Thursday, July 25, 2024
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The Stranger

The Stranger
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Well, we all have a face that we hide away forever, and we take them out and show ourselves when everyone has gone –Billy Joel

I left the party, wondering what the heck had just happened.

Out of my mouth had flown the strangest, loudest and most obnoxious things I could think of, and I had absolutely no idea why I said any of them. It was as if someone else, some stranger, had gone to the party, masquerading as me.

I kicked myself all the way home, then spent a little more time when I should have been sleeping kicking myself some more. When I woke up the next morning, just for good measure, I beat myself up for awhile, then went back to kicking myself.

What made it worse was that this wasn’t the first time I’d found myself in that situation. Time and time again I found myself wishing for a do-over, for a chance to show the people I’d been with that that wasn’t the real me.

The real me was hiding, somewhere down underneath all that mess. The real me was scared to come out, though; the real me had gotten hurt before. The real me had been told I wasn’t good enough, and that I had to somehow compensate for my shortcomings by becoming someone else. The real me was ashamed.

And I didn’t know how to get to the real me.

Our brains are magical things; they will quickly adapt to injury or pain, making adjustments to protect us from further injury or pain. That’s what a coma is: It’s the brain blocking out all other stimuli so that it can heal.

They also adapt to protect us from emotional pain. When we have experienced emotional trauma of some kind, our brains will compensate for it, rerouting behaviors and feelings to protect us from further injury—in other words, creating walls to keep us from getting hurt.

I had a lot of walls.

I was an awkward kid; I actually owned purple polyester pants (don’t judge me; this was 1982). I experienced enough teasing about those things I saw as weaknesses that eventually, I began to be “somebody else” in situations where I felt insecure. Which was most of the time. I didn’t feel physically attractive, so I became the big personality, the funny one, the good-time girl. I became smarter, wittier, more sarcastic, more cutting—and then I wondered where all my real friends had gone.

I’d built so many walls around myself to keep you out that I didn’t realize I was keeping myself in at the same time. My friend Bob Hamp calls this “the container”: a thing we build that contains the real us, but doesn’t often let that person out. We’ve been convinced by our circumstances that it’s not safe to be me; I need to be someone else.

A friend posted something on Facebook the other day that got me thinking about this. She wondered why people sometimes seemed so “fake” and why they couldn’t be “real.” I wonder how many of us walk around with our “containers” out there for everyone to see, rather than who we really are. I wonder how many people, like me, find themselves doing and saying things they don’t understand, and really wish they could stop. How many people wake up every day, resolving to be fully who they are, and go to bed at night a stranger?

You were created to be you, not the result of your circumstances. The real you transcends your experiences, because He transcends your experiences. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and He is your protector; you don’t have to do it yourself.

Isn’t that a relief? He created you, knit you together in your mother’s womb, just the way He wanted you. But look: John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy.” From the very beginning of your life, the enemy has tried to wound you, to destroy you any way he can. If he can’t kill you physically, he’ll try to destroy you emotionally, convince you that you really are all those things your circumstances and experiences tell you you are. He’ll lie to you; he can’t help it. If he can get you to believe any or all of those lies, if he can get you to build your container, then he’s achieved his goal. All it takes for him to get what he wants is for you to agree with him.

After that particular party, I began to examine where those barriers came from. It turned out I was still carrying some wounds from childhood, and my brain still thought it had to protect me, hence the weird behavior.

So after I finished kicking myself, I went to the Lord. ‘Cause, you know, He knows the real me and likes me anyway, so I figured He might know what to do with this stuff.

And yeah, He did.

He took me back to some of those places where I’d been hurt; He showed me how, in those moments, I chose to believe something about myself that didn’t line up with how He sees me. He showed me the lies I’d agreed with, the ways in which I’d believed I had to protect myself. Then He showed me the reality of who I am, who He created me to be, and the walls started to come down. He showed me how the more I find myself in Him, the less I depend on others for my security. He showed me how safe He is. I’m finding myself walking in greater freedom—as myself. And I kinda like it.

The definition of true freedom is “the ability to respond to God fully as the man or woman you were created and redeemed to be.” What walls have you created to keep others out—or keep the real you in? We need the real you to please stand up; it’s the one He made, after all.

Prayer: Lord, please show me any areas where I’ve built walls around myself. Show me those places where I feel unsafe, insecure. Show me the lies I’ve believed, and tell me the truth. Help me to break out of my container, and show me who the real me really is. Thank You for making me just the way You wanted me. You make all things well, and I’m no exception!

*Article originally appeared on Destiny in Bloom. Used with permission.

About the author

Nancy Smith
Nancy is a happily married, faintly frazzled homeschool mom of three. She’s rarely seen outside the company of a cup of coffee and a good book, and will occasionally pull her nose out to cook dinner for the family. She’s recently discovered a passion for helping others find true freedom in Jesus, and in doing so, become all that they were created to be. Her favorite things are Alan, Lauren, Anna, Teddy, books, coffee, kids and friends. She’s blessed beyond measure, and having a blast following her Papa into her destiny.

About Nancy Smith

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