Have you ever opened a package only to find another layer of wrapping paper or smaller box inside? My younger brother and I were quite the jokesters growing up. So, I remember having this done to me, as well as playing this trick on different family members at Christmas.
As I’d tear away the first layer or two, I remember chuckling. But there came a point where me or the person opening the present would get frustrated. So much so that when it came time to finally unearth the gift inside, you were exhausted and it really didn’t matter what it was to begin with.
Much like this joke, I see that much of my life has been lived in same light. With my fierce determination to please other people, I have covered “me” in layer after layer of wrapping paper and the like.
Sometimes these layers have been shiny, tied with lovely bows for the world to see. Other times, the paper wasn’t enough so I forced myself into various size boxes, both big and small. I have even attempted sinking into those cute little gift bags that save the headache of wrapping.
But no matter the outer packaging or multitude of layers, the reality is the real treasure, the real gem, the real me has been hidden- Hidden beneath fear and perfectionism. Beneath my need for approval and longing for affection. Hidden beneath my past and pain. Hidden beneath excuses of why it would always be this way.
What about you? Are you hiding beneath all the layers, too?
You see, this Christmas season, my eyes have been opened to realize that the best gift I could both receive and give is not a specific present under the tree. It is ME!
Hear me out. This statement is not coming from a place of self centeredness or even a victim mentality. In reality, it is just the opposite. And boy has it been a process.
Although before I explain more and how it has applied to me, let’s first look at Mary and how the birth of Jesus came to be.
In Luke 1, it says,
“God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary… Gabriel said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus…”
Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God…
Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.
Like me, maybe you’ve heard this story a thousand times. But I am wondering if you have really received it in a manner that this news has and is changing everything about you and your world?
I ask such a question because I honestly can’t say 100% it had for me. And my life was attesting to that. By my fears and my lack of confidence. My issues with control and trust. I could go on… For this story was going through my ears, but wasn’t changing my heart.
Although this year as I was reading in Luke, it was like God reached through the pages and shook me to see. It isn’t just this lofty story. There are so many lessons we can gleen, especially from Mary. So, let’s take a minute to dig a bit deeper.
Right off the bat, it is worth pointing out who God choose to use. It was not a rich, sophisticated, highly educated, put together and experienced woman.
Rather, he used Mary, a simple, ordinary teenage girl with hormones and struggles, just like you and I, to birth the Savior who would change the world.
On hearing this news from the angel, she could have gotten angry and tried to put wrapping paper on herself and her situation to cover up her reality. (I know I would have wanted to run and hide). She could have tried changing God’s plans. She could have let her fear and emotions lead the way.
But what stood out to me is rather than trying to change who she was and the role she was to play, she chose to EMBRACE it. What about you?
Mess and all, are you embracing who you are?
For this Christmas story and the essence of the gospel is that Jesus came down from heaven to earth to be born as a human baby, live and teach for 33 years without sin and then die on the cross because of His love for us.
But He didn’t just come and do everything so we would keep trying to cover our real selves up, or put all of our energy into becoming like someone else, or continuing to believe the lies of the enemy. He came so that we may live and breathe and think and walk from a place of victory and freedom in the path He has created so intimately for each and every one of us INDIVIDUALLY.
It’s one thing to know this truth, as in head knowledge. But it’s an entirely different thing to receive it and live it out. Trust me.
Think about it like a present. What if you refused to receive any Christmas presents this year? You would not get to enjoy the pure joy and also the blessing that comes with opening and actually making use of the gifts others took the time and energy to purchase.
Likewise, if we don’t receive Jesus and ALL that He is and ALL that He came to do in our lives, it’s like having the present, the solution to everything but leaving it unopened. Or pulling out the wrapping paper or a piece, but never seeing or experiencing the whole thing.
And so I’ve realized that if I really want Jesus and the Christmas story to mean more than mere letters on a page, my personal step is to begin RECEIVING the love Jesus has already given me by loving the bold, brave, beautiful woman looking back at me in the mirror and embracing the incredible woman God created me to be.
This journey of embracing ourselves looks different for us all. But one example for me has been stepping into my femininity.
Now this might sound silly for some, but this is a challenging goal I’ve been working on with my counselor.
For as far back as I can remember, I have been a sweatpants and ball cap kind of girl. And while there is nothing necessarily wrong with that, I realized that its root was unhealthy and keeping me shackled. Out of fear and shame, I was believing many lies. One being that if I didn’t look pretty, no man would desire me. Therefore, no one could hurt me.
Still, this issue didn’t stay isolated. As with anything in our lives. And so the baggy, ratty clothes that I hid behind became how I viewed myself, which then trickled into every area of my life including my relationships and my decisions. I got to the point where I was letting others treat me like I was trash and even fell back into an abusive relationship because I thought I wasn’t worthy enough.
But then God asked me, “Alisha, What image of me are you portraying?”
Because hating and hiding yourself sure isn’t humbleness.
And if you aren’t loving yourself, how can you love others?
Others need you Alisha. You have a story and gifts and talents and a way about you that others need. You are not a mistake or an accident.
Why do you keep trying to be someone else?
This is just one area of my life that God opened my eyes to see and I felt so convicted to share because I want to help you too, come to this reality.
Friend, it’s exhausting trying to keep up this whole hiding thing and changing out all the different wrapping paper to suit others as we see fit, meanwhile burying the real us. It is time we simply be the men and the women God created us to be. For you see, we can’t give of ourselves when we don’t know the real us.
So, what is it that you need to receive this Christmas, maybe for the first time or maybe through new eyes? Maybe like me, it is yourself and it’s time to say enough is enough. It’s time I really embrace all of Jesus.
Yet, regardless of your next step, I want you to know you’re not alone and if you have questions or prayer requests or simply need someone to listen, I pray that you will reach out by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can do this friend. We can do this together. Enough with the excuses. It’s time to take off all the wrapping paper and let the gift of the real you shine.
Much love and Merry Christmas! Alisha