Thursday, February 18, 2010

Free To Be Me, Free To Be You

by Niki Turner

As soon as this week's theme was announced (and every time it's been mentioned since) I have a weird Sesame Street/Karen Carpenter flashback. I debated posting at all, but I couldn't let go of this one song... But there was one song that kept coming up in my head when I considered this week's theme.

It's not very old, not a famous hymn (though it was nominated for a Grammy!), and I don't know the story behind its creation, but this song has been stuck in my head for close to a year. Here's the video of "Free to be Me" by Francesca Battistelli, from her Paper Hearts album.

The chorus of the song goes like this:

'Cause I got a couple dents in my fender
Got a couple rips in my jeans
Try to fit the pieces together
But perfection is my enemy
On my own I'm so clumsy
But on Your shoulders I can see
I'm free to be me

Have you ever been afraid to let someone "see" the real you? Afraid that if they knew how you "really" were they'd reject you, or judge you, or persecute you? I have.

Peer pressure doesn't go away after high school. It continues, as far as I can tell, throughout life. There's pressure to get married, pressure to have kids, pressure to raise those kids a certain way. Christians are pressured to conform to their particular church flavor in manner of dress, speech, even hairstyles. There's additional pressure on ministers, and their wives, to comply with certain external expectations.

You might be under subtle pressure from your neighborhood to "fit in" with the Joneses, or the Smiths, or the Brackendorfels. Writers experience peer pressure, too; from publishers, agents, readers, and other writers. It may be pressure to write a certain way, or to stick with a certain genre. Try to stuff yourself into all those molds very long and you'll crack. It's hard to role-play for extended periods of time. We long to "let our hair down," to "be-eee real," and to find ourselves loved and accepted in spite of our human frailties.

That's where this song ministers to my heart, and I hope, to yours. God has loved you your whole life. He loved you when you were a screw-up. He loved you when you were being good. He loves you right now, even though you hid your dirty dishes in the bathtub when that missionary couple stopped by unexpectedly.

Have your kids ever adopted the mannerisms, speech inflections, clothing styles, or facial expressions of their friends? As a parent, how did that make you feel? It irritated me. I think it probably irritates God, who is not only our Father in heaven, but our Creator. He shaped us and knit us together according to His design. We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, as Paul wrote to the Ephesians. And here we go, comparing ourselves among ourselves and trying to fit in, not with God, not with Jesus, but with each other!

In the same way we want our children, our friends, our loved ones, to be free to be themselves, to be able to relax in our presence, God wants us free. He wants us to be ourselves, not cheesy copies of someone else. Why? Because He loves us! As the saying goes, "You were created an original, don't die a copy." Not a copy of the world, and not a copy of some religious image.

Where have you yielded to peer pressure and brought yourself into bondage?

What one thing could you do today to GET free?

Francesca Battistelli's website

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  1. I like this song (have you thought there was an Alanis Morisette feel to it and no I can't spell her name right).

    I also like Scott Krypane (Why do I keep picking people with names I can't spell?) "My God Loves Me Anyway". Great song.

    Definitely the most judgmental place is the church. I'm not picking on my particular assembly, I'm saying that the place I'd be most likely to feel I had to "sweep stuff under the rug" would be the church community. The stupid things we've done in the past--the things God has forgiven us for and used as building blocks... those things still get hidden.
    I'm not suggesting we wear our list of sins but we have not all learned how to offer Christ's love (grace, forgiveness) to each other, have we?

  2. Well, since Deb brought up Alanis Morisette, (notice how I shift the blame to Deb here ;) it reminded me of her song, "I'm a b****, I'm a lover, I'm a child, I'm a mother, I'm a sinner, I'm a saint. I do not feel ashamed."

    That's one of those songs that isn't very Christian, but resonates with a lot of truth about the human condition. This song does have a similar groove.

    I have a hard time balancing the sides of myself sometimes. I find it too easy to just be who people need me to be, but then I start to lose my true self. Does that make sense? Especially in a ministry area. I noticed at one point when I was a cell group leader that all the ladies in my cell wanted to be friends with me and not with each other. At some point I realized I had done something terribly wrong. I said to one of my close friends, "I just need to be the b**** I really am and see who still likes me in the end."

    Crazy, I know. But most of them remained my friends, and after that they developed close relationships with one another that survived long after the cell group.

    It taught me a very important lesson, even in ministry we do best as our true selves.

  3. A bit of a commentary on your comment, Dina, but sometimes with age comes wisdom. -hey, just like the bible suggests! can it be true?-
    Anyway - I found that turning fifty was very freeing. As Popeye used to say "I Yam what I yam". Here I am world, take me as I am. We mellow out in some ways, strengthen/sharpen ourselves in others.

    There's always something unsettling about a compliment when someone says "you are always so_______" and you know in your heart how wrong that is. So, are they seeing something you don't or are they seeing something you are putting out there that's not real?Hmmmmm.

    I like having God as my mirror-He can show me the truth about myself and loves me more than I can love myself.

  4. This post is very pertinent to where I am right now, Niki. I've always struggled with wanting to please people, which isn't altogether bad, but it can be if the motivation is unhealthy. I know I'm not the only woman who deals with this (and there are some fellas out there too). I have been working on asking God who He wants me to be, and thankful that He loves me despite the rough and dented spots.

  5. I have a lot of pressure on me with part of my family and I pray to God and he helps me.
    I know He know what is best for me, even though I wished it was another way, just have to leave it in His hands


  6. I lost myself for a while, but am refinding the real me, and I'm great! When I reveal my real self - flaws, failures, fears (All those F's!) - I find that people I meet turn into true friends.

    I love that Free to be Me song. It was (is?) my theme song for a while.

  7. Hey Susie!
    It's hard to find the line between people-pleasing and being a servant to them.
    So true.

    Hey Edna
    Hey Mary

    You're both FABULOUS. Real people, flaws and all, put me in a relaxed mood. Fake? not so much.

  8. Hey everyone, sorry I haven't been around to comment until now. :P First of all, yes, I LOVE that Alanis Morisette song. It's also on my fauxpod and is played repeatedly when I'm ticked off about something. And sung at the top of my lungs. Kids know to stay out of the way...
    Deb, I completely agree, the religious community is the most judgmental group of humanity on the planet. Not at all what Jesus intended, in my opinion.
    I think the key to dealing with figuring out how we should behave is to start with our identity in Christ. What did HE say about you? What does HE think about you?
    Susie, Dina, Edna, Mary, Deb... You are loved, adored, beloved, adopted, appreciated, accepted, welcome, approved, empowered, enabled, treasured, connected, essential... I could go on and on and on, but I think you all get the idea. You know, if that's God's perspective on you, right now, complete with dents and holes, we ought to be the most confident people on earth!

  9. This is such an important concept, Niki. And yet so hard to completely internalize. Thanks!

  10. Niki, great post! I love the saying: "You were created an original, don't die a copy." Definitely food for thought :-)


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