Do you describe your life or create your life?

If you’ve been around here long, you know I’m always coming back to the topic of dreaming: what dreams are, how our ability to dream is an indicator of our health, and how essential they are for our daily life. But dreaming isn’t always something that comes naturally to us, especially if we’ve been disappointed with a previous dream, found ourselves failing at a dream, or been discouraged by circumstances or loved ones.

The truth about dreaming is that it’s not for the faint of heart. Dreaming takes courage. It takes courage to hope. It takes courage to be misunderstood, to try and fail and try again. It takes courage to take action toward our preferred future.

Dreams are never achieved by accident.

I don’t know about you, but there have been times when I have been so disappointed by a failure or delay to my dreams that I give up on them. At least temporarily. I even went through several months after my second child where I stopped dreaming all together as I experienced severe depression and anxiety. But that’s what I mean: our ability to dream is connected to our mental, emotional and spiritual health. It’s a part of who we are, even when we’re not actively doing it.

That’s why I want to invite you to join me in a 31 Day 31 Dream Challenge to engage your dreamer side and learn how to add in valuable practices to improve your ability to dream and then position yourself to be a dream-achiever, not simply a wish-maker.

The 31 Day 31 Dream Challenge is simple but powerful: each day for the month of March, we will write down one dream in any area of our lives. Then through weekly coaching calls, we will unpack four ways to activate these dreams. 

This week in The Leap Year, the coaching community where the challenge is hosted, we talked about the difference between describing your life, which most of us do when we talk to friends, journal or pray. We just get stuck telling ourselves, others and God how life IS.

But what if we asked “What if?”

What if we attempted to use our deepest dreams to “create our life” instead of just live it?

In our weekly coaching call this past Monday, we discussed these four ways to create our future instead of simply living and describing our lives. (Want to catch that coaching call? Click here.)

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So let’s dive in. Let’s be courageous and dream together.

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Here’s my personal invitation to you to join me for the 31 Day 31 Dream Challenge – Create Your Life. Let’s do this together. You can get access to The Leap Year coaching community right here to get started.

You ready? Come on in.

What do you do when you’ve tried everything?

Have you ever had a dream that you try to make happen on your own but it just won’t work? You try everything you know to do: you apply, you work-work-work, you pray, you talk to people who have done it, you cry yourself to sleep and shout at the ceiling, you give up and try to stop caring.

But no matter what you try or don’t try, the dream feels impossible, elusive, and sometimes, it even feels like it’s taunting you.

What do you do when that happens? Most of us shift between working really hard to make a dream happen and then giving up and getting apathetic and cynical. But there’s a better – more challenging but also more honest – way to handle these dreams that are beyond our control.

Here’s the thing: the dreams that are beyond our control are usually connected to our deepest longings and our truest selves. This is why we work so hard and feel so much pain when they don’t happen. We need to pay attention to these big desires because they are telling you about WHO you are and WHY you are here on the earth. It’s a Big Deal.

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I did a short video training on how to respond to these dreams that are so core to who we are, and yet no matter what we do, we can’t seem to get them to materialize. It’s a painful moment, but it’s almost universal to us as humans. You catch my training here.

Are you stuck in this work hard – give up – work hard – give up cycle? I’m offering my community the opportunity to get unstuck and shift into a more peaceful and liberated state of mind and heart with the freedom to desire without . It’s a short-term coaching package called The Breakthrough Sessions, which is 3 coaching sessions PLUS one strategy sessions for only $217, normally $450. I LOVE being part of someone’s breakthrough, and I’d love to do this with you. I only have three packages available because my schedule is almost full so message me at sarahsidersconsulting(at)gmail.com or comment below to get started.

I also want to share this with you, a poem I wrote 8 years ago when we were trying to conceive our first child. I was exhausted from holding the dream out and “trying” to have a baby when there was almost nothing – aside from the obvious 😉 – that I could do to make it happen. This poem has encouraged others who have felt the tension of longing, and I hope it encourages you too.

 

Hope, the Foolish Child

The child, Hope, is unrelenting in optimism;

Wakes up and says, “Today’s the day”, every day,

Even though It hasn’t happened yet.

With odds against the whole thing,

Hope seems blind to reality.

A starving Pollyanna,

Hope is a survivalist.

In a concentration camp of pain,

Hope is a finger of grass, poking through the asphalt.

Sometimes you want to strangle her neck,

Silence this thing that seems only to bring disappointment.

