On my first day of fifth grade, I walked into a new school with my plaid uniform, button-down shirt, and grey knee high socks. Hugging my books with both arms, I nervously found a desk with my name on it and slipped into the seat. I scanned the classroom for a friendly face, but most fifth graders weren’t conscious of the importance of making a newcomer feel welcome. As I looked around the room, I immediately noticed a difference between me and the other girls. I was wearing knee high socks. They were wearing ankle socks with ruffles.
I panicked. A myriad of thoughts entered my mind:
Savannah, WHY are you wearing dumb knee high socks? Everyone else notices you’re dressed different. That does it, you’re going to the bathroom during lunch and cutting those socks down to your ankles… Then you’ll look like the rest of the girls.
Like most girls in fifth grade, I was desperate to fit in. Desperate to be accepted.
So I shortened my socks with scissors from the art room during lunch that day.
Flash-forward to eighth grade. I was in a new city and new school, walking into Ms. Tolliver’s science class. I got a new haircut—trimmed just above my shoulder with short bangs (before short bangs were trendy). I said hello to the teacher and sat in my seat, greeted by snickers from a couple girls at the table next to me. One girl said, “Why did she do that to her face?”
My cheeks turned bright red.
Handing back an assignment, Ms. Tolliver whispered in my ear, “I think they look super cute.” But I knew the truth… I looked different. Everyone else had long, straight hair. Mine was wavy and frizzy and I had bangs. For the rest of the school year, I braided my hair back with a bobby pin because I didn’t want anyone to see that I was different.
When I was a senior in high school, I started leading worship at my church and felt like I finally found my place. God developed in me a desire to shepherd His people through worship and teaching and discipleship, so that’s what I did for five years. And I don’t know when the transition happened, but before I knew it, I primarily identified myself as a worship leader or writer or the founder of Fire and Light.
Honestly, it was completely unintentional. I heard sermon after sermon about identity— how we are not the sum of our gifts or successes or failures. How we are not primarily worship leaders or writers or wives or fathers or whatever it is we call ourselves. How we are, first and foremost, His. How He gives us value and approval and acceptance. How we are just as significant if we’re responsible for a congregation of 10,000 or a congregation of 10.
I listened to every sermon and genuinely thought my identity was in Him… But after getting married and moving to Atlanta, I realized how much of my worth was placed in the things I did for God rather than God Himself.
It’s been brutal. I seriously don’t stop crying.
I feel like I’m back in fifth grade and trying to modify my socks all over again because I just want to feel acceptable, which is increasingly difficult because I can’t throw my accomplishments in front of anyone. I can’t fall back on things like, “Oh, I lead worship at Ethos and here are all the cool things I’m doing and here are all the friends I have and all the people who love me!”
No, my introduction here is simple—I’m Savannah. I’m Savannah and I’m His. And I’m valuable and acceptable and worth knowing, even if you never hear me sing or write or lead. I don’t need to change my hair or socks or start spontaneously singing to gain your approval because my approval is His to give, and it’s mine in Christ.
The picture above is from this morning, when Todd resorted to giving me a roll of toilet paper because I was crying so much. I kept telling him, “I feel so exposed and naked and I’m afraid nobody will like me just for me.”
See, whether you’re in fifth grade or eighth grade or a newlywed 25-year-old in Atlanta, it’s intimidating to be vulnerable. To walk into the classroom with knee high socks. To be confident with the new haircut. To say, “This is me and I’m acceptable because I’m His.”
It’s intimidating to rid yourself of every identity until you’re exclusively found in Him, but by grace, it’s possible. Not only is it possible, but it’s good. It’s good to be stripped away of your accomplishments and gifts until you realize your overwhelming significance in the eyes of God is staked on His unconditional love for you. That if you lose your job today and gain a thousand pounds and and everyone in the world decides they don’t like you anymore, you are still valuable because you are His.
And you are valuable. You are worth knowing. Not because the things you do are awesome, although I’m sure they are awesome. But because the God who made you and chose you and identifies you is awesome.