Growing up, I was wired with a deep need for affirmation. You could dig down in my soul as if you were trying to find China and still not reach this core need. To gain the approval and acceptance I so desperately craved as a child, I adjusted myself to suit what I perceived my parents' needs were in order to love me. Clearly they preferred good girls over bad (watching their reactions to my older sisters' choices taught me this), so I spent most of my young life trying to be good. I got good grades, I didn't get in trouble, I tried to be helpful at home— anything to earn their attention.
The problem with being a good girl, though, is you go unnoticed. You're not a squeaky wheel. You're not the one creating drama in your family. I spent most of my early years simply flying under the radar. As a teenager, this definitely worked to my advantage. No one expected a nice girl like me to do bad things, and I figured, heck, if they're not going to notice me for doing good, I'll have fun and see where doing bad lands me.
So that's how I spent my growing-up years—trying on alter egos to see what fit best, swinging from one end of the pendulum to the other, but not being noticed either way.
I suppose in some ways that's how I ended up becoming a writer. I wanted to be heard. I had a voice, though I used it ever so shyly. I wanted my life to count, to make some worthwhile contribution while on planet Earth. I sensed writing was my calling, but it took me a long time to gain confidence to go after it.
It's taken the better part of 50 years for me to get comfortable in my own skin. While I still fill up when I hear words of affirmation, I've discovered an endless and more reliable source of acceptance and approval, far better than man's—the love of God. In experiencing his ultimate acceptance, finding my life purpose became much clearer. I'm deeply drawn to telling others' stories, probably because I know how hard it is to have something to offer but not enough courage or opportunity to share it.
In this issue, we're taking a risk and exposing our tender underbelly, if you will. We're exploring the question, how do we discover our truest self and find our life's purpose? Sarah Bessey, an avid, award-winning blogger and author of Jesus Feminist, shares how writing helped her find her real self, which ultimately she discovered in Christ. Jennie Allen, author of Restless, and founder and visionary of the upcoming women's conference, IF: Gathering, shares her struggle to listen for the praises of God over men. And Sharon Hodde Miller, a seminary grad and new mom, challenges us to consider whether God might be nudging us to consider formal theology training—one key way women can become equipped to serve others.