You are not the struggles you have faced.
At least, that’s what I’ve been trying to discover and teach my own heart. I am not the things I’ve seen, the things that have happened to me, the scars I wear. Trauma and loss and grief are such complex beasts that while I’ve experienced them, I am not going to even pretend to understand them. Our hearts weren’t made to be splayed open, but they sometimes are, and it’s our job to figure out how to carry our stories, bruises and breaks and all.
What I’ve learned is simple. No matter how many awkward conversations I’ve had, how many times I’ve had to share about myself with a new person, and I stumble around the conversation. No matter how many people may view me differently, no matter how differently I may view myself, the truth is this: I am more than all of that. I am more than the suffering, the grief, the pain. I am more than any circumstance. I am not defined by my struggle, though I am certainly shaped by it.
To free myself, I needed to learn that I am not those things.
I am not the pain I carry.
I am not the suffering I’ve endured.
I am not the shame that I feel sometimes at having a life that doesn’t fit neatly in the lines.
I am not bitterness, anger, or woundedness— those things I’m currently healing from.
I am not the girl who X, Y, or Z. (Fill in the blank with any experience.)
I am not the strength it has taken me to get here.
I am not the seconds, minutes, hours, days, or years I’ve endured pain.
I am not my mistakes, my failures, or my shortcomings.
[The list could keep going.]
Why am I sharing this? Why is there a need to? Because I’m not the only one who forgets there is a heart behind the scars. I’m not the only one who is navigating the muck to free my heart from all the layers. I’m not the only one.
Last week, I spoke at a retreat with others who also had a child die. Every time I show up to speak somewhere, it never fails— my own inadequacy always hits because hello— I am not someone who has special knowledge or who understands life or who really knows what she is doing. So I did the only thing I could do— I shared my heart and I asked them to share theirs. We talked about identity. We talked about healing. We talked about dreaming and growing and purpose in life.
It’s an awkward thing, navigating life when yours has been turned upside down, rediscovering who you are in the midst of it all, dreaming again and realizing that you have purpose even through the pain.
When we shared about our hoping and dreaming and wishing again, I was finally able to put into words this transformation that has happened in the midst of healing.
I am not defined by my struggles. (I have to remind myself of this sometimes daily.)
I am also not defined by my goals, my accomplishments, or any other fleeting thing.
My dream is this and the woman I want to be is this: a woman who, in whatever she does, is not marked by her scars, any bitterness or anger or pain, but who is marked by love, by grace, by deep, steady joy, no matter the circumstance.
I don’t want to know myself as my struggles. I don’t want others to know me as that either. I want them to know me and see a heart that loves deeply and purely, wherever it’s at, whatever it’s doing, in big ways and small.
I am not the struggles I have faced.
I am not a broken story.
I am marked by love, the love I’ve received from God, the love I have for the ones I hold so close, and the love that I want to wrap the world with.
And in that, I am being set free.
You are not the struggles you faced. You are more.
Who are you?