On Identity and Meeting Jesus Outside My Burrow Hole
by Carolyn Novic
This article first appeared in the November/December 2014 print edition of Daughters of Promise Magazine.
I used to think that my personality would somehow magically change when I got married, that I would have a new air of confidence, that I’d be that cool newlywed at whom all the young teenage girls stared googly-eyed (like I used to do), that I’d be that hostess who’d give those guests hugs and I’d know how to tell them with perfect graciousness to fill the water glasses or fluff up the salad, and then we’d all laugh merrily and they’d stay till all the taper-candles smoked and dripped their last wax-tears somewhere down close to the tablecloth, and they’d leave and wouldn’t even feel like they had to offer to wash all those pretty dishes. I used to think that maybe, just maybe, I would slowly find myself recharged, not drained, by being with people.
Instead, I fairy-taled my way into my new world, and after all the confetti had floated away, I discovered there were no magic buttons to push after all, and I was still that person. That person who confuses you because you don’t know if I’m snobby or just shy. That person who you think you should take out for coffee but you invite somebody else too, because you think it’ll be awkward with just you and me. I’m that boring person who wants to go to bed early, and you’ll roll your eyes because you don’t understand that I used up all my energy sharing food and a movie with you and laughing at the appropriate places in your constant bantering with the other outgoing people (I did try to insert my little comments here and there), and I’m sorry, but now I require a little alone-time. I’m that person who loves having a baby to jiggle on her hips because when we’re talking and we run out of things to say, having something to coo at and play with is a mighty fine solution. (Okay, and I do SO love babies too.)
I used to pray that God would make me more outgoing.
I used to pray all the wrong things, and then I got tired fretting over my personality, and I stopped.
I started praying that Jesus would make me more like Himself.
In the past few months, I’ve known change and weakness and inadequacy like I’ve never known them before. A new role, a new home, a new city, a new State, and a new church. Sydney’s narrow roads are enough to frighten anyone, and I suddenly had to brave them. New friends meant raw encounters with their pasts and deep hurts, and I could only murmur Oh Jesus. Other friends pumped us full of cheer after a weary week, and other friends rang our doorbell or phone every other night and we learned to giggle and say Come For Dinner instead of grumbling about the fact that nobody should do that to newlyweds. Living with my closest friend day-in and day-out means making my heart vulnerable, and I thank God it’s a safe place for me to learn that art. Still other friends misunderstood and sent ugly texts and suddenly I was an adult and had to fix it by myself instead of running away, and other friends called for advice on homeschooling or baby C’s gluten-intolerance and spilled family issues that were just TMI and I was wiping my forehead, alternately whispering “Me?” and “What Would Mama Do?” A new church brought a whole meaning to prayer and lots of it, and I found my walls crumbling in the constant whisperings to Father.
“She has changed like crazy!” someone whispered to my sister the other day. She, in turn, whispered it to me, and I sorta stared into the distance, acting like I knew just what she was talking about, but really I was shocked and just utterly grateful in realising that Jesus’ work had crept up on me, and suddenly, here I am, and I’m still that same person but yet I’m not anymore.
I’m still an introvert. But I think I laugh a little easier these days and know a bit more how to pass on grace by making your favourite hot tea and talking about what delights you. At a friend’s wedding recently, I was still overwhelmed by the feeling of people at my elbow no matter where I turned, and the dancing, the loud music, and the people shouting to be heard over it. (I might have asked my husband to hold my hand and keep me with him all evening.) But, I also smiled incredulously to myself the other evening when we were discussing date-night options and I asked if we could go somewhere where there were lots of people, because I wanted to feel alive. That’s a first.
I suppose I’ll always need my times of hibernation, but I’m slowly learning to get my focus off of that and on to Jesus. He’s made me awkwardly uncomfortable and grated me down to the core until sometimes there is no Me and only Him, and only then can I see His all sufficiency and know where I am truly defined.
I’m still an introvert, but I’m being hurled head-first into the grace of Jesus, and that, I suppose, is all that really matters.