This year my daughter entered the strange world of junior high school. Now, I worked in youth ministry in some capacity for over 10 years, so I thought I was ready. But I was not prepared.
I. was. not. prepared.
This past Sunday night I picked up my daughter and some of her friends from their junior high small group that is hosted by a couple at our church. (These people are saints, I tell you, and should be immediately escorted to the VIP section of heaven upon arrival.) I had 3 girls in the backseat of my car. The amount of energy, drama and attitude emanating from that backseat could have powered my vehicle for several hundred miles.
What’s amazing about kids in this stage of life is how easily they put on and take off different personas. One day they are in to something; the next it’s totally dorky. One day they’re begging you to buy these new pair of shoes; the next it’s “not my style.” They care so much about what others think but try to treat everything with an “I-could-care-less” nonchalance.
And they do it all in a way that looks like a kid wearing his father’s suit. It’s both clumsy and completely endearing.
I say these things mostly in jest. My daughter is an amazing young women who is handling one of life’s toughest transitions with more grace than I did. (No — you will not get a picture of me in junior high. I am hopeful to one day rid the earth of photos of the nasty blonde uber-mullet that I sported during that era. Shudder.)
Because the hardest part of walking this road with my daughter is that it takes me back to my own junior high days. These were not good years for me. I think everyone has their reasons for feeling uncomfortable and outcast during that stage. Mine involved a scrawny, pre-pubescent body, sunken eyes and the previously mentioned unfortunate coiffure.
We’re all so vulnerable in our junior high years. And not by choice.
And as I think about it, I must admit that I haven’t exactly done away with my own personas. I feel so much more content with who I am, but I still wear masks. They’ve simply become more entrenched. I’m much more comfortable in them.
One of the thinks Brene Brown talks about in Daring Greatly is our vulnerability armor. The things we use to shield us from the vulnerability that we feel as we live in the world. She lists 3 that are most common: Foreboding Joy, Perfectionism and Numbing.
We all have our favorites. I know I use foreboding joy (imagining the worst possible outcome even when things are going well) and perfectionism to keep me from feeling vulnerable. I keep people at arms length at times because I’m afraid they’ll see the real cracks that are there.
And I’m very grateful for the way Dr. Brown’s book has encouraged me to practice gratitude and appreciate my imperfection.
One thing she says in chapter 4 really stands out to me. At the core of every strategy that helps us to be vulnerable is one simple idea. This idea gives us the permission to do away with the masks and armor we wear. And it’s really simple:
I am enough.
Believing we are worthy gives leads us to courage instead of shame.
Believing we have enough helps us set healthy boundaries.
Believing that showing up and taking risks is enough helps us to engage rather than hide.
How many times in scripture does God communicate that we are loved? That we don’t need to worry? That he will take care of us? That there is enough grace and mercy and forgiveness for everyone?
Just go look — John 3:16, Romans 5:8, Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 2:1-10, 1 John 1:4-9, Zephaniah 3:17, 1 John 47-8, 1 Peter5:6-7, Job 34:19…
Over and over again the message is clear: “I love you. You are enough. Don’t worry.”
That’s what’s called gospel.
It’s what I need to hear today.
It’s what I want my daughter to know right now.
And it’s the key to dropping the masks and personas we wear every day so we can be vulnerable, open people.
You are enough.