But she walks blindly, dodging death and famine,

Evading what seems to be true,

Believing in something that is nowhere in sight.

What shall I do with Hope, this child I can’t stop feeding?

I want to kill her, but she says the sweetest things.

She knows my desire,

Keeps telling me it’s coming, it’s coming.

I start to think she might be a liar.

And just when I’m about to stop standing there like a fool,

Hand over my eyes,

Staring into that thin horizon line,

Just then she points, shouts,

“Here It comes!”

I squint into the light and sure enough,

Here comes my Longing.

I reach over to hug Hope, that bouncing child.

But she’s gone,

Gone to lay claim to a new desire.

I wonder,

What if I’d given her up?

What if I’d sold her for a clever book title,

Something for the cynics’ best seller list?
What if I’d held her down and shut her up,

Put my hand over her mouth and made her quiet for good?

Disappointment would have moved in.

Skepticism would have been my neighbor,

Resentment shacked up on the couch.

I wouldn’t have been at the end of the drive that day.

I would have missed my Longing as It rode by.

My Cynicism proven right,

I would have looked haughtily from my balcony,

Confident my Self-Righteousness saved me much wasted time.

I would never have known.

I would’ve been right, sort of, but I would have never held Joy.

I thought of all these things.

And then I stood there one more day,

Stood waiting with Hope, holding her tiny hand.

I was there when the Longing came by.

I welcomed the Longing, gladly,

Snatched It up and planted It in the yard:

A Tree of Life for all to see.

A Tree of Life to remind me.

For those who will wait,

Who believe enough to stand out in all that weather:

She does not lie.

No, and Hope does not disappoint.

[by Sarah Siders. Written August 2009]

What Your Self Talk Says About You? 

More than your job, your fashion or your friends, your self talk says a lot about you. Your self talk is the secret to your standards, your expectations, dreams and hopes. Your self talk is the expression of your emotional experience. Your self talk is constantly narrating, interpreting and creating your world.

Your self talk is your life.

The crazy thing is, your self talk doesn’t only come from you. It is often a combination of how parents, teachers and coaches have talked to you throughout your life. Your inner self talk may also reflect how friends and peers have talked to you.

For most of us, our self talk is predominately negative. We have this impression that if we are hard on ourselves, it will help us to grow and change that bad habit we’ve been stuck in for years. But if that were true, wouldn’t you have stopped doing that habit and started doing something else instead? Hmmmm.

Sadly, as many of us have discovered, negative self talk is more destructive than constructive. We may think that we deserve to be talked to in this way after we screw up or fail or disappoint ourselves or others. So in that case, the goal of your self talk is punishment, not motivation.

In fact, much of our self talk is not designed to change us at all but to keep us exactly how we been acting, thinking and behaving our whole lives.

Intentional behavior change starts with intentional self talk change. Because we can’t shame someone, even ourselves, into greatness.

Self talk that promotes fear, guilt or shame will never help you make a long-term change. Negative self talk is typically an assessment of you at your worst, not a reflection of your true self, the person you are when you were at your best. So even though negative self talk might be telling the truth at times, it is only a small part of the whole story.

In order to change our lives, we need to change our self talk by identifying where we are stuck and what our unconscious narration has been saying about this area of our lives, and then identify how we need to talk to ourselves in order to actually change. Usually we need to be encouraging, balanced and positive, noticing where we have made progress and celebrating our forward motion. When we give ourselves this credit, we are more likely to feel rewarded for our progress and we will keep moving forward toward our goal.

I’ll be live in The Leap Year Community Monday night, 6 February, at 730pm CST. Join me there for a live chat, or catch the replay any time. Just click here to request access to our private coaching community, where we have daily challenges and inspiration, plus regular how-to videos and trainings for achieving our goals and living our dreams.

How Tradition Heals The World

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This year more than ever, I am thankful for tradition. Not so much the ritual of it, but what it means. It’s a coming up for air, a gasp of relief. 

During the past year, I overcame a debilitating perspective of God and the world, life inside a tormented mind, a world I had never experienced. My actual life was perfect, as much as we would all dare to wish, but I was haunted by “what if”, a gruesome fantasy land.

It is Christmas time again, and I remember that last year, near Christmas time, I was not doing well. My hair turned dirty and gray from stress, and one of my eyes twitched frantically beneath all the tension. I worried my falling-apart soul was manifesting on my outsides.

