For my entire life, I have been trying to prove myself. It's true. As the only daughter of 4, I had three younger brothers to prove myself to: I wanted to participate in as many (or more) sports as them; I wanted to run faster than them; I wanted to do whatever I needed to do to help them.
As I grew older, this leaked itself into other areas of my life. When I felt like I was lacking in something, I attempted to make up for it the best I could. Someone called me flakey, I attempted to be the most reliable person ever. Someone called me weak, I worked out until I could do what they expected of me. Of course, for most of my life it was not this black and white. Surely none of us "provers" would try to do so if we knew that's what we were trying to do. That pesky subconscious of ours can fool us into being whatever people expect of us, especially if they tend to doubt we can do anything in the first place.
As a believer, I have noticed that this is one of those things that I do not put up toward my faith. It is hidden, no one else really knows that's what's going on with me, and I prefer to keep that weird and kind of ugly part away from my spirituality. That all came tumbling down, though, about a year ago.
For those of you who have been following along, I had a heat stroke last summer in Haiti. It was something totally unexpected (as I am, in fact, a girl from an even HOTTER climate than Haiti). It was something that caused me to give up anything that I thought I could control. Though I had not handed the part of "proving myself" over in my faith, it was about to take it from me anyway.
When I got back to the USA in July, I figured a few little blood tests would help show me what was wrong and that I could make it back by September. Quickly, I realized that since I had not really been to the doctor in a while, that this could become complicated. I was tested for RA, Lupus, and other auto-immune disorders that doctors were sure I had. After months of shooting in the dark, we discovered that I had an inflamed gallbladder that had likely dehydrated me and caused the heatstroke. By the time I got it out in January, it was literally visible from outside of my body. After that, it was a L-O-N-G recovery after a L-O-N-G diagnosis. I had become the most sedentary I'd been in years and I felt so disconnected from the world around me.
It was the first time that I was truly so unable to do many of the things I'd always done. I was sick as a child (out of school for nearly a year), and this still was more depressing in many ways than that. I felt like all the things people had said to me over the years were true: "You can't make a sustainable life like this;" "You guys are doing too much"... the list goes on. It felt like a hit to my pride, and I felt incapable of proving these comments wrong. Because, well, it seemed like they were right. I can't be alone in this- don't you hate it when people are right?
I did hate it and it was hard. But, I realized a few connections that my faith and actions have that I'd previously ignored. While I like to subtly live out my faith, it does feel important to say this: I really am into Jesus. I believe that He is God, and I am in awe of how crazy it's been following Him so far. One of the verses that I honestly was never really a fan of is found in 2 Corinthians 4. It talks about treasures in little clay jars. I am specifically talking about this little chunk:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you(7-12).
Look, this verse has hit me like a ton of bricks this year. I am finally, only now, starting to feel comfortable writing about it because...hey, pride. This is what I have learned this year, though: The transformation that pain and shortcoming achieve is nothing to overlook or be ashamed of. While the entire universe is somehow into being "real" and "authentic," it is still not into being vulnerable. To me, there are some major differences. I realized by not sharing my pain or my life with people, that I was technically being "authentic" but not being very vulnerable. Vulnerability is what changes us. It is, in my opinion, what lies in these little jars of clay.
We are so fragile and delicate, thinking we can do anything we'd like to do. When people tell us something can't be done, we push back that much harder. Believe me, it's really fun to prove people wrong. What isn't fun is learning that no matter what we do, we will never be able to be invincible and able to do literally anything we want to do. We have to learn who we are and the purposes behind our striving. We have to look into ourselves, into our deep wounds and battle scars and own who we are. We have to be vulnerable with ourselves and with Christ.
While this blog was started to post mostly about what Haiti has taught me in a more obvious way, this is one of the more subtle and gentle things God has used Haiti to teach me. There is something about being stripped away from everything that makes us remember who we really are- these little jars of clay. I remember how nervous I was when I had my heat stroke (hey, no it's not the same as being overheated). I remember the moments following, when Ryan and my Haitian friends gathered around me to help me cool down and relax. There was nothing I could do but be vulnerable- open to these people who are my friends, open to God whom I believed in and trusted.
This last month or so in Haiti, I was able to see the ending of camp. For many, this was a normal thing for a person involved in ministry to do. Make sure the job is finished well. Last year, I was not able to be there. I missed it all. I felt disconnected in my own strength and couldn't pull it together to be there. I tried, whew did I try. I just couldn't do it. And this is when I discovered that the power does belong to God and not to me. When people look at us and laugh that we are able to do all of this in Haiti I don't feel the need to prove myself anymore. Because, I do know that the power belongs to God. I don't feel sorry for myself when people don't get it. It has made my faith deeper instead of wider. I don't know a lot, but I do know this: God is real and He loves Haiti more than I could. He loves me more than any amount of "self-care" could teach me. He loves the poor more than I think I do. So, while I do not know what God thinks about yoga pants or social issues people love to fight about, I do know that He is for us.
He is for us even though we are little jars of delicate clay. He does love us and forges us through the fire of difficult times and extreme pruning. He does care for us and use our stories to teach us deep and meaningful things about His character and ours. He loves me enough to use a little island place like Haiti to show me how deeply I need Him. I am ready to stop proving myself, and I am even kind of ok with being a little jar of clay.