By Kristi Watts
I was trying to skip out of church early so that no one would notice me as folks filed out of the service. That had become my M.O.
I’m not sure when it began, but somewhere along the way I had become super self-conscious and overly insecure about everything. I was convinced people could see all my failures and shortcomings by merely peering into my eyes. The fear of exposing the truth of what my life was really like these days created a concoction of anxiety and worry that stirred within my soul, hijacking any semblance of peace.
What I did for a living had come to define me, and now, without the big titles and fancy labels, I wasn’t so sure who I was anymore. I felt lost.
“What are you doing these days?”
“Where are you working now?”
“You’re still not married yet?”
In my mind those questions roughly translated to “What’s wrong with you?” and “Do you realize there must be some-thing wrong with you?”
When people asked me these questions, it always set off a ringing in my ears and increased my heartbeat so much
that I was sure it was visible through my shirt. My forced smile concealed the instant sensation of cotton mouth at their inquisition. I just wanted them all to shut up and leave me alone.
Somewhere down the line I got it into my mind that the world was judging me because I didn’t measure up to its standards. The same standards that I so readily agreed to and strive to meet. The standards that society defined as “the image of success.” Success, nonetheless, that was based upon a false sense of perfection. I spent years and years in pursuit of the perfect body.
The perfect career.
The perfect house.
The perfect spouse.
The perfect kids.
And the perfect dream of wholeness and happiness that came in the promise of all the above.
I was coming to the realization that there was a deficit within my soul, how-ever, and a new job, a new husband, and a new life would not fill it up and make me happy. Yes, there had been plenty of moments when these things had brought me a sense of happiness, joy even. But the problem was that because those things I pursued were temporary, so, too, was my happiness— forever fleeting.
I felt the way my son usually did a week after Christmas. Having discovered under the tree Christmas morning that one special thing he had begged for and could not live without, he would be so happy he could barely contain himself. Fast forward a week or two later, though, and that very thing that brought him to a place of euphoria was now thrown in the corner with last year’s “I can’t live without it” thing. I was no different.
“Jesus, if you just give me this amazing job, then I’ll be happy.”
“Jesus, if you just help me lose this weight, then I’ll be happy.”
“Jesus, if you just bring me that tall, hot, crazy gorgeous, rich husband, then I’ll be happy.”
But I wasn’t happy, even when God blessed me with those things. The pursuit of things rather than the pursuit of the One who blessed me with those things often left me with a bad after- taste. Kind of the way artificial flavoring does. Those things disappointed me, leaving me wanting more. But my pursuit of more only left me with a case of the “not enough.”
My pursuit of more only left me with a case of the “not enough.”
Just love your husband more—but it wasn’t enough because he left any-way.
Just work more hours to climb the corporate ladder—but it wasn’t enough because I was booted out anyway.
Just exercise more to get that perfect body—but that wasn’t enough because that one extra chocolate chip cookie blew up my thighs to look like an inflatable inner tube anyway.
More was never enough.
Speed walking to my car, I unconsciously ran my hand over my hair in an attempt to stuff the unruly pieces back into my thinning ponytail. “Stop fidgeting,” the floor director would always tell me on the set of The 700 Club. I couldn’t help it. It was some-thing I did when I was anxious.“
Are you excited?” I heard a voice behind me yell, clearly attempting to get my attention.“
Your birthday! It’s coming up in a couple of weeks, right?!” My friend was trotting in her heels to catch up with me as I was hurrying to get into my car.
“Wanna do something to celebrate?” she asked enthusiastically while trying to catch her breath.
“No, not really,” I said, trying to mask any sign that my heart was dropping at the very mention of my upcoming birthday. “I mean, it’s just another day, no big deal,” I responded with a half smile.
As I turned the key to unlock my car door I stared over at my son, widening my eyes a bit so he could catch my signal—the signal that nine times out of ten he missed. So I tried the ventrilo quist routine to reinforce the message by mumbling, “Hurry up and get in the car.”
I was turning forty-four years old. Middle-aged, according to my twelve-year-old son. “I’m not middle-aged. I’m still young and hot, right?” I had teased him a couple of weeks ago as he watched me place a batch of brownies into the oven.
Not amused, he’d looked meaning-fully at me as I stood in the kitchen with my oversized sweat pants and a T-shirt exhibiting a wonderful array of splatters and drips from the brownie mix I was licking off the big mixing spoon.
When was the last time I washed that shirt? I thought as I pulled out of the church parking lot.
Forty-four, I repeated in my head. This was not what the forties are sup-posed to look like. Your forties are when you finally get into the groove of life, when you feel more settled and more stable in all your roles. You know who you are and why you’re here, right? But nothing could be farther from the truth, I thought, as I drove down the winding road toward my house.
Here I was, a forty-something-year-old unemployed, divorced– widowed single mom fighting the battle of the bulge and living off her son’s college savings. I had no clue who I was any-more and was struggling to make sense of it all. In fact, any day now I was expecting someone to ring my doorbell and shout, “Smile! You’re on Candid Camera.”