When I look back at this photo from just one year ago, the day my family ventured out for a Christmas tree, I can see and feel all the wear on my face and in my soul. Life was a weary thing in those days, but I am in a different place now.

This year, when we went out to get our tree, I insisted we take another picture in the same spot because I wanted to see it. I wanted to look in my eyes and know the healing happened, know that I am not the same. And I saw it. I saw the newness, the strength, the peace and confidence that comes with a healthy soul. 

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Tradition is the gift that reminds me I am not the same: I am growing, becoming. I could not have imagined who I am now, but that wasn’t necessary to become her. And when the earth goes around, and I find myself back here in this season, I can feel the change, the space between who I was and who I am. And it is good.

Tradition is proof there is hope for humanity, that we are not a lost race. Proof that God has not given up on us. Because here we are again, despite all the pain in the world that frightens or distracts us. We are listening to Bing Crosby, sipping wine, telling our children the story of the first gift ever given, and how we are now Father God’s children because of this gift, Jesus. And how we give gifts because we so long to be like our Dad, the papa with the belly laugh like Mr. Fezziwig from A Christmas Carol. And this year, I can tell my sons with certainty that our God is a God of extravagant generosity and he loves so big, so much, and it is a special honor we have to follow behind and try to be like him. 

I can say all these things this Christmas because my soul has room to believe them. I have been planting truth in my soul, nourishing myself with quiet and learning, bravely, to simply let myself be loved. 

If I could give us all one gift this Christmas season, it is that we would let ourselves be loved, that we would take the boxing gloves off, that we would stop keeping score of our goods and our bads – God isn’t doing it, so why should we? I would give us the gift of gentle vulnerability, the kind that isn’t too strong to let love in, to receive the only gift your heart really wants, really needs, the thing that happens to be the the thing God longs to give you. 

Let traditions, another year around the sun, heal and nurture your soul this year. May you see all the lavish grace that has been poured out on you in the past year, even when everything felt broken down and busted up. May you live in this circle of the earth, this season of warmth and quiet, and may it heal you up in places you didn’t even know you needed it. 

Love to you. 

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Why Not Tell Yourself The Truth?

We are always talking to ourselves. But the conversation is mostly laced with deception. With small white lies and rationalizations. And even more, with stories and fables about who God is and what he thinks about us.

In my fantasy, God is mad. Still mad at me for that one thing. Or all those things. And so I avoid him. Avoid the conversation, the repentance, the confession, the coming-clean I know I really need.

I just don’t want to look at his disappointed face.

Maybe you can relate. Or maybe your not-truth is you tell yourself you’re really alone out here. It’s just you in the big world – there is no one to fight for you. Better to not pray or rely on God as he’s a bit unpredictable and we need things we can control around here, not silent and invisible deities who seem aloof at best and contentious at worst.

But this is not the truth and you, and I both know it. We’ve had moments with God that showed us his kindness, his forgiveness. We’ve read what God says about himself and he talks about Love like every other sentence.

He lived it. He commanded it. Jesus’ friend John straight up said “God IS Love”.

So take a minute to write down the truth so you can remind yourself later. I did it the other day.

It might sound canned at first. It might sound too good to be true. But either Love gets the last say in this life or he doesn’t. If he doesn’t, then what are we doing believing, even a little bit? If he is not true, if Love is a pipe dream, then we are wasting our time. As Paul said, we are the most to be pitied.

But if Love is the Last Word, if Love is the Word with skin on, a faithful friend, a patient parent, a comforting confidant, then let’s do ourselves a favor and believe already.

Here are my Truths. What are yours?

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When You Pray and It Feels Like Nothing Is Happening

Sometimes prayer feels like this.

Pouring tiny drops of water into a giant bucket. No matter how late or long or loud you pray, it seems like the bucket is still empty.

All your work, your blood, sweat, prayers. You launch them upward, hot, sticky and tired, but nothing comes back down to you.

You want to give up. It feels like nothing is happening.

I can totally relate. Recently, our family thought we’d had a huge victory in something we’d been praying in for years. We thought the worst was over. I can’t share the details, but the celebration was short-lived.

If I had written this post a few weeks ago, I would’ve thought we’d had a breakthrough. An answer to prayer. But now here we are, more heartache, delay, sadness.

I can’t make sense of it. But I know that prayer works.

Revelation talks about prayer like a real thing, not just vapors or whispers that vanish as soon as they leave the mouth of the faithful.

