“God, I want to see myself as you see me. I am tired of feeling worthless.” This is a prayer of desperation that we have all prayed. We question our worth, and we cry out for solace. I remember one particular evening in middle school--insecure, lost, searching--I prayed this prayer.
I knelt there, expecting some sort of out of body experience. I wanted to suddenly see myself in an entirely new light. I wanted my flaws to fade. I wanted the virtues that I had been trying so desperately to cultivate to be all that I could see. Wasn’t I fearfully and wonderfully made? I was His daughter; surely the Lord wanted to convince me of my beauty.
I did not, however, receive this immediate consolation, so I assured myself that God loved me and went back to the less theoretical worries of my middle school self.
As life went on, doubts of my worth continued to plague me. I kept telling myself that I was fearfully and wonderfully made, but that truth remained a vague concept--a reassuring phrase at best. It was not the convicting reality that defined my existence.
As my insecurity persisted, I descended into the rat race of proving my worth. In eighth grade, something changed. I started to gain confidence, but it was not because I understood my identity in Christ. I became one of the top students in my class. I started swimming on the varsity team at my high school. I was voted onto the leadership board for student government. I became a leader in my youth group. I suddenly began to receive a lot of praise for my accomplishments.
At first, it simply felt nice to be recognized. I appreciated the praise that I received for acing a test. I liked hearing my name on the school announcements after a swim meet. I was proud to be voted onto the board for student government. I enjoyed being recognized as a leader in my youth group.
But very quickly, that recognition slipped from helpful encouragement to something that was vital to my survival. Success had become core to my identity. Rather than just appreciating the compliments that I received, I needed to ace every test; I needed to be voted onto the board for student government; I needed to hear my name on the school announcements after a swim meet; Ineeded to be recognized as a leader in my youth group. If not, I had failed. What was I if not successful?
Throughout high school, I lived in this constant fear of failure--my identity quavering at the slightest mishap. I was terrified of anyone seeing my brokenness. I was caught in the trap of perfectionism. So much of my energy went into stabilizing my outward appearance, I didn’t have time to internalize the truth of my identity in Christ.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14
I did not know this full well. The perfectionism that ruled my external life had seeped into my spiritual life. Not only did I have to live up to a standard of perfection in school, sports, and leadership, but also in my walk with Christ. I believed that the truth of Psalm 139 was contingent onmy efforts. I had to pray every day; I had to master the joy of the Lord; I had to perfect every Christian virtue. If I could manage all this, then my identity was in the Lord.
Fast forward five years from when I first prayed, “God, I want to see myself as you see me. I am tired of feeling worthless.” It was the summer after I graduated high school. I had just moved to Detroit, Michigan for a Kairos Gap Year. In a completely new place, surrounded by a completely new set of people, I was faced with the opportunity of redefining myself.
I was reminded of that prayer of desperation that I had prayed in eighth grade. I looked back at the past five years of my life, a bit resentful of the Lord. “Why didn’t you answer my prayer?”
Five days after I moved away from home, I went for a run. I was tired of the rat race of proving my worth. While I ran I repeated this question again and again. “Why didn’t you answer my prayer? God, I want to see myself as you see me!” More and more emphatically with every step. With each repetition, I would reevaluate myself. What was keeping me from fully believing that I was enough? I would reassure myself, as I had a thousand times in high school, that I was “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
The answer that came wasn’t the answer I was expecting. At first, it didn’t even seem related.
“Look up. Look out. Look around.”
My life wasn’t about me. My identity wasn’t about me. My identity was in Christ. I was never going to find the answer to who I was by looking at myself. I had striving for a feeling of security in the Lord; I hadn’t been striving for Him. I needed to direct my gaze outward. I needed to look to Him. This gave me the freedom to be broken. I didn’t need to be perfect because He was perfect.
“Look up.” Stop reevaluating your worth. Stop trying to fix yourself. The Christian life is not a self-improvement plan.
“Look out.” Direct your gaze to the Lord. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14. Make your life less about discovering who you are and more about discovering who He is.
“Look around.” Imagine yourself standing on top of a mountain, endless landscapes stretching down in every direction. Take in the sheer breadth of God’s creation. Three hundred sixty degrees of beauty surround you. You cannot possibly grasp it all at once. And yet, you are greater than all of this because you were made in His image.
The longing of our hearts to find our identity in the Lord will never be satisfied by looking at ourselves. Finding our identity in Him, letting His truth penetrate to the core of our beings, will never come from racing after perfectionism. Instead you must look to real Perfection. Only by looking to Him, the one who is truly perfect, can we see ourselves as we truly are--humbled, broken yet “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
My name is Maggie Schmidt, and I grew up in the Community of Christ the Redeemer in St. Paul, Minnesota. After serving for a year in Detroit with the Kairos Gap Program, I stuck around Michigan and moved up to Lansing. I am a part of University Christian Outreach here while studying nursing and community engagement and human services. Life is an adventure, and I am learning the wisdom of taking the scenic route. I love road trips, hiking, and camping. Out there in God’s good creation, quality socks and dear friends are must haves.