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AfterWords | A Journey To Become Real (October 30, 2022)

AfterWords is a series of community-contributed reflections intended to further the conversations that begin during Parish sermons.

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A 3-Minute Read
by Amy Hoyle

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
—Dr. Seuss

This quote from the Dr. Seuss book, Happy Birthday, played through my mind as I prepared to write today’s AfterWords post. While it’s not biblical, I hear God the Father saying this over me and my family every day – reminding us who we are, in Him alone.

During Sunday’s message, Jordan spoke of sin’s impact on our identity: Life according to the Flesh vs. Life According to the Spirit.

Ephesians 4 encourages us to change the former way of life that was part of who we once were and, instead, “clothe yourself with the new person created according to God’s image. So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth.”

While we are made new in Christ the moment we say yes to Jesus, the journey to our true self is a lifelong process of becoming more rooted in who God would have us be. We are already like God – made in His image, but sin has shadowed our memory of who we truly are. We’ve replaced our true self with a false self.

Our family of four has been on a deliberate journey these last two years to shed our false selves. It wasn’t like we had a big revelation collectively. It was more like who we had projected to be for so long was unsustainable and a detriment.

January of 2021, I began what would be four months of chemotherapy for recurrent ovarian cancer. Through treatment I worked full time, struggled to help our youngest through online school, and met with our eldest once a week for lunch to stay in touch with him, as he lived an hour away.

When I rang the bell and completed chemo, I fully expected to gain strength and storm full speed into life as it had once been. However, the days after chemo proved to be my hardest yet. I was really shocked at how weak I was. I was unable to sit upright and felt fatigued to the point of death.

I thought processing throughout my journey would spare me grief at the end, but there are no shortcuts with trauma. There’s no moving on from deep loss, only moving through it.

I barely recognized myself and grieved deeply. My body had stored all the trauma—not just from chemo, but from a lifetime of striving, persevering, proving. For 40+ years I lived as if I had no limitations (though born disabled), and that version of myself had become a detriment.

As I reentered old parts of my life, I realized I no longer fit. Old Amy denied herself, pushed past limitations, and avoided grief at all costs (except for the five minutes I allowed myself to feel the feelings before calling time and shutting it down). Reentering life post-trauma, old narratives and habits resurfaced and really messed with me. It felt like a photo of old Amy had been held up in front of me, with all the expectations.

For months I lived in the tension of who I was and who God was asking me to become.

When I felt the least like myself, I heard God whisper, “There you are.” When I could do nothing at all, His voice said, “I’m delighting in you—not for what you do, but because of who you are.”

The beginning of my after-story required honesty, truth, grief, hope, joy, and most importantly, living FULLY as God created me to be—limitations and all.

In a therapy session, I asked my counselor if she thought God was impatient at how long it takes me to process and change. She said He knows my process and heart. He waits patiently, lovingly, maybe even with amusement, for my surrender and acceptance. Just as we know how our children process—and we love them in the waiting—so is the heart of God.

Scott and I have always told our boys it’s our job to help them become just who God made them to be.

In embracing my true self, I’ve been able to pursue and encourage our sons to hear the voice of God over the voice of the world. And they have done beautiful work in embracing their strengths and limitations.

Last spring the stress of prolonged pandemic + anxiety + chemo took a family toll—especially on our Elijah. Crying out to God, He reminded me the educational road with our youngest always had twists and turns. So why would we now expect him to fit the mold? God gave us Elijah because He knew we would shepherd his heart well—choosing what was best for him over what the world would say is best.

After much prayer, we let go of striving, unenrolled him from school, and Elijah got his GED.

For our eldest, Noah, the pandemic + working the night shift in the healthcare field drove him into a deep depression. His love language, like my own, is quality time, and he was in deep need of connection, healing and rest. So he quit his job, moved back home to rest and be restored, and is now working a job that is such a YES for who God made him to be.

The world, whose voice was so loud—with its never-ending expectations—has begun to quiet as our boys lean into who God made them to be.

They are already so further along in truths that took Scott and I 40+ years to embrace. It’s a daily, moment-by-moment process to trade expectations and instead be expectant of what God is doing and will do.

In this journey to become real, I’ve thought so much of The Velveteen Rabbit—with us as the rabbit and God as the magical nursery fairy.

In the story, the little boy falls ill with scarlet fever, and bunny is relegated to a sack.

“A tear, a real tear, trickled down his little shabby velvet nose and fell to the ground. And then a strange thing happened. For where the tear had fallen a flower grew out of the ground, a mysterious flower, not at all like any that grew in the garden. It had slender green leaves the color of emeralds, and in the center of the leaves a blossom like a golden cup. It was so beautiful the little Rabbit forgot to cry, and just lay there watching it.”

The loveliest fairy in the whole world gathers the bunny in her arms and kisses his tear-damp velveteen nose.

“I am the nursery magic Fairy,” she said. “I take care of all the playthings the children have loved. When they are old and worn out and the children don’t need them anymore, then I come and take them away with me and turn them into Real.”

“Wasn’t I Real before?” asked the little Rabbit.

“You were Real to the Boy,” the Fairy said, “because he loved you. Now you shall be Real to everyone.”

The world desperately needs real. We, the saints of the church, bear witness to show a more whole way of living. We are wooed to go another way. The more we are real, the more we join God’s work to propel the world towards wholeness.

Our family story is one God is writing and our only prayer is, “May it be as you desire.” Embracing our true selves has resulted in beautiful fruit. In the brokenness, in the rewriting, in the surrender, is fullness of joy and unshakeable peace.

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