They are like incense to God, a fragrance, and in John’s vision in Revelation, it says prayers fill up bowls in front of God. Fill up. Maybe slowly, maybe quickly, but those bowls fill.

 

And eventually…

The overflow comes. Splash. You are drenched in the magnificent answer to your prayer.

It’s not a neat process. There is no formula. Sometimes we fill bowls and buckets of prayer that won’t overflow in our lifetime. Sometimes we pray and we lose our loved one anyway. What happened to that bowl of prayer? We don’t know.

Paul even has the audacity to suggest that suffering, brokenness, short-term disappointment, can lead to hope. What? He says to the Romans, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

When we go through difficulties, painful circumstances and prayers that seem pointless, somehow God is building hope in us through this. Yes, hope, not hopelessness or cynicism as you might expect or even feel at times. No, this crazy rollercoaster of emotion is somehow designed for our hope. Believe it.

So no, prayer isn’t pointless. Something is happening. Really. The way God talks about this act of prayer, the filling of a bucket, little by little, prayer by prayer, this helps me know I am not doing this in vain.

So don’t give up. Don’t walk away thinking your prayers are merely wind. Don’t let yourself get disappointed. It’s possible your bucket is almost full, ready to soak you in your long-awaited answer.

Just one more day, get up, pour your prayer in the bucket, and wait. Your faith will not disappoint you.

No prayer is unheard. No prayer is wasted. This kind of Hope never disappoints.

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Don’t Waste Your Courage On A Swimsuit

Maybe it’s too late to have this conversation, but I want to talk about swimsuits.

Swimsuit. What a word. I mean, it is practically synonymous with self-hatred talks to the mirror and the emotion of shame itself. Good grief.

Every summer, we try on the old one or drag ourselves out to find a new one. And it’s never fun. We are always miserable.

If the mirror tells us bad things, we dutifully renew the gym membership, even change our diets. And that’s not a bad thing. We probably should’ve done that anyway.

But it usually doesn’t help because it takes literally all the courage we have to suck in our guts, slip on the flip-flops with heels, you know, for a little extra length to our silhouette and actually walk into that pool.

I’m glad these girls are celebrating their bodies. But it’s okay if you’re not ready to do that. You don’t have to prove you’re courageous by walking around in spandex. For the love. You’re courageous for so many other reasons….
This year, I wondered Why. Why do we do this to ourselves? 

I mean, we are torturing our bodies and minds but for what? So we can walk around in essentially spandex undergarments, comparing ourselves to everyone else we see, not enjoying ourselves at all? 

I believe it was Eleanor Roosevelt who inspired all of us to “do one thing every day that scares you”. I’m just curious why we waste our brave act on a swimsuit.

In the past two years, I watched my body boomerang and balloon, growing a full belly with a baby inside, and then a shrinking belly with skin that didn’t know quite where to go.

I went from regular to large to regular-ish again, and in all of this changing, I realized what my body is really for. My body is for loving.

So if that’s true, what are we doing to ourselves every year, hitting the gym, changing diets, having hate talks to the mirror, starting some time during spring and ending some time by when we can hide out in sweaters again?

I mean, would you be friends with someone who talked to you the way you talked to you? Probably not. But I digress.

I don’t have the cure for all our self-hatred or shame. I mean, that is a much longer conversation. But I just think we don’t need to play by the arbitrary rules media writes. 

Our culture says, “Prove how brave you are and how much you love your body by wearing practically no clothes.” And I’m like, “Why? Do we know each other?”

Cause last time I checked, being mostly or all the way naked was for intimacy and trust, not a peep show for random strangers who I’ve never met. So what am I trying to prove in this publicly-worn spandex underwear anyway?

I say, I can be brave a million other ways. I can be brave in ways that move the world forward. I can be brave and love myself on my terms, not the terms of judgy strangers. 

Don’t get me wrong. I love when people love their bodies. And I want us all to use our courage. But I say, dont waste it on a swimsuit. Use your courage to apologize to your spouse or your best friend. Use your courage to apply for that job you think you’re not qualified for. Use your courage to take that medical missions trip you’ve always known you should take.

But don’t waste your perfectly good courage on a swimsuit. Wear the cover up or the jean shorts or the one piece or whatever. It’s all good. I will be right with you. Cause I’m using my courage to be a better mom. And that’s taking pretty much all of it. 

What will you do with all the extra courage you have? I can’t wait to find out. 

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When You Think You’re Never Going To Get Better

Today I talked with a mama friend who’s been anxious and scared for a long while. She’s tired of fighting this fight with her mind. I know this feeling so well.

