I had a conversation with some folks awhile back and they questioned me on motives that I had, and my personal character. They made assumptions about what I was trying to accomplish in my words and actions and they branded me as someone I wasn’t. The words that they chose to describe me, made me feel incredibly small.
In one conversation, I felt like I needed to roll up into a ball and sit in the corner. Of course I didn’t come to this conclusion on my own, it took a few weeks of therapy to get it out. My therapist does a technique called “mind and body work” (I think? This is not a technical term, so don’t quote me) where she asks where I can “feel” a certain emotion in my body. Is my throat getting a lump in it? Do my legs feel like they need to get up and start running? Is my heart beating? That sort of thing.
So as I was sitting there on her seriously comfy couch, and I was recalling these things that were said about me, she says: “Where do you feel that in your body?” And immediately I tucked my elbows close into my sides, my chin into my chest and covered my ears like I was a boxer waiting for the blow. And she nailed it:
“Oh. You felt small.”
I hate feeling small.
Feeling small is when someone sucks the biggest passionate parts out of you and makes them out to be something terrible. It is when someone attacks who you are and your character and your being and tells you that it is no good. Feeling small is the most cowardly way for anyone to approach conflict, but it is by far the weapon of choice by most people.
Next, my therapist asked me to think of an opposite image. What does the opposite of feeling small look like? What are you doing? Where are you feeling that in your body? And I sat for a long time. I heard that clock literally ticking next to me and it took my awhile to feel as though it was safe enough to uncurl myself and to step into big things.
Emotions can do that, can’t they? When we retell a story and the wounds are still fresh, it can stop us dead in our tracks. It gets us while we are buying a can of tomatoes or in the drive through getting lunch. Those nasty phrases and words pop into our heads and suddenly we feel small. Our big plans for the day that included dreaming and hoping and adventure often lead to quiet on the couch, or if you are like me: an outburst of anger and then tears a bit later. Feeling small makes you feel trapped. And worthless. And awful. And you can begin this cycle of bad and destructive habits, all because when someone made you feel small, you accepted that feeling and started weaving it into your story.
You adopted the smallness as part of your being. Don’t get me wrong, “they” are at fault for saying these things, but the acceptance of this, is yours. It’s mine. It’s ours. We have a choice when we feel small: we can accept this as part of us and live out of that narrative, or we can re-orient, think through things, sort out our emotions, and not allow these words to define us.
After a few more minutes on that couch, I remembered a time when I was 3 or 4 and we had this giant gravel driveway and at the end of it were two giant saguaro cacti. (I’m from the west, y’all). When I was little, I loved to run as fast I could up and down the driveway, to the end and then back again. I recall this feeling like I was flying. I had on my favorite gellies, favorite dress, and I remember feeling really free and really big.
My therapist told me to hold on to that and to sit in that for a moment. For as moments many as it took. Because when we can remember a moment that we felt big and brave and alive, then we remember we have those things inside of us.
We weren’t born small. As Image Bearers we were born with limitless creativity, compassion, empathy, and life-giving attributes that are ready to break free and change things. God is at work in this world and in Genesis He begins with a garden and then the story ends, or begins again, it is with a city. This isn’t accomplished because people feel small. It’s because they have said YES to the Holy Spirit inside of them, and they have begun to do things that are brave and big. It is accomplished because along the way, when people made them feel small, they didn’t write these words into their story. Instead, they accepted their imperfections asked for grace, accepted forgiveness and tried again.
They simply didn’t let anyone define them except for the Creator of the Universe.
I truly believe that the only way out of feeling small is to do big things. More specifically, to do Image Bearer things.
Our world says that “big” is famous and my sweet ones, this is so not true. Big is brave, and brave is being yourself. Being big means being unapologetically you. Full of amazingness and mess ups, but eager to accept grace and love. We don’t need to do anything, to go anywhere or accomplish anything to do something important. The most important thing you can do right now to act big and brave is to be YOU.
And maybe more to the point: being an Image Bearer means acceptance of who we are, what we are, and the diversity we bring to the table. We accept that we are uniquely gifted, created, and called and we should never be shamed into thinking we are less. Being an Image Bearer is literally mimicking the behavior of Jesus and being in tune to where He is moving and how He is doing it. It is being creative and compassionate and caring. It is literally dreaming and planning and creating things of the stars and realizing that the One we are created in the image of is the same One who put all of those glittery lights into place.
It is starting with a mustard seed and then moving an entire mountain.
Where to Begin?
Baby steps look like this: Put on that song that you love and put it on LOUD. Wear those 90’s overalls that you want to buy and rock the hell out of ’em. You want to wear bright red lipstick? THIS IS YOUR DAY.
And over time we become a little more comfortable, a little braver and then we start doing things that are so very big: we stop apologizing for when we can’t meet everyone’s needs. We no longer feel the need to impress people, to hustle for their approval and instead we simply show up. We don’t pretend that we are perfect, but we refuse to stand for less than being utterly accepted and loved. And we just no longer engage in relationships where being small is part of the routine.
But here’s the real pay-off. Where the road of bravery and Image Bearing collide: When we are in practice of being brave, then our lives begin to look at little bit like the Gospel. Once we are brave and we realize how loved and big we are in this world, we start using that for good. It gets a little turned upside down doesn’t it? Because once we realize how big we are, we actually start acting in a way that the world would define as “small”. We no longer have to hustle for approval or try and be brave, we just are. We can sit quietly and just listen. We no longer have to think twice before we go against the grain for what is right, or stand beside our opinions, or choose justice when it’s unpopular. We accept who we are and what we have to offer and we hold our bigness and our braveness as things stitched deep within us and then awakened by Christ. And then, we start being brave for the sake of others. We become meek to help the poor, we live differently so that others don’t have to. We love when it is hard and we forgive and ask for grace a thousand times over without hesitation.
Being big and brave doesn’t have to be grand or expensive or giant. It just has to be you.