By Carrie Roden
There is a lot of “new” in my life right now. My husband has a new job, we are in a new church, we live in a new house, my kids have new schools, and we are making new friends. New doctors, new dentists, new routines. And for whatever reason, I’ve done a lot of thinking lately about how I’m handling all this “new.” Because fundamentally, I’m a pretty introverted person, and sometimes new is unsettling to me. And the fact that each and every time I leave my house, I meet someone new and wind up sharing some part of our story. That would typically drain me, but I am finding that I am at peace with all the new in my life, and I’m even enjoying the process of making our life here.
I think there are probably a couple of reasons why that’s true, and one is the amazing support system that I have of both family and a half-a-dozen close friends who have truly lavished love on me and created such a safe place for me that I have come into all the “new” with the confidence that comes from having been loved so very well. I could write a book about my people. But the bottom line is I have done nothing to deserve them, and the only appropriate response to having them is gratitude – to both them and to my heavenly Father who gave them to me.
But the other reason I think I’m embracing all the “new” is that I am choosing to begin this chapter of our lives telling the truth about who I am. I’m attempting to reveal only the person that God created me to be. Not who someone expects me to be or wishes I was.
See, we left a place where people had known me for years, some since I was six years old. I often lived in response to other people’s expectations of me, some based on who I was as a young girl, some based on who they believed I should have grown into. Sometimes I tried to meet those expectations and sometimes I tried to explain why I couldn’t meet them. But either way, living in light of them often left me exhausted and lonely. How ironic to feel lonely in a place where people have known you all your life.
I knew that as we began a new chapter of our lives that this was something that needed to change. And I also knew that could be tricky because being a family in ministry often comes with a slew of unrealistic expectations. But one of the things that led Matt and I to believe that Grace Family Church was where God was calling us was the authenticity of the leadership.
From our first dinner with the Altmans and the Bonhams, we felt like we could be ourselves. We didn’t feel like we had to sugarcoat how difficult our past year had been or pretend that we hadn’t faced some very real doubts and struggles. We didn’t feel like we had to portray our marriage as perfect and act like we always finish each other’s sentences and laugh our way through every day. Because the truth is we love each other deeply, and yes, Matt definitely makes me laugh, but sometimes he also makes me crazy!
We didn’t have to pretend to have perfect kids. Because I know our children look precious in pictures, but the truth is revealed by taking one look at me on a Sunday morning: hair about three-quarters dry, mascara applied in the parking lot to eyes that have a distinct crazy look about them because I’ve just wrestled one distraught child into her “too tight” carseat, explained to another distraught child why she can’t bring 72 of her favorite princess dolls with us, half the time having just apologized for nearly traumatizing another over the ever elusive sock or shoe, and always hoping against hope that all of them actually used toothpaste when they brushed their teeth. Trust me, our children are far from perfect, and after getting to know us, no one wonders why!
So every day our not-so-perfect family is building new relationships trying our best to let our crazy show just a little bit at a time, and we are thankful to be in a place where we feel safe to do that. After months of “brand new” every day, here is what I’ve already learned: living in response to others expectations will leave you drained and lonely, and that is not how God created us to live. Here is what I’m still learning: knowing who God created you to be – who you are in Christ – and not being afraid to tell the truth about who you are is a process which isn’t easy, and, in fact, can be down right terrifying, but one that results in peace, and even joy.
“Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace.”
Galatians 2:20-21 The Message