There were days in the worst of my paralyzing paranoia where I wanted to just give up. I didn’t want to die, really, but I just didn’t have much fight left. I thought, if this keeps going, I can’t. I can’t do this.

The worst part was realizing what was wrong, fixing it, and then still nothing. I didn’t get better. At least not at first.

At some point early in the struggle, I knew the problem was rooted in soul neglect. Of course, add in the years of sleep deprivation, the disappointment and uncertainty of pastoring, friends moving and confusing career discoveries, scary news everywhere I looked, plus a depleted body and rapid hormone shifts, and it was a perfect storm. But isn’t this most women’s story? I seriously wonder how every mother doesn’t have a postpartum mental health challenge to overcome. But I digress.

I could feel something specific was wrong with me: my skeleton insides craved nourishment, silence, solitude, attention, God himself.

So I started doing something so very small, spending 15 minutes in a big chair in my living room, quiet and still, like David said to do in Psalm 131. I let my soul be a child, because it is after all, and slowly, painfully, there were less bad days and more good days.

The bad days would come though, and I would want to give up. I would claim I was always this way, that I was losing a battle. But the truth was, I wasn’t losing. I was winning. The bad days didn’t end in a second like I wanted, but I was gaining. Gaining weight on the bones of my soul, gaining insight on who I was and what I needed.

I was becoming myself again, although I barely recognized her at first.

During the worst of it, it felt like it took way too long to get healthy again. I wish it would’ve gone faster, but how could it have? It took weeks and months and years to get so sick, so how could I expect to be well again after a few hours of quiet? The sadness had been stacking up and so I had to stack up silence and healing to take place of the ill in my soul.

So if you’re feeling like it’s been taking too long and you’re still having more bad days than good days, I want you to keep doing the good things. Keep making room for yourself and God. Keep taking the anxious waters of your soul and letting them sit near the calm waters of God. Let the light in. Keep telling your story and remember to talk about all the work you’ve done and how far you’ve come. You need to remember that part more than anyone else needs to hear it.

You’re weeding your garden, pulling up the junk that grew without your permission and planting beautiful things instead. They’re underground now, and it seems like nothing is happening. But it is. But you can’t give up. Keep weeding, Keep planting. Soon you will feel strong and healthy and beautiful.

Don’t Drink The Water

Everyone and every-where possess a unique emotional climate. This atmosphere may be as big as a country, as small as a person, and everything – cities, churches, businesses, families – in between.

It’s something in the environment, a vibe, that something-in-the-air that for most people, goes undetected. Unless they’re looking for it.

The emotional climate of a workplace, church, family or a person can be uplifting and life-giving or exhausting and life-sucking.

In case you’re not sure you’re one of the people who can pick up on this climate, you’re probably more tuned in than you think.

This emotional vibe that others possess is, more or less, how you feel during and after being in a place or with a person.

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Do you feel better or worse? What is the name of that feeling: Hope, cynicism, isolation, despair, optimism, creativity, welcome, rejection, anxiety, peace?

Naming it is powerful. Now you know what the predominant attitude will be when you talk with this person or work in this place.

But don’t get caught up in it. Diagnosing the vibe of a place is not the end goal. Knowing what we are surrounded with gives us the opportunity to rise above it. No longer are we the unaware victims, swept up in a culture we don’t see.  

Yet I often hear people say, “This place is sucking the life out of me.” While it may be true, it is usually the statement of someone who has not chosen their own attitude but simply takes on the feel of wherever they are or whomever they are with.

Proverbs tells us that a person who is not in control of their own spirit is like a city with broken-down walls: anything can get in.

Is that you? Do you resonate with the predominant attitudes of whoever you’re with or do you challenge the status quo by bringing your own unique attitude and perspective to the table? Did you even know you had the choice? 

Just because you live or work there doesn’t mean you have to drink the water. You don’t have to think the way everyone else does.

Sure, some will be suspicious of your optimism. A few people will wonder why you refuse to get beat down or jaded. They will think it is a stroke of luck when doors open for you or when your boss gives you a project she doesn’t trust anyone else with. 

The truth is anyone can transcend the culture, the climate, that vibe of heaviness and apathy, fear and resignation. We need not be the unwitting victims of a person or place’s atmosphere.

So how do we rise above? 

First, we have to know the climate exists, put our feelers out and identify it. Name it. (Hopefully it’s making people better but if not, no problem.)

