It struck home, hard, because that's exactly what's been on my mind these past few days. I read a challenge to grab a book off the shelf, one that had been sitting awhile, and pulled out "The Gift of Being Yourself" by David Benner. It sounds a bit psycho-babble but the author is solid, and the writing was meat for a hungry soul. It helped, too, that it was less than one inch thick. Read through it in a week, and left it weighing a bit more for the ink I left on the pages.
The author points out that 'identity is a challenge only for humans." Monkeys, turtles, lions, birds, etc. don't worry a whit over it. Cats definitely don't.
So here's the gist of what he had to say (not that you should skip the read, it was wonderful).
God already knows me, every single thing about me. And loves me anyway. And because of. All of it, every single thing that makes me me. Completely unconditional - I have nothing to do with it. Can't improve on it, can't diminish it.
There are parts of 'me' that I'd rather exclude. The author encourages me instead to own up to them. They are there, and probably only slightly hidden to those around me anyway. If God loves me, including all the parts, even the ones I'm in denial about, surely I can do the same? 'The self God is crazy about is not my prettied-up pretend self, but my actual self - the real me.'
So instead of spending my time and energy on trying to appear however I might think anyone would want me to be, to fit in, to be included, accepted, how about just be me, the real one?
I find myself thinking back to years - long ago - trying to fit in with the other girls at school. And not being successful. So that even the 'prettied-up me' wasn't good enough, and the cycle begins of trying a bit harder, studying, trying to figure out what it was they wanted.
Mercy, what a lot of energy wasted. What silliness. Why would any of us try to be someone who attracted people who wouldn't really enjoy our company if they knew the real us?!
Bottom line - I am a deeply loved sinner. A bit of a mess, complex and simple and tender and hot tempered and too sensitive and not compassionate enough. Organized and messy. Good starter, poor finisher. Loving discipline in others, not very much myself. Artsy and bookish, but always regretting my lack of formal education, maybe not boastful with words, but God knows the heart. Judgmental, wounded when I feel judged, quick to find error, blind to seeing my own mistakes and faults. That's the 'real me'.
Our first cat, Miss Kitty, doesn't have a politically correct bone in her body. From the start she preferred my husband, barely tolerated me and makes it obvious, on a daily basis, that her opinion hasn't changed. She's not wasting one of her days trying to impress me, or kid me, give me a wrong impression, suck up to me so I won't start buying her generic cat food. She's quite comfortable in her finicky skin.
If I was a cat I don't know that I'd want to have Miss Kitty's personality, demeanor, but I do envy her consistency - on a daily basis she's very content to just be herself and you can take her or leave her. All that really matters to her is that my husband, the owner she claimed, is crazy about her just as she is.
Image? Turns out it doesn't really matter much, at least not the kind the world is worried about. What does matter is that I am made in the image of God, the creator of the heavens and earth, and that is everything. Indeed.