It seems like everywhere I turn lately, I'm reading or hearing about being true to the person I am. People whose work I read, other people whose work I read, people I respect and look up to, people I don't even know. A quote I saw on Twitter sums all of their words up well: "It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation" - Herman Melville.
The theme is the same. And it's nothing new. Be yourself. Yes, that one. The one God made you to be. The one He is making you to be. We need you. And me. And her. And him. When we tell our stories, not the stories of others, not the stories we wish were true - but our stories, it gives life to others. As quoted in this fantastic post that says all of this much better than I could, "Tell your story with all of its shadows and fog, so people can understand their own. They want a leader who’s authentic, someone trying to figure out how to follow the Lord Jesus in the joy and wreckage of life. They need you, not Moses.”
All of these people are reminding me to be the Ashley that I was made to be, not an imitation of those I look up to, not an imitation or emulation or wishing I was more like a person or people I love (or like, or know, or know of), but living out of the heart placed in me.
I know the phenomenon isn't unique to first born children, but for me I think at least in part, my tendency to imitate or harbor quiet jealousy is tied to my people-pleasing nature. Carol Kent, an author and speaker and oldest of six children, says, "I was very used to being in charge, and control came naturally to me. I was a people-pleaser and loved to do things perfectly and to be known as a competent person who 'got the job done well.'"
When I see that something works well for someone else or that someone I love has a passion for something, instinctively I think I'm drawn to it. Though not consciously, I associate the approval, success, love, or passion that another has with the same feeling for me. Sitting here I can of course objectively say that sounds ridiculous, but ridiculous or not, I can't deny reality.
Lessons like this seem to come full circle for me.
Several years ago I gave a talk to our high school kids when Jeff was working at a church in Knoxville that was about John the Baptist. The whole point was to convey that John was a light. An important one for sure, but he wasn't The Light. He was placed in a particular place for an important purpose. Instead of getting wrapped up in being unhappy with where he wasn't placed, he embraced the position he had. He embodied, at least in my mind, "Whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God." As one of my good friends and favorite teachers said, "John knew who he was. And who he wasn't".
That is it. Refreshingly simply - but much needed for me - lesson that I have been placed with a purpose in my little corner of the world.