Second, we choose and create a better vibe that radiates from our own personal climate and into the larger environment. We become ones who release good into our world instead of simply absorbing bad.

The trick is naming the vibe and then choosing in advance what you will bring to the conversation or place. Trying to be strong and change the attitude in the moment will probably fail, at least the first few times.  

For me, this vibe comes from knowing God and that deep down, all things are for my good and he can make good of anything. This builds hope and confidence in me. That’s where my personal environment comes from. 

Lest you think this is abstract, fanciful ideas, I can tell you that I’ve chosen this approach at work, and it has greatly increased my influence in my workplace. People are repelled by despair and attracted to hope. So if I choose to bring that, and we all know I’ve struggled deeply for every ounce of hope, then I become the magnet and I get to influence how people think and feel, inform what they think is possible. 

It’s powerful. 

Ghandi called this “being the change you want to see in the world”. So instead of complaining or getting beat down with the predominant attitude of the atmosphere, become your own transformation and watch the climate shift – for the better – around you.

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What Does It Mean To Feel Like A Woman?

Today Bruce Jenner revealed his new female identity on the cover of Vanity Fair. From now on, “Call me Caitlyn,” the cover reads.    

The process of Bruce-turning-Caitlyn has been at the center of social support and controversy for the past several months after revealing her identity as a transgendered person. She spent months receiving treatments and undergoing what must have been a painful process, most recently a 10-hour surgery, that ultimately changed her gender. 

But can we really change gender? What does that mean?

Caitlyn has shown an enormous amount of courage in her willingness to share this transformation story. Our culture has become increasingly supportive of stories that don’t fall within the two-gender identity, but rather a gender-spectrum.

As a Christian and a worker in the Behavioral Health field, I think hearing someone’s story is an essential part of knowing them and helping them heal. Our story is our identity. And for Caitlyn, her story is one of a person who has lived in a man’s body and, for much of her life, felt an enormous amount of angst and dissonance with the male gender, which she was assigned.

I don’t know what Bruce or Caitlyn have gone through. I can’t imagine how horrible it would feel to trapped in a body that didn’t feel like yours. Caitlyn expressed feeling like a woman as far back as the 1976 Olympics, a feeling she wrestled with for the next several decades. This must have been absolute agony, and although I cannot relate to this struggle, I can relate to feeling trapped in my mind during my stint with anxiety and paranoia.

Being your own enemy is a terrible feeling – there is no escape. And for Caitlyn, I’m sure the promise of finally looking on the outside how she felt on the inside offered hope.

But there has to be more to the restoration process than simply an outward physical change. 

I want to zoom out of Caitlyn’s story for a moment and ask a bigger question that came to me when I heard Bruce say he “felt like a woman” for a long time. While I’ve felt compassion, I also felt some indignation at the fact that he said he “felt like a woman”. I mean, what does it mean to feel like a woman? 

To be honest, sometimes I’m not even sure what it feels like to be a woman. But I know that my identity as a woman is much more than dresses, bosoms and big hair. It’s something I know about myself, but it’s beyond that.

Is it my desire to be beautiful and pursued, my gentleness and strength, my longing and ability to give birth? Maybe, but it has to be more. I can’t really pin down what “being a woman” feels like.  

So how did Caitlyn Jenner know she felt like a woman?

How does anyone define the essence of the male and female genders? How can anyone know with certainty which gender he or she actually is versus who he or she feels he or she is? 

The tone here is not to be condemning. Commenting on someone else’s experience can quickly become presumptuous and unkind. I will not be a stone-thrower.

Yet I want the permission to ask my question too. I believe the feeling of being a man or woman has more to do with an internal state of heart and mind that cannot be resolved by an external, physical transformation. By saying, “If you feel like a man/woman, you must be,” we reduce the experience of gender to a feeling. And isn’t there more to it than that?

Again, how do we know who we truly are and who we are to be? Is it true that our deepest self is found in a gender or is there something in our personhood that transcends even that? Feelings are at best distorted and at worst deceitful. I would like to suggest we need something beyond feeling to determine ourselves, a source outside ourselves to help us know ourselves.

By no means do I want to dilute the transgender struggle to a trite religious sentiment. But as a Christian, I believe in a God who is still speaking, a God who adopts us as son or daughter. He knows exactly who he made us to be, and if we listen closely, I believe he will tell us. I know I need to hear it. Because without our Father’s voice, I don’t know how any of us can know the truth.