It had been a long week, and a group of coworkers and I decided to go for drinks following our Friday wrap-up at the office. Two hours in, I was thankful to have found myself connecting with these people in more ways than receiving a paycheck from the same company; conversation was smooth (at least, in comparison to the kitchen talk that is usually abrupt and perhaps somewhat awkward) and laughter abounding. I was completely startled, then, as we encroached upon the topic of dating, when I was slapped with the comment: "Sophie, you're single for a reason. Totally undatable." I think I might have choked a little bit, or maybe tittered as my face flushed with humiliation. She furthered unashamedly, completely unaware of my devastation in response to her prior comment: "You're too into the Jesus thing. And how tall are you?" I mustered in response, "probably 5'10. I'm not sure." "Yeah, see? You're huge."
And that was that. Conversation continued as it had been - punctuated with howling laughter from my coworkers - though I quickly made an excuse to leave, remembering my dog at home. I had been embarrassed plenty of times before this, of course, but this was one of those experiences that pierced me. I couldn't stop the mocking voice in my head, repeating it for days on end: "You're too into the Jesus thing. And you're huge." I felt completely foolish, and absolutely disgusting. I was humiliated beyond a reasonable response in that moment (which, in actuality, was probably a good thing, as an emotional outburst would have been disproportionately angry). What struck me the hardest were that these two things this woman identified in me as being unlovable were two things that I love most about who I am. These two things absolutely shape me, and prior to this, I had only ever worn these markers with pride. I carried my humiliation silently and processed through my frustration on my own for a few days, as is normal for me, before talking out my heartache some confidants. Of course, they were quick to oppose her slander, but what my pierced heart and hurt ego needed more than anything was a heavenly healing, and a renewed sense of identity.
The following Sunday, in a message, I heard that as believers, we are guaranteed incredible promises of God (a lot of times good), but not without some that are difficult to swallow. One of them is the promise of persecution. Persecution, however - as explained by my speaker - doesn't always look like martyrdom or torture. Often, especially in the nation and century in which we live, persecution can look like isolation and misunderstanding. Jesus explains in John 15: "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own, but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." In this particular situation, I think hate is too strong a word, as my coworker wasn't being intentionally malicious or deceitful. Misunderstanding, as a modern-day manifestation of persecution, can be a building block that leads to hatred if not uprooted. My response to this dig, in the immediate, was shame. Over a period of several days, though, and as I allowed God to work in me, I had to actively resist bitterness and resentment to take hold of me, and refused to let misunderstanding ferment into hatred. Being misunderstood is so painful (and embarrassing and shocking and just plain gross). In The Four Loves, my favorite C.S. Lewis writes, "In this kind of love, as Emerson said, Do you love me? means Do you see the same truth? - Or at least 'Do you care about the same truth?'". I can't expect everyone to love all 5'11" of me if we don't operate in the same truths. And that's okay, though painful when truths come clashing.
To understand your identity is to know your strengths, your weaknesses, and everything in between. It's to know your gifts and your longings and your eye color. It's to know who you are in relation to others. Most importantly, it's to know who you are in relation to who God is. I am 5'11" - and probably even 6" in humidity, when my hair is extra fluffy, and even taller in a high heel (of which I am unafraid). I have broad shoulders and long legs and I love this frame of mine. And who am I - physically, emotionally, spiritually - without Jesus? Truly, without Him, I am nothing. He is the sole reason for Daughters; the very title of this movement is a profession and a declaration of who we are in relation to God. I wouldn't want it any other way.
Women, especially, are encouraged in their singleness to become as datable as possible, whatever it takes. Here's the thing: I don't want to dilute my identity for the purpose of being understood by the world, firstly, and certainly not for the sake of being world's most datable.