Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
I don’t think I have actually ever read the entire book, but I, like many people probably, know the premise of the story. A man has two very distinct, very different personalities.
If I were to describe someone in my own life who seemed to have Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde tendencies, I might use words like hypocrite, deceitful, 2-faced, liar.
Then my mind immediately goes to the infamous little ditty several of us would know from our childhood:
“Liar, liar pants on fire…”
Well, if anyone’s pants have been on fire, they were MINE.
Much to my dismay, as I looked back over my life to write out my faith story, I realized how much of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde I myself USED to be.
I grew up going to church. We were there Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday evening, and probably any other time the doors were open. My dad served at a Latino church, preaching via an interpreter since he can’t even pronounce simple Spanish words like tortilla and jalapeño. I also have memories of eating octopus at a Korean potluck, so we must have been involved with the Asian community that met at the church too. Come Easter, my dad was JESUS in the church cantata. He may not be able to sing on pitch to save his life, but he can memorize lines and act with passion. Year after year, I watched him do all the JESUS things – preach and tell parables, heal the sick and blind, silence the teachers of the Law, endure a brutal beating, hang on the cross, and then rise back to life. You really can’t get more spiritual than your dad being JESUS.
By all appearances,
I was the perfect little Christian girl.
I went forward at an altar call when I was 5, and had a huge party for the whole church when I was baptized a year later. I still remember wearing my white robe and wading out into the baptismal pool.
Academically, I got all A’s at my private Lutheran school. When we moved half-way through 5th grade, I maintained my 4.0 at my new private Christian school until I graduated from high school as class valedictorian. I earned letters in 3 sports, made all-tournament teams, and qualified for state competition. I served on class leadership all 4 years, was a member of National Honor Society, and volunteered at the local nursing home to make my college resume look at the better.
I remained active at church too, of course.
I started AWANA, but “went back” and memorized the books from 3rd and 4th grade, in addition to the books for 5th and 6th grade so I could earn the Timothy Award which my parents so proudly displayed (do I have any idea where it is now though? NOPE. Not a clue). Entering junior high, I was part of the youth group and got even more involved come high school. Every summer, I served at Ponca Bible Camp and went on mission trips to places far and near. I even shared how God was leading me to a “life of missions.”
Which led me to attend Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. At the time, it was one of the most respected Bible colleges in the nation. That 4.0 slipped slightly to a 3.89 or something that still meant I earned all A’s (but who really cares). I served as a Residential Assistant for 2 years, made 2 trips to Haiti, continued serving at Ponca during the summers, worked out 6 times a week, met with close friends to pray every week, did in-depth Bible studies with other girls, wore my “true love waits” ring with pride, didn’t cut classes, signed in for chapel on time, faithfully went to my PMC (personal Christian ministry) every week, and basically did my best to follow every rule (except that one time I had to change out of pants with “patch pockets” before I could be allowed to enter the Student Dining Room).
Seriously, I was the ideal Christian girl.
Except I WASN’T.
On the outside – at church and school – I played that part so well.
Did I mention I was the lead role in both my 8th grade and senior plays?! I guess I inherited my dad’s acting abilities.
What the Sarah people didn’t see was the mean-spirited daughter who yelled at, fought with, and occasionally even hit her parents in fits of rage. My mom and dad saw and experienced that nasty side of me firsthand, and yet somehow still loved me.
BUT, the Sarah not even my parents knew was an insecure girl battling body image issues galore. My freshmen year of high school, I got in my competitive head that I needed to be the best at everything, which meant I set out to earn the title of “skinniest girl in the class.” I was already FIT and VERY active, participating in sports year round. I used my busy schedule to hide my anorexia, and by the end of the school year I was 80ish pounds. I would look in the mirror or step on the scale and cringe. I could do better. Thus, my secret battle continued, and over the course of the next 9 years in an attempt to have the perfect body, I struggled interchangeably with anorexia, bulimia, the misuse of laxatives, and an addiction to exercise. Rather than feeling amazing about myself, I was left empty,
despite all the good Christian girl things I was doing.
When I returned to the United States after serving with Kids Alive International in Haiti for 2 years, I got married. That love relationship with my husband and the stark realization that all my attempts at health had left me broken physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually started me on a journey of restoration.
I am still on that journey,
and will be every day for the rest of my life here on earth.
I am learning that God sees ME, the REAL me.
I can’t hide from Him.
I can’t deceive Him.
He KNOWS me, FULLY, and somehow still loves me, abundantly!
That grace and freedom fills my heart with such joy!
I don’t have to be perfect.
I can’t be.
Thankfully, JESUS did what I could never do.
Not only does God see me through His Son,
but He fills me with His power
so that I can become more and more like Him every day.
When anger burns within me, He helps me cool my temper, show compassion, have mercy, and extend grace, just like He has done time and time again with me.
When I start to compare myself to others – be it my mothering style, the size of jeans I’m wearing, the size of house we live in, the places we vacation, the likes I get on a Facebook post or the number of followers I have on Instagram, or any other crazy way Satan tries to get my focus off what really matters – God reminds me that I am HIS masterpiece, gifted with unique abilities and created for specific works He has prepared in advance for me to do.
I am me, because God made me that way.
What a relief I don’t have to put on an act anymore.
And neither do YOU!