The idea of an identity crisis is a dramatic, sometimes overused concept in my opinion. That is, until you experience it. When you go through having that shift in your understanding of who you are, what you are and how you are, it does in fact feel like a crisis. I’ve struggled to understand my identity in recent years as all my preconceived notions of who I was or what I should be have been shattered in one way or another. I quickly (relatively) accepted the idea that my identity is in Christ, but understanding just what that means has taken much, much longer.
I feel that through attending Captivating Heart in 2012 and in 2013 serving on the planning committee, I’ve been blessed with some of those answers. Do I have it all figured out yet? Of course not. But I feel that I’m being blessed with a better grasp on the concept of identity and who I want to be. In the coming weeks and months, I will write more about these revelations and share them with you in hopes to not only share my blessings, but to hopefully help others who are struggling with the same concepts.
Whodathunk: Feeling understood is a God-given emotion
Something I’m learning is that many of our human desires are not bad, at least not how I understood them before. The desire to be seen. The desire to be considered well, desirable. And the one I tend to feel the most, the desire to feel understood. I believe that God give us these needs as humans but where we go awry and they turn dangerous or simply unhealthy is that we tend to look only to fellow humans to fulfill those needs.
One of my biggest needs is to feel understood. I’m the type of person that if you understand me and still don’t like me, then that’s OK. But if you don’t understand me, I feel the need to communicate until you understand. I’ve felt like that was a wrong emotion, a wrong need because it usually led to negative things happening that took my attention away from God.
How washing my hands made me feel so completely understood
During a leadership retreat for the Captivating Heart planning committee in August, I learned that one of the committee members would be washing other member’s feet. As a point of explanation, this is a time-honored tradition that comes from Biblical times that is intended to honor, humble (in a good way…NOT shame) and unite both the washer and washee.
Although I understand the tradition and think it’s beautiful, I’ve always run from it. Without going into too much detail, I have serious problems with my feet. Problems that are so icky that I’ve even had doctors sit up and back away when they see it. Problems that no medicine so far can fix. I just keep my feet covered and don’t let people touch them if I can prevent it at all.
Honestly? If I had known we would be doing the feet washing thing I might have found some excuse to not attend the retreat. I’m so glad I didn’t. When we learned that the ceremony would take place, I was instantly fearful. I knew that I wasn’t going to cave and let my feet be washed, but I worried that it would be seen as prideful, rebellious and wrong. I know, worrying about what people might be thinking is self-defeating. Stick with me here!
As each person got their feet washed, I tried to take my attention off of it and focus on the prayerful mood throughout the room. People offered to help me get my shoes off, but I finally just said that I couldn’t have my feet washed because I think the problem with my feet might be communicable (which is the truth). I felt awkward and wanted to escape. I kept thinking, “I can’t even feel my feet, it wouldn’t feel good. I ‘walk’ with my hands, why can’t I just have those washed?!?” I didn’t want to suggest such a thing because it would be seen as a cop out.
Then the most amazing, heart warming, blessed event happened. Brenda, my dear friend who was doing the feet washing ceremony, approached me and said she didn’t want to offend me, but God kept telling her to offer to wash my hands. She acted like it might offend me or make me uncomfortable, but I nearly burst into tears. I couldn’t believe it. The exact desire of my heart was also conveyed to her and what happened next was such a blessing that it’s taken me more than a month to be able to write about it.
My tired, calloused and aching hands got lovingly washed in some really soft liquid. It felt like liquid velvet, only softer. My hands got massaged and I was treated as someone who was valuable and cherished, not someone who needed to be called out for my “bad attitude.” Tears streamed down my face as I felt so loved by my friends and our Heavenly Father. I felt honored, I felt humbled. My hands didn’t ache any more.
I felt understood. She understood that my needs were different. Through listening to God’s voice, she understood how to show me that I’m cherished, that I am loved.
Tears are streaming down my face just as I write this, even more than two months later.
Understanding the message
I have learned throughout this “Captivating experience” that writing exactly what I’m thinking and feeling in the moment helps me process everything and helps me not “white wash” it later. I have a notebook where I do this so that I can write by hand. It just means more to me that way. Here is what I wrote after the hand-washing experience.
Feeling understood is an OK emotion. Like all good things that God gives us, (the need to be understood) only becomes a problem when Satan gets a hold of it and turns it into an obsession.
God heals my heart when he gives someone a message that is also resonating in my heart.