Today’s post introduces you to our last and youngest BRAVE Writer, Jazmyne Tamar Johnson. Her maturity and depth of understanding of identity is inspiring to all. If you have a young adult in your life struggling with their self-hood, would you share this post with them.
Grow (grō) noun.
1. (of a living thing) undergo natural development by increasing in size and changing physically; progress to maturity.
If you were to look up the word “I” or “me” in the dictionary, I can assure you that it would not provide you with any written explanation granting insight to your true, individual identities. Life is not that simple. Like many others growing up in the generation often referred to as “lost,” I went through many of my childhood and adolescent years feeling hopeless; my destiny seemed to have already been decided for me, so “what was the point of even trying?” I began to seek after the scraps that had fallen off of, what I’d like to call “The Grand Scale of Life.” While life was intended to be a beautiful ballad of worship and thanksgiving, I found it to be intimidating and too full of change for me to ever “amount to anything more.” I felt as though I was on the short end of the receiving department, as far as life goes. I lacked confidence enough in myself to ever request or receive anything, especially my blessings! I began to feel as though I was not “enough” and that I would never become “enough” for others to appreciate me, as an individual. After all, I was already pre-destined to be a “lost” cause. What other words could I associate myself with, other than the ones that were so freely spat out of the mouths of the culture we live in? Everywhere I turned, I was being told to give up because I didn’t have what it took to BE. This internal struggle remained private. For most of my life, I didn’t feel “up to par” with ANYTHING. I felt as though I was the hiccup on God’s perfection and, surely, that was His primary reason for loving me.
I began to do things in the church to “earn” His love and grace. I’d make sure that I’d sing prettily, getting all of the words “right,” every note in the perfect tune and pitch. Make doubly sure that I had everything in order so that He wouldn’t be able to find anything wrong with my worship; make sure that He’d have to leave the church building in order to see my faults. I hadn’t gathered the concept that omnipotent means just that: EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE. This realization frightened me and made me desire to do and give more. I’d beg to go to every youth event of every night, because I felt as though the perfection of my peers would somehow transfer over to me and THEN I would deserve the love and grace that was so “freely” given. I sacrificed and cried and pleaded with The Lord to “make me perfect” in his eyes. As I had mentioned before, “Life is not that simple.” Years passed and I had buried this idea of “never being enough” into my identity. I concluded that because of this inefficiency, I didn’t need to try anymore. My mind was so desperate to find “answers” to my problems to the point where my mind was meek and vulnerable to any new ideals that came up. I had lost the drive and the will to live for myself and had settled for mere existence because it was “safer” that way. Ironically, in my attempt to make do with what little I felt that I had, I had managed to fall even farther away from where I wanted to be. Darkness became a concept that I had glamorized in order to cope with the fact that I was, truly, failing. I had fallen into a deep depression that I didn’t even realize I was in. I stopped attending church on Sunday, I stopped speaking to my friends from church, and I tried to hide myself from anything associated with holiness and The Truth, out of shame and fear that my secrets would be made known to everyone. I feared that everyone would know the real truth, and that real truth is that I was broken.
For years I, literally, hated myself until, alas! I had found the paradox in my faith. I desired to hide my imperfections from God, when God wanted to show me that He made me in His image and that my imperfections were on purpose for a purpose. It amplifies His love for me that I’m imperfect, in that, only then can unconditional love be truly understood. For what is the significance of love if it can be earned? I knew that God’s love and grace couldn’t be earned because it wasn’t deserved, but because of my shame, I tried to earn it anyway. NOTHING can be done in order for me to EVER be able to earn the grace and love of God. I now know this and accept it. I now am able to boast in my imperfections because of His love.
As children, we often experience soreness as we grow and are told that these are “growing pains.” I never understood the spiritual significance that the phrase held until after I experienced unconditional love from The Father in my most desperate time of need. It hurts when we grow, because we are being stretched out so that we may be able to reach places that we couldn’t before. If we never grew taller, we’d still have to stand on things in order to reach the kitchen cupboards for food and utensils. The same is the case in life. God calls us to grow so that we may be able to grab ahold of the tools that we need in order to be fed and have our needs met sufficiently. While, we still may need to call upon Him in order to know what to reach for, our growth grants us a sense of maturity.
With that being said, I’m still not perfect and I still struggle sometimes with the fear of that being made known to others. However, I choose to not dwell on what makes me imperfect but why I am imperfect. I am imperfect because God desires to use my imperfections to further attest to His love for me. He knows every flaw and imperfection better than I do and He still loves me through it. It is because of this that I can proudly say that I am His. Loved. Adored. Forgiven. & Brave.