I sat alone on the warm sand. With my arms tightly hugging my knees, I listened to the rhythmic crashing of the waves. In and out. In and out. The cadence slowed my breath, and its low roar drowned out all other noise. In front of me, the deep blue ocean spilled over into the horizon in the distance. The swimmers and surfers and sunbathers had gone in for the day; the beach was dotted with only a few remaining vacationers. There was little to distract me. No one to impress.
Nowhere to be. It was quiet, alive, powerful.
My heart was burdened, tangled into a messy knot that was getting tighter every day. I should have been with my husband, Ryan, or the group of friends we were vacationing with, but I could no longer bear the weight of the never-ending pressures, looming sadness, and gnawing disappointment. I needed to be alone, to cry and think and finally surrender. My body was still as I stared out into the vastness before me, but inside it was a jumble of questions and worries, all wrapped up in prayer. I felt so small sitting there on the beach but also so seen.
On that tiny volcanic island, a pale-skinned woman sat, her arms folded around herself, finally brave and still enough to ask the hardest question she’s ever asked.
Who am I?
I had lost myself. In the striving, the proving, the working, the loving and serving and giving, the attempt to hold it all together, the kids and job and house, the volunteering, the church activities and neighborhood gatherings, the worries and hurts, the good and bad choices, the messy and beautiful, I had lost sight of who I was. I know that sounds weird. I mean, of course I know who I am. I am Emily.
Daughter, sister, mom, wife, writer, artist. These things are all true about me. But that wasn’t quite it.
Who am I really?
If my husband left me or I quit blogging, who would I be? If all the externals are blurred out of focus and the only thing remaining is the very core of who I am, stripped bare of the titles, labels, stories, masks, and makeup, who is that girl?
And the next scary question: Is she enough?
I whisper-cried aloud to the ocean before me. I knew this moment would come. It was only a matter of time. I am so tired. I am trying so hard to hold everything together, to prove that I’m okay. It’s not working. I can’t keep doing this. Lord, I can’t keep doing this.
A light, warm rain began to fall. I turned to glance at the view behind me, and right above the lush green Hawaiian foothills, a rainbow appeared. I’d like to think that rainbow was a way for God to speak what I desperately needed to hear in that moment:
I see you. I have not forgotten you. And I’m right here with you now. You might not know who you are anymore, but I do. It’s time to heal, to tell the truth, to stop trying to fill yourself with things that weren’t made to satisfy. You are worshipping the wrong things. Come to Me, you who are weary and heavily burdened, and I will give you rest.
He said this to me, and he says it to you too. He sees you right now, whether you are sitting on a tropical beach, snuggled on the couch, or in your car in the school pick-up line. He has not forgotten you. He is jealous for your heart.
Are you tired? Worn out? Burnt out on all the striving, the filling, the searching? Are you sick of hearing that nagging voice that plays the same accusations again and again—quietly on some days, full blast on others? Try harder. Prove your worth. It’s up to you. It’s your fault. You’re not enough.
Jesus wraps his arms around you, so much less concerned with your bad behavior than your precious heart. “Come to me,” he says. “Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.”
Emily Lex is a watercolor artist and author. In whatever she does, Emily’s desire is to shine a light on the beauty, goodness, and truth all around us so that we might see more clearly who God is and who we are. She resides outside the Seattle, Washington, area with her husband and four children. Connect with her at emilylex.com and on Instagram @emily.a.lex.
Her latest book Freely and Lightly: God’s Gracious Invitation to a Life of Quiet Confidence details Emily’s journey toward becoming the person God has created her to be. Emily’s shares the lessons she’s learned to equip and inspire you in your own spiritual walk toward a Christ-directed life filled with profound purpose and meaning.