Who Are We Not to Be?

A tulip doesn’t strive to impress anyone. It doesn’t struggle to be different than a rose Look at little children in kindergarten. They’re all different without trying to be. As long as they’re unconsciously being themselves, they can’t help but shine.
–Marianne Williamson

On the last week of kindergarten, with parents and grandparents present, our daughter’s teacher spoke to each child’s unique brilliance. Through tearful eyes and knowing laughter, she told stories of their innovation, ambition, and tenderness. When it was Hannah’s turn, she named her entrepreneurial spirit and quick wit, citing the day she created a donut jig and jingle to increase sales during a marketplace unit. She spoke of her deep heart, spiritual sensitivity, and bravery. It was stunning to watch. I felt a longing rise up in me for my beauty to be named and delighted in by a kind and prophetic older woman like her.

This classroom of shimmering six-year-olds may feel quite different than the women’s event you recently attended. As adults, long after the deprivation mentality and comparison game sets in, our natural luminescence seems to lose its luster. To add to this, when we rise up in our God-given glory, we are often assaulted with arrows that are laced with contempt or envy. I have been on both ends of these arrows.

When I was in grad school, I lived with a kind and playful woman who had a keen eye for organization. No disheveled closet was too daunting for her SPACE acronym. She could Sort, Purge, Assign, Contain and Evaluate any space, bringing order to chaos. While I admired her eye for beauty, there were times I would quietly scoff at her bedroom, a gorgeous blend of Pottery Barn and The Container Store. She graciously offered to help me implement systems in my room where the floor was barely visible, but my pride prevailed. Now I feel saddened by the way my envy sought to extinguish some of her radiance.

I recently celebrated my 40th birthday. At 97% extrovert, I’ve always loved a party, and this occasion felt like the perfect excuse to be extravagant. We gathered fifty of my closest friends and allowed our middle-aged bodies to “Get Jiggy Wit It.” I squealed with delight when two of my friends did The Worm, something they hadn’t attempted in over a decade! A few weeks prior to my party, I asked another mom at a playgroup if she’d ever used Rent the Runway. I was eager to get this stylish woman’s opinion on the two dresses I was considering for the evening. She looked at me with an eye roll and said, “I can’t believe you would make such a big deal of your birthday.”

I think it’s virtually impossible to bear witness to someone’s unique glory and not feel some level of envy. It’s terrifying to stand tall when the sharp pruning shears of contempt and envy are lurking, but what if we allowed our hearts to be stirred in the presence of another’s glory?

What if we asked our community to help us know our precise place in the garden of God’s beauty?

A few months ago, I gathered with two of my dear friends. All three of us have been in the throws of dark chapters in our stories. We felt led by the Spirit to spend time intentionally speaking to each other’s glory, naming places where arrows have been flung. To up the ante on this, my friend, Kelly, suggested we include a blessing on each other’s physical bodies. I was terrified, but I also felt an indignant and holy rebellion against the competition that typically pervades female interactions.

Kelly and Cathy spoke words that I have longed to hear most of my life. They spilled with delight over my warmth, playfulness, and exuberance, confessing their envy over my energy levels. They affirmed my tenacity, ambitiousness, and deep-heartedness.  They spoke tenderly about my how my sorrow is unmanageable and how easily I’m moved to tears. My tall stature and dark features display my strength and my brown eyes embody indestructible hope and softness. They named me like a Frangipani—a hearty bloom, extremely difficult to burn, fragrant, yet delicate, used to make leis in Hawaii, a sign of hospitality.

I stood with Cathy, an enchanting, devoted, and feminine Stargazer Lily, and Kelly, an exotic, strong, and sensual Passionflower. For a moment, we returned to our shimmering 6-year-old little girls, who all have an exquisite place in the garden.

Together, we created a culture where affirmation trumps envy.

As Marianne Williamson says, “We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, handsome, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are we not to be?”

Rachel Blackston loves all things beautiful…rich conversations over a hot cup of lemon ginger tea, watching her two little girls twirl around in tutus, and Florida sunrises on her morning walks.   She resides in Orlando with her lanky, marathon running husband and her precious daughters, priceless gifts after several years of infertility. Rachel and her husband Michael cofounded Redeemer Counseling. As a therapist, Rachel considers it an honor to walk with women in their stories of harm, beauty and redemption.