husband” letter. (Sorry not sorry if the Meghan Trainer song is now in your head like it is mine.) Then, it turned into a love letter to myself and God. The past ten years, including a second letter five years ago, have been a journey of learning to love myself. I thought I was going to write another love letter for the tenth anniversary of the first. I was wrong. I’ve written so many posts about the past, I’ve decided to do something different this year.
I spend so much of my time focused on the past or worried about the future, I forget to be present in the moment. Because I forget to be present in the moment, I miss a lot of things when they’re happening. I either miss “the thing” because I overthink it until it’s too late or I don’t care anymore. Or I regret “the thing” because I don’t spend enough time thinking before I act or speak. Both times, I don’t give myself anywhere near enough grace. (Something that’s helped me with this is the two Shelby’s on my shoulder; Shelby R who reminds me I can do “the thing” and Shelby L who reminds me I don’t have to do “the thing.” Honestly, having best friends with the same first name is confusing, but hilariously convenient.)
A prime example is how I treat my bedtime and morning time routines. Both involve some form of devotional time, reading, and planning/tracking. When I miss a day, I tend to panic. I forget the “why” of doing it and focus far too much on the “when” of doing it. Devotional time, reading, and planning/tracking keep me happy and healthy. Instead of remembering that, I worry about doing it “right,” which is just ridiculous. There’s no right way to spend time with God or better myself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s all about the why. Why am I doing this? Because I love God and I love myself, or at least I want to love myself.
Part of loving myself is giving myself grace for the past. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says I am a new creation in Christ. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says love keeps no record of wrongs. If I am a new creation in Christ and love keeps no record of wrongs, then what else am I to do? I acknowledge the thing of the past, I repent if I need to, and then I let it go. (Oh, hey, Meghan, nice to hear from you again in the same post. #No #YouNeedtoLetItGo #AlsoElsa) When I let it go, I can move into a bigger, better, and healthier future.
I do have to be careful with the future too though. When I look toward the future, I often find myself worrying, overthinking, and planning too much. The Book of Proverbs speaks a lot about people planning for their futures, while God is the One in control. James 4:13-15 reminds us we don’t even know if we have a future. Matthew 6:25-34 and Luke 12:22-32 both talk about not worrying because God provides. (Side Note: Health and money tend to be what most people worry about most. How interesting is it the tax collector and the doctor are the ones to include this in their Gospels?)
Sure, planning is important. Proverbs 21:5 and Luke 14:28-33 do both talk about planning ahead and not being hasty. I think, it’s best to keep planning as more of a checkpoint than a focal point though. It’s like driving. Keeping your eyes a few cars ahead helps navigate potential problems. You still have to focus on what you’re doing though or there will be a problem.
When you think about it, all of life is like driving. We check the rearview mirror every so often, so we’ll remember where we’ve been. We keep an eye on the check-engine light and gas gauge, so we know when it’s time to stop, take a break, and fix any problems. We look ahead to see what’s coming and prepare for any detours or pitstops. We focus on our hands and feet so we stay the course. And sometimes we look out the windows to enjoy the view. We may even take those detours and pitstops so we can enjoy the view. Most important of all, we make sure the radio is working. Because what’s a drive worth if the radio’s not in tune? And what’s like worth if we’re not listening for God?
Few things put me in a better headspace than taking a scenic drive with the windows down and the radio on. In those moments, I’m not thinking about what has happened or what will happen. I’m taking in the entirety of the moment and singing at the top of my lungs. And I guess that’s what 2021 and 27 have taught me. To enjoy life’s moments, focus on the peace of God’s presence, and let my life sing to Him. Sure, I’m looking to the future and remembering the past, but I’m focusing on the now. And that, I’m learning is what life is all about. It’s letting go and holding loose. The past is no longer mine to hold. It’s done and gone. And as cliche, as it is, I don’t have to know what the future holds. I know Who holds the future.
Now, I’m wondering if that’s the key to knowing my identity. Maybe it’s about letting go but still checking the rearview mirror every once in a while. Maybe it’s about keeping an eye on what’s ahead of me but trusting God to navigate me in the right direction. Maybe it’s about focusing on what my hands and feet are doing, but mostly enjoying the moment I’m in now. Maybe it’s about following a route, but not freaking out over detours and roadwork and also allowing myself to take breaks and stop to enjoy the scenery.
To be honest, I don’t know who I am. When I was eight, I was happy and energetic. I was obsessed with Lizzie McGuire. I liked to ride my bike and skate. And I wrote songs about birds, cats, and dogs. Then, I was eleven and started to change who I was to please those around me. When I was eighteen, I started to learn who I’m not. I’m not the girl who cares what people think of me. I’m not the girl who’s broken, lonely, and full of self-loathing. I’m not the girl who can’t drive or walk. (I did fall on my knees Monday night. That was from wearing flip-flops in the rain though. Not a movement problem. Just a poor wardrobe decision. ha, ha.) I’m not mentally, emotionally, and financially unstable. I’m not opinionated, obnoxious, or obstinate. (Contrary to how I’ve allowed myself and others to see me. More on that at a later time; I’m still trying to navigate around it.) I’m not any of those or a hundred other things. I’m not quite sure I am right now, but I do know who I’m not. I’m not who I was (or thought I was) and I’m not who I will or might be. I am who I am and whoever that is, I can’t wait to meet her. I know getting to know her will be exhausting because personal growth is exhausting. I also know getting to know her will be worth it because personal growth is always worth it.