Changes are coming.
How do I feel?
Do I feel excited? Yes, because of the possibilities.
Do I feel scared? Yes. I don’t want to feel hurt again.
How can I know it will be different?
This year is going to be full of change for me. We are walking fast towards changing cities, changing ministry jobs, changing homes. We are going from dry to humid, from comfortable to new, from local ministry to global ministry at Wycliffe Bible Translators, from Texas to North Carolina, from Amarillo to the JAARS headquarters near Waxhaw.
It seems fitting to make a simple change to mark these changes. I am changing my Instagram name because AmarilloJennifer doesn’t fit what God is telling me about who I am or what God is calling us to.
How did I get here, to such massive changes?
It started with pain as all new things do.
Turning over a leaf without pain isn’t realistic. Is the leaf removed from the tree, in the process of dying, crackling even with your gentle touch?
It’s a common refrain in this Christ-following life: church hurt.
I was in a season feeling out of control (as if we are ever in control.) In Annie Down’s book Remembering God, she said the place she wanted to be when she felt church hurt was an old, sturdy, reliable cathedral.
When I read this, I laughed out loud because I realized this is exactly what I did to respond to my church hurt. I asked my family, cleared it with my pastor, and we started attending a very traditional, early church service. We went and listed to their pipe organ, choir donning robes, hymns with obsolete words, high ceilings. I felt safe in those pews.
We did those early services for about three months, and God met me there.
God met me in other ways in those hard months when everything about my life felt as if it had forgotten about gravity and was hovering and threatening to crash down.
I was asking God, “Are we suppose to leave?”
I realize now I was asking God the wrong question. In Jen Wilkin’s book In His Image, she talks a lot about being in God’s will. She says this:
I was asking “DO” questions, but God in His loving way was answering my unasked “WHO” question. In every good thing He was putting in my path meant for my healing, He was telling me who I was.
I started therapy around the same time I was finding solace in that unchanging church sanctuary. Over months of talking through feelings shoved in corners, patterns emerged. God showed me that I could ignore my past hurts not allowing them to come into my thoughts, but they were going to drive my brains reaction to every current hurt whether I acknowledge them or not.
I saw that hiding in the bathroom during times of stress or feeling ignored was directly related to experiences I had as a child. I saw that my urge to run away when I felt like I wasn’t measuring up to other’s standards was directly related to my flight responses. I saw that my anxiety to enter situations had everything to do with fears of rejection.
I began to turn those fears, anxiety, and hurts on their head. I looked to Christ. How does He feel about me?
I know I am seen. I am never ignored by God, and He hates being ignored by us.
I know that I am known. God takes pleasure in knowing me.
I know that I am chosen. I could never be rejected by God because we are forever family.
I know that I am loved. God first loved me, and His pure love for me cannot be matched.
I know that I am liked. God sees and knows me, and His opinion of me is that He likes me.
I know that I am friended. God calls me friend, and He lets me know what He is doing.
I know that I am included. God never pushes me away; He always draws near.
I know that I am commissioned. God has given me all authority of Heaven and earth to make disciples in His name.
When I look at my current Instagram name, AmarilloJennifer, I think of me three years ago before I was graciously showed who I was. I was looking for identity in my role in ministry here in Amarillo. I saw what I was doing for God in my outreach, church, service, and good works as who I was. If you asked me to tell about myself, I couldn’t get through three sentences without mentioning my ministry in Amarillo.
I am not AmarilloJennifer.
As we pursue this calling to join Wycliffe, I have learned some lessons. I know I am not WycliffeJennifer. I cannot define myself by the temporary or what I do.
I can only define myself by the permanent and what Christ did.
Which brings us to the new Instagram name:
I am KnownSeenLiked.
You might wonder why I picked out these three truths. You might be especially wondering why I would choose liked over loved.
My pain centered around being misunderstood. I wanted desperately to explain myself to all parties involved and the world at large in a way that would end in everyone’s approval. I wanted to be known.
We all have this longing deep inside us, and I believe this longing is good. What is not good is selfish ambition and bitter jealousy. It is hard to separate those good motives of sharing myself with others from the motive of wanting approval from this world.
God meets this need to be known and understood on the deepest level. He knows me better than I know myself. When I get brave and be honest with God, when I let down my false selves that I can easily hide behind, when I allow sharing of my true, real thoughts and feelings with God, I feel that need to be known by others slip away. I understand now it was an unattainable goal that would never give me any satisfaction.
In my pain, I wanted to be seen. Feeling ignored sends me to a very dark place very fast. I do not mean failing to be recognized or not applauded for doing good. What I mean is feeling like I have been hurt and no one notices or cares. This feeling that I am on my own, left to bandage my wounds myself causes overwhelming feelings of distress and anxiety in me.
Others sometimes do God’s work in showing me love, they show me that they care about my life — the good and the bad. More often, others are too busy with their own life to notice valleys or mountains in my life. God sees every step. He is never too busy to see me.
Why liked instead of loved?
One of those healing, good things that God put in my path was Sonscape Retreat. Sitting in front of printed out results of online tests I had taken before we arrived and a couple who was there to counsel, mentor, and guide us toward healing from ministry burnout, I was faced with some truth. I was confronted with the fact that I was not objective in my thinking. I had the tendency to illogical and self-absorbed instead of fair-minded when it came to thoughts about myself and how I was perceived by others. My surveys had also revealed the fact that I had a big problem with negative self-talk. These things together pointed to a deep-seated hurt in my past that had not been dealt with. I was advised by these wise guides to listen to a sermon. The sermon was delivered by Brennan Manning.
I had never heard of Brennan, and like the overachiever I am, I took notes. I wrote these quotes in my notebook.
God loves you intimately. His love reaches into my dark places.
God loves you uniquely and reliably.
God loves you tenderly. God likes you. Do you believe it?
I dare you to trust that God loves you as you are because you’re never going to be as you should be.
Self-love is a profound act of faith.
This sermon challenged me in a way I had never been challenged before. I began the work of accepting that God liked me just the way I am.
These words were not new. They had been drilled into my head as a child from the television set. I had let shame and untruths cover over this beautiful, childlike truth that my friend Mister Rogers had told me over and over every time we met in my living room.
What I didn’t know as a little girl is that Fred Rogers had trained at seminary and had been ordained by the Presbyterian church to minister to children through the medium of television. He was telling me how God felt about me by modeling our loving God in his words and actions.
There is something about knowing we are liked that feels so much more intimate than the overused word love. I feel a deeper connection to this God who wants to commune with me. God would have never sent His precious son to earth to die for my sins if He didn’t not only love me but like me also. And Jesus died not for some idealized version of me. Jesus died for me, the sinner - just as I am - me. I am His handiwork. He called His creation good. He made me, and He likes me just as I am.
I am KnownSeenLiked.
The best part of this new Instagram name is that it is you too.
You are KnownSeenLiked.
These truths about me are true for you too.
How amazing to try to avoid this trap of selfish ambition on this social media platform and instead speak truth to all of our hearts from a place of pure gratitude to our God?
I want you to know this joy of being known, this relief of being seen, this deep appreciation of being liked.