Still, I had committed to trusting God in this process of my life; I was just trying to figure out what that really meant. My days were spent studying the Bible and crying out to God, but rather than feeling all warm and fuzzy, I was feeling like my life was in the eye of the storm.
The house of cards I had meticulously built over the years was falling apart before my very eyes. The things that had seemed to anchor me were either gone or morphing into some- thing unfamiliar. From my career to my financial status, from my relationships to my physical, mental, and emotional states, I felt powerless. I felt vulnerable. I felt unstable. I was lost.
“What is going on, Lord? I need help,” I said, as I drove into my drive-way, passing the “For Sale” sign on my front lawn.
“I have enough equity in my house to just sell it and buy a small townhouse or condo,” I’d said to my parents.
Unable to get a job for almost two years had put me under financial strain. We lived in an amazing house in a great neighborhood, and money or the lack thereof was a definite factor in choosing to put my house on the market after living there for more than seventeen years. I wasn’t sure if I was doing the right thing, but I had to do something. Another card in my perfect world falling down.
I just needed help.
Help in knowing what to do and where to go.Help in deciphering the truth of God’s Word and how it played out in my life.
And, most of all, help in keeping my sanity and peace as opposed to the worry and anxiety I felt every day.
The next morning I stood in front of my bathroom mirror consumed by the image staring back at me. It wasn’t the kind of “Girl, you are working it!” moment as much as a “Girl, you look a hot mess and need to get yourself together!” moment. You know when you see those before and after pictures in the magazines and are amazed by how good the after picture looks? Well, my life was kind of like that, only the reverse.
My normally long, perfectly styled hair was neglected and unkempt. I couldn’t afford to go to the hair-dresser, so between my home remedies and the premenopausal-stressed-out-sweat- like-a-maniac incidents, my hair was breaking off in clumps. Also, this season of worry and anxiety had turned me into a full-fledged chocoholic, so my usually semi-fit physique was transforming into some foreign specimen I did not recognize. The “Ms. America look” that was once a mandate before walking out of the house was now a thing of the past.
“Mom, my hair is falling out! My stomach feels like I might have an ulcer. Oh, and I still can’t get a job!” I whined to my mother over the phone. I was anticipating, even goading her into some sort of consoling remark that would soothe my “woe is me” moment. But instead of sympathy she responded as if she were watching a stand-up bit on Comedy Central.
Here I was, sharing all the heart-break moments that make up the perfect lyrics to a blues song, and this woman could not stop laughing! Al-though I tried to act insulted by her insensitive response, her laughter evoked a reactionary bout of laughter within me. Before long we were both in tears. Classic.
Once we finally composed ourselves enough to hear each other speak, she said, “Girl, you went from a peacock to a feather duster.”
The word picture was like a buck-et of ice-cold water being poured down my back. She was right on. As I pictured a peacock I immediately thought of its grand appearance and the value that was assigned by its spectacular presentation to the world.
The praise and accolades that drove it to puff its feathers out while strutting its stuff, showcasing its awesomeness for the world to see.
Its unique color palette of feathers bouncing in the wind, beckoning on-lookers to “Look at me. Look at me. I’m important. I’m valuable. I am some-body.”
I was embarrassed to realize how uncomfortably familiar this was to my own life. Well, my old life. Even as a Christian I gauged my success, worth, and happiness on what I had, who others thought I was, and how I felt about myself. The pursuit of the “I” was destroying my life, and just as the quest to obtain a life of perfection was a fruitless endeavor, so, too, seemed my hope for a life filled with long-lasting peace, joy, and happiness.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be trans- formed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 esv)
Sometimes—a lot of the time—when we feel that our problems are insurmountable and we are lost in the midst of them, we spend days and nights begging God to change our circumstances when the truth is, what really needs changing is us. Point blank. Period.
How we think, what we believe, and what we say are all reflections of who we think we are, of what’s really in our hearts. When we look at what’s coming out of our mouths in our conversations with loved ones and even in our talks with God, what do we see? Do our words reflect an out-of-balance focus on what we perceive to be the ideal plans for our lives—in other words, our plans—or an unhealthy obsession with our worldly status, or maybe too much value placed on what our friends think of us?
Usually, what comes to light is that the root of our problems has very little to do with things like the job market or our relation- ship status. It’s us. God needs to hit the reset button on our beings
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Kristi Watts is best known for her role as a former co-host on the award-winning television program The 700 Club and for her in-depth interviews of authors, celebrities, and public figures such as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and movie mogul Tyler Perry. She recently launched Kristi Watts Ministries to provide Bible study tools, video blogs, and speaking engagements. Today, Kristi lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia with her son.
Facebook: /KristiWattsMinistriesTwitter: @KristiWattsMinInstagram: /talkyourselfhappyBook: www.TalkYourselfHappyBook.comMinistry: www.kristiwattsministries.comTaken from Talk Yourself Happy by Kristi Watts. Copyright © 2017 by Kristi Watts. Used by per-mission of Thomas Nelson.