My Measurement

Monday, June 23, 2014 | Featured Artists | By Jen Oakes

We all have these moments, these moments where we can sit and be and be aware of our present, our aliveness, our BEING—not like most of our moments that are spent wandering and hustling and rushing—but moments where we can sit and check in with the core of ourselves and maybe even ask ourselves the question that scares us the most, “How am I doing? No, really, how am I?”

When I was a little girl, the answer to that question was simpler. How am I doing? I am fine! I was who I was: a tomboy—a tree climbing, football uniform wearing, rough and tumbler. I can remember being eight years old and building a clubhouse with my brother out of my dad’s old Real Estate signs and burying my goldfish Heathcliff in the backyard and later trying to dig up his skeleton. And even though I never found it, I was fine.

Until this one moment, that same summer when I was eight years old, I remember looking in the mirror, and I was wearing a bright pink full-body gymnastics leotard, which is never a good idea, and I thought, “I look fat.” I wish I could go back and talk to that girl looking in that mirror, knowing what I know today, and tell her that everybody looks fat in spandex…and pink spandex? That don’t look good on NOBODY. But, it marked me.

And it started a change in me. There was a seed in that moment that grew from something I didn’t know was planted; this seed, took root as a weed, grew and intertwined in my soul, twisting my identity, strangling my heart and suffocating me, stealing life from me, by telling me if I wanted to be somebody that mattered I had to be perfect, better, not ordinary.

It was my first brush with insecurity, of feeling less than. Have you ever had a moment like that? Where you just suddenly felt an awareness of being exposed and weak and not enough? Suddenly, I felt that in order to be somebody, I had to be more than a nobody, which meant I had to be better than everybody. But what does that even mean? What does that even look like? It’s weird how something so indefinable could become so unbearable.

So I began striving. Striving for validation, for acceptance, for perfection. And I would only grasp moments of it long enough to realize it was a mirage; for a moment it’s there, then it’s gone. We think the getting the approval we’re longing for will finally make us stop thirsting, but it only makes us drown because it comes from a broken world that cannot give it.

And I spent a lot of years drowning. Afraid, afraid to be, to try, to fly, to bloom—afraid to live outside how I assumed others defined me.

The other day I read the definition of “define” and realized that it doesn’t just mean, “to describe a word, or state a meaning,” but it also means, “to determine the boundary or extent of something.”

And I realized I have let so many things in my life define me; I’ve let other powers and people and perceptions measure me—determine the extent of what I can or cannot do or create a boundary of what I will dream for my life—a boundary around the extent of my worth, of my value, of who I was or could become.

But thankfully, I have learned that there is another option. And even though it has taken me about as long to wake up as it did for me to fall asleep, I have learned that the other option is to a live a life of being redefined.

Because for the first time in my life I started to have a place to turn to in those quiet moments that would give me the same answer every time I asked how I was.

When all the other measurements changed or failed, God’s redefining answer remained the same, every time.

How am I?

I am good, perfect, created, detailed; every movement of his hand when he knit me together was on purpose, lovely, tender, beautiful.

The very threads of my veins were His idea, his artistry, His care.

Every cell, every organ, every hair—from the tiny freckle above my lip, to my slightly-louder-than-others laugh, and my turned up nose—all His idea.

Every beat of my heart was his plan, His sanction and His song to my soul that my life still has meaning here—that I was born, chosen, selected out of eternity, a vapor of a life, for this time, this place, this purpose—and so I should keep going.

And so when the moments are still and quiet, and I’ve lost my way again, these are the things He whispers, and they have become my measurement.

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