This post is a part of a new series: Stories that Shaped Me.
You know Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride? Surely you do. Man, I hope you do. That Julia, goodness gracious, she's the cutest. But she's a tiny bit of a head case in Runaway Bride. The story goes that she's this woman who has been engaged three times, has left all her fiances at the altar, and is getting ready to try for the fourth time. Richard Gere comes along in all his sarcastic non-interested-in-Julia-ness and he starts to dissect what's going on with her character. Why does she do this? What's wrong with her? In honesty, it all comes down to eggs. Julia's character always like different eggs because she's always shifting what her fiancé wants her to be like. She's a chameleon and she feels trapped because she's never quite being who she's supposed to be.
There was a season where I was the Runaway Bride of women's ministries. If I was surrounded by working women, I wanted to work! If I was in a group of exercisers - let's exercise! All natural ladies? I'll make my own soap with the best of them. Charismatic? I'll raise my hands and let the prayer language fly. Theological and deep? Where's my Systematic Theology book? You get my point. It was bad news bears.
Until God turned the page. For me, He did that by letting me break and then slowly building me back up. I spent a few months pretty mentally unstable, crying a lot, talking to an amazing counselor and thinking a LOT. And I found that I wasn't sure how I liked my eggs either. I wasn't sure who God made me to be and how could I really be thankful for who God made me to be if I didn't know who that was? It took a lot of getting quiet and running and thinking and counseling to be comfortable with some of those facets of my identity. But slowly and surely, I started to see it. I'm Jess. I like schedules, bright colors, coffee, I'm massively introverted and still somehow ok in crowds, and I like runny eggs with peach salsa.
But then, we moved. And I encountered another community of women and I was faced with a choice. Maybe, a few choices. I could totally meld into one of them and adopt all their attributes or I could learn and grow from them, but stay who it was God made me to be.
It was on one of my first nights there that the Lord handed me a massive freedom pass and helped me to bypass another season of unsure-of-her-egg-choice-Jess. We were at a homeschool moms meet up, which should have been a huge clue to me, since I knew that our family wasn't called to homeschooling. The speaker was telling her story and it was inspiring and she was strong and they were all so blessed. She told of how she raised all her children and spent a few decades really sowing into them, all waiting for the day she could dance. All she wanted to do was take some dance classes - once a week or so - but she waited till they were grown to do it, so she could really give them her undivided attention.
The women around me had faces that were so rapt and interested and blessed, but I couldn't hide my confusion or discouragement. I don't think I said anything that night, but I went home and got in bed and cried some wet, hot, heaving tears. Those women weren't wrong about their passions, but their passions simply didn't fit me and I wasn't sure what to do with that.
I wanted to dance. Right then. Not 20 years later. Right then. With my kids or without. Maybe just once a week, maybe just privately in my room with my headphones on. I didn't feel like God was asking me to wait to dance - figuratively or literally. I felt like He was asking me to live my life with abandon and use my gifts in front of my kids, even when they were little, all while I raised them and loved them. And occasionally dance.
The Holy Spirit quietly put His foot down in my heart and He told me it was going to be ok. It was ok if I wasn't inspired by this one particular woman and it was ok if I didn't look like her. It was ok that I wanted to dance, that desire was from Him. He'd dance with me. He'd teach me the steps that would inspire my kids and not abandon them. And when I made the wrong steps and got off track with the beat, He'd correct me. But mostly, I felt like He reminded me where my eyes should be when I'm dancing in grace - completely and utterly on Him.
Because the dance is all about Him anyhow.
And that story has shaped me. Because I know that I am loved by a God who didn't make a mold of a woman and ask us all to squeeze into. And I'm called to a God that made the music and the moves, and He loves when I dance. And He isn't asking me to wait.