We moved to Dallas from the suburbs a year and a half ago. Energized by a new (to us) home, new part of town to get to know, new church, I struck out on my own to make terrific new friends. My expectations never higher, I signed up for everything–MOPS, an ecumenical women’s bible study, the YMCA. You name it.
Then Dallas hit me smack in the face.
I’m speaking of a paradigm unique to this region focused on materialism, status, and image management: Welcome to a town in which you MUST dress up (full face make up I’m talking here) to pop into the grocery store for a gallon of milk. Picture multi-million dollar houses one after the other along perfectly manicured streets; families who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars sending their children to private preschools that cost more than my college.
I felt quite out of place.
We are in a completely different income bracket than most of our neighbors here.
My deepest struggle? The attitude of my heart that first Wednesday morning of Bible Study. I felt inadequate.
A neighborhood mega-church hosts the weekly bible study in which hundreds of Dallas women attend. On that first day I walked in, head down, feeling left out as everyone else came in with name brand bravado. My thoughts were all over the place, I’m ashamed to admit they were very judgey. I didn’t have on $350 suede booties and skinny jeans, my kids were not coiffed in smocked rompers, and I did not drive a sparkly SUV. I thought I stuck out. I felt inadequate and very much like I didn’t belong (but still I desired to!). The would-they-like-me fears of my adolescence began to swell up inside of me as I sat through the welcome and short hymn sing. And my wrong assumption that everyone was looking at me and likewise judging my outsides, robbed me for months.
I grew up in a blue collar, single income family. Money was tight. My teen years were full of Christ and love from my family, but like everyone else I knew, I wanted all the things the cool kids had. I shopped at thrift stores before it was cool and had to modify/craft my own fashion style-we couldn’t afford to keep up with the Jones’.
I thought I had outgrown my desire to fit in during college. I thought I could handle this but when I walked into Theatre Room 105 and saw 10 perfect, size four women each with the exact same color of blonde hair, Tori Burch flats, Michael Kors bags, and neatly monogrammed bibles and notepads and clipboards and pens laying neatly on their laps. . .
I almost walked out.
I suffer from Pride.
It is insidious and you can see what it does to me. I wanted new friends but my insecurities about my image prevented me from reaching out. I don’t think I said a word for weeks during that bible study. I then spent two more weeks in shame for the way I assumed the worst about these women. During those weeks, my heart was humbled. These Dallasites would change me.
One by one each woman opened her heart in front of all of us in a great display of vulnerability. Their fears came tumbling out, showing me they were just like me–their marriages were not perfect, they worried about finances too. They struggle with feelings of inadequacy, just like me! Each woman was so wise, their prayers powerful and confident. They loved Jesus and loved His word. The way they spoke, like they had been spending decades letting His word sink deep into their hearts, marinating the sinews, a brilliant show of Grace poured over me. They accepted me, treated me like I belonged, and we walked together for nine months through God’s word.
Doing a Good Work
Today, I count a handful of these ladies as friends. I text and share lunch with them, many have walked alongside me through three months of Postpartum Depression, fortifying me with their prayers and their presence. Through them God has whispered sweetly, “I am bringing a good work in you to completion. I am not done with you yet!”
In all of this, I am learning to recognize immediately when I am faced with a lie about my self-worth. I am learning to turn my gaze from envying my neighbors shoes or car to repeating God’s truth quietly to myself. Jesus said where our treasure is, where we spend our money, THAT’S where our heart is. My heart isn’t really in my jeans. I want my heart to be about God’s work here on earth. I want to shepherd the children God has given me along paths of righteousness. Jesus challenges us not to adorn ourselves with jewelry and fancy clothes but to be concerned with inner beauty of a gentle spirit.
In light of eternity, I have been called not to care what others think about my outsides, I have been charged to be meek and humble, serving everyone around me, considering them better than myself. That’s the hard part for me.
There are many out there challenging us to end the Mommy Wars. It’s thick here in Dallas. I still don’t have cute brown booties but I’m also not bothered by my, let’s call it “Boho Chic,” messenger bag and Old Navy flip flops on my pedicure-less feet. But I’m walking a little more humbly and listening a lot before I speak. Oh the things I can learn when I stop trying to fit in and relax into the identity that Jesus has waiting for me. I need to accept it and walk in it everyday. God looks at me and you and does not see the trappings of the outside accessories or brand names.
He sees we are all His daughters.
Esther is a recovering perfectionist who lives in Dallas, TX with her husband, Riqui, their two boys, Emory and Elio. She revels in God’s grace and attempts to dish it out to everyone in her life. And she loves to cook and grocery shop. Read Esther’s posts here.