I was reading a story about a new mother who just had twins. Lots of people came to see them in the hospital and as well meaning people do, they would hold one of the twins and say in their baby voice something like, “You look like you are going to be a football player.” The mother would gently take her baby back into her arms and whisper, “don’t listen to them, you can be anything you want to be.” I think I will probably be that type of mother. The type of mother who is overly protective about the words society tries to whisper into my sweet baby’s ear. Because despite the saying, words have the power to hurt us more than sticks and stones ever could.
I like to think that God is that type of father too. Society doesn’t stop labeling us once we grow up. It seems that everyone everywhere has an opinion on what type of person we are or should be. Sometimes they keep it to themselves, and sometimes they feel the need to let us know we are not doing a good enough job of being ourselves. It is impossible to escape this feeling that we are not enough – that we are not doing enough – that we do not have what it takes to ever be enough.
It is in those moments that I believe God pulls us into our arms starts whispering love back into our tattered soul. He whispers for us not to listen to them because he created us to be smart, loved and valuable. He whispers that He has made us to do wonderful things with our lives and no one but Him can tell us otherwise. About three years ago, I got a tattoo on my foot. It is pretty simple. It has even already started to fad a bit as a reminder of all the places my feet have taken me. Tattoos have become more socially acceptable then they use to be. However I still feel like there is a disconnect between those who have tattoos and those who don’t. I think it is easy for people who don’t have tattoos to misunderstand why people get tattoos. Almost as though they think it is because we are trying to be rebellious or different or look cool.
While those reasons may be partially true, for most people it goes deeper than that. Tattoos tell stories of who we are, where we have been, and who we hope to be. They help us to feel more grounded in who we are, because it is like wearing little bits of you on your sleeve. No matter what you go through or how you change, you will always have a reminder of who you are to come back to.
My favorite type of people are the weathered kind. The kind of people with tattoos and stories to tell. I like these type of people because when the world conform them they just don’t listen. They just keep dancing to the beat of their own beautiful drum. Before you ask someone what their tattoo means, be sure you are ready to hear a story, because tattoos come with stories. It is why we got them in the first place.
So here is my story: I use to be a die hard perfectionist all through high school and even a little bit into college. I am not sure what drove my high standards other than I thought that achieving them was the only way I could ever feel like I was enough. Then I realized, who wants to live a life filled with falling short of standards that can never be obtained? I certainly did not. Which is why after years of God whispering to me that I was enough, I finally decided to listen.
I am a painter, and I put my signature at the bottom of every painting. I loved the idea of having God’s signature on my foot so that I could always remember whose creation I was. I got the word Adonai scripted on my foot to always have a reminder that I was enough. One late summer night last year I was sitting three stories up with legs dangling up my deck and tears streaming down my face because I thought that I had failed and that being me wasn’t enough. I like to think that it is in the moments that we believe in ourselves the least that God believes in us the most.
I looked down through my tear stained eyes and saw the moonlight hitting my foot. It was if God leaned in to me and said, “you silly beautiful child, you will always be enough in my eyes.” I learned to offer myself grace when I made mistakes. Grace is such a beautiful thing, and I don’t think we talk about it enough. I don’t think we understand it enough either.
Grace is this sort of reset button on life. Grace is the acceptance that we are human and we will mess up terribly but that doesn’t mean that we are terrible. Grace allows us to be humans that struggle and fail and get back up and try again. But more than that, I learned to love the parts of me that I thought were faults. I had a heart that was too big, a will that was too feisty, and feet that were too restless. The funny thing is, those things become my favorite part of me. Because my heart has loved so many, and my will has tackled giants, and my feet and taken me places I have never imagined I would go.
Every time I look at my foot, I am reminded that I am enough, that I will always be enough, and that no amount of success or failure will ever have the ability to change who I am. It gives me permission to give myself grace, and I think that is something we could all use a little more of.