I wasted so many hours striving after things that ultimately led to heartache. I spent so much time, effort, and energy on my desires, but thing after thing would fail. I wasn’t able to live a life full of joy. Instead, I was bogged down by seeking things that the I thought would bring happiness. And the truth is, what I wanted would bring me happiness--temporarily.
As an unapologetic optimist, I used to assume the best about people which made me an unfortunate judge of character. Sometimes I honestly couldn't identify fake friends from real ones. But the sarcastic words? The little insults? They were the hundred paper cuts that eventually made me bleed. I had to learn the hard way that not everyone likes Ashley. And some people never will.
I’ve always been good at being self-sufficient. If I had a problem, I’d find a way to fix it. If I were feeling sad, I would realize it was my responsibility to make sure I stopped feeling that way. Essentially, I’ve always had the logical sense to realize that nobody else could fix my problems; I knew I had to be responsible and take care of them myself. In many ways, I applied that to my relationship with God. He had good works prepared for me to do, so I’d better get my act together and get them done, right?
For as long as I can remember, my dream has been to become a wife and mother. In my mind, the ideal scenario was to start dating in late high school, get married fresh out of college, and start a family not long after. The only problem was that there was never a guy in the picture. I finished high school without dating anyone, so needless to say, things didn’t start out the way I had imagined.
I remember crying myself to sleep in high school because of a joke some boy I barely even knew had made about my weight. I was about seventeen at the time, but my struggle with the way I looked had begun much before that. I had always been a “normal-sized girl” growing up, until I hit puberty. That, plus all the junk food I consumed when I went away to boarding school, caused me to put on a lot of weight. It wasn’t until people began to notice that I realized what a large part of my identity was formed around the way I looked and even more so around the way that people saw me.
Wouldn’t it be more caring to pray for someone instead of worrying for them? I find the difference between worrying and putting my trust in God to be this: when I worry, I draw more into myself, allowing my fears and anxieties to spread. When I instead turn and give my worries over to God, I draw more into His peace and trust that He’s got me no matter what the situation may be. The crazy part is, God loves our families and friends way more than we ever could. God doesn’t want His children, you or me, to live in the fear of not knowing what the future will hold. But instead to have faith in knowing that He holds our future and will never leave us.
I have two siblings, and one statement I think I can fairly confidently make is that siblings are far too often compared and contrasted to each other. “Oh, they’re the funny one,” they say, or “They’re the shy one,” the list goes on and on.
Ever since I was a young girl, I dreamed of having a prestigious career. There has always been something in me that has desired to have the status of a successful career woman, a woman who has done something with her life. Intelligence and prestige had become so important in my life. Being a wife and mother didn’t really appeal to me all that much. Honestly, it was pride in my heart that told me that being a wife and mother wasn’t good enough. Sure, eventually I wanted to have kids. But in my mind, the end-all goal was to be successful and to make a name for myself.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been the “Good Girl.” The kind one. The honest one. The encouraging one. The happy one. The good one. I knew the right things to do and say: what my family wanted, what my friends wanted, even what I thought God wanted. I was polished on the outside, doing all the “right” things, but on the inside, I was selfish. I was angry. I felt inadequate. I was driven by performance and perfection.
Sometimes, saying we can’t overcome sin is an excuse to avoid the hard work of sanctification and enjoy living in it a little longer. But more often than not, laziness isn’t the problem. We are scared. Scared of what lurks in the dark corners of our heart. Scared that if we dig too deep we will discover something about ourselves that we don’t like. Scared of being vulnerable. Scared of being found out. Scared of the shame of our own shadows.