We all struggle with identity - who we are, why we are, and what we have to offer. About the time we start to feel good about ourselves, something happens to remind us of how much we lack. Problem is, in this place of desperation, we turn to all the wrong things to find our fill. My friend Michele Cushatt knows a thing or two about the long hard struggle to find significance. After a life-threatening illness that permanently changed both her appearance and abilities, she didn't know who she was anymore. But God wasn't done. As she struggled to make peace with her outside, God helped her make peace who she was on the inside, giving her a security that wasn't the least bit dependent on her at all. Enjoy, friends. You are loved.
Wooed by Glory
By Michele Cushatt
It was the summer before my fifteenth birthday.
As they did every summer, Mom and Dad packed my younger brother and me into our family car, hitched the pop-up camper, and set out from Illinois on our annual family vacation.
Usually we turned toward Minnesota to lose ourselves in fishing and swimming (and mosquito swatting) at one of the state's ten thousand lakes. This year we traveled halfway across the country to Wyoming, a place I'd never been before. There we met my grandparents and explored Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks together.
In a childhood filled with family vacations, I can't remember every sight and sound my younger self experienced. There were too many vacations, too many memories to savor and store. But one moment during that 1986 vacation I'll never forget:
The moment I stood on the shore of Jenny Lake.
Located in the upper northwest corner of Wyoming, Jenny Lake is an oval body of pristine water nestled at the base of the Grand Teton mountain range. The lake is not very big, less than a square two miles, dwarfed by the towering peaks of the Grand Tetons. But what Jenny Lake lacks in size it makes up for in beauty.
Geologists believe that thousands of years ago, during the Ice Age, glaciers traveled down the canyons to carve out deep depressions in the valley floor. Then water filled the depressions - more than 250-feet deep - creating a lake clear as crystal against the backdrop of towering, craggy mountains. The result is stunning.
My fifteen-year-old self stood on the shore of this natural phenomenon and could scarcely breathe. Even now, I remember the way my soul soaked up the moment. If other tourists shared my shore, I didn't notice. With the sun on my back and the scenery spread out before me, I stood entranced. Overcome.
I was being wooed by glory.
This midwestern flatland girl didn't know what to do with such a scene. It was otherworldly. I knew it wasn't the mountains and waters inviting my awe but the Creator of both. It was as if God stood at my right side, arm draped over a shoulder, and whispered into my ear, "I made that, my girl. I made it for you."
Geologists may claim nature created Jenny Lake. But I knew better. Still do. From my early days in itty-bitty Sunday school chairs, teachers told me, "In the beginning, God created" (Gen. 1:1). And I believed it. Five words that sum up the source of everything. Oceans. Stars. Crawdads. Eagles. Fruit flies.
(For the record, my bananas could've done without the last one.)
In the beginning, God created. As if it were as simple as "in the beginning, God made a ham sandwich." Because God wanted to. And because God could.
That includes the Grand Tetons and Jenny Lake.
It also includes me.
This last part proved harder to accept, both at fifteen years old and at forty-four. I could see the creative genius of a mountain range. But prop me next to the Tetons and I could hardly compare. My hair was too thin, my teeth too crooked, and my personality too strong. I wasn't majestic or captivating. Not even close.
When it came to God's creative capacity, Jenny Lake was stunning. But me? I felt like an accident of nature rather than a marvel of creation.
And yet I couldn't deny God's words penned in Genesis. Humankind is the pinnacle of His creation. Me. So why is it so hard to grasp? Why do you and I struggle to see ourselves as marvelous creations of an artistic God?
Perhaps because we're too caught up in the flaws to be captivated by the glory.
Maybe a return to Jenny Lake could help. Think about it this way: Jenny Lake didn't begin as a lake. She began as a smooth valley floor until glaciers carved up her space. It took hardship and hundreds of years for Jenny Lake to show a greater glory. That too was part of God's creative plan.
This means you and I, with all our hardships and imperfections, are still held in the hand of a sovereign and creative God. He created us, and He is creating us still. He isn't done yet, and He always finishes what He starts.
Philippians 1:6 says it this way: "Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
That means that the God who created us will also complete us. This is the bedrock we've long been looking for, the cement for the rest of our stories.
When you and I look in the mirror and struggle to see evidence of a marvelous creation, it's simply because we're catching a glimpse of a work in progress. But in spite of our many flaws, we remain a creation of a masterful God who has nothing but affection for His work of art and anticipates its completion.
Stand on the shore and marvel at what He's done. What He is doing.
Allow yourself to be wooed by glory.
And if you quiet yourself just enough, you might hear Him whisper in your ear, "I made you, dear child. I made you."
Pulling from her experiences of raising children from trauma, a personal life-threatening illness, and the devastating identity crises that came to her family as a result, Michele creates safe spaces for honest conversations around the tensions between real faith and real life. The words of Michele's most recent book - I Am: A 60-day Journey to Knowing Who You Are Because of Who He Is - were penned during her long and grueling recovery from a third diagnosis of cancer during which she was permanently altered physically, emotionally and spiritually. She speaks with raw honesty and hard-earned insight about our current identity epidemic and the reasons why our best self-help and self-esteem tools aren't enough to heal our deepest wounds. Michele and the love of her life, Troy, live in the mountains of Colorado with their six children, ages 9 to 24. She enjoys a good novel, a long run, and a kitchen table filled with people. Learn more about Michele at michelecushatt.com.
Jenny Lake Photo Credit - NPS