When I was a little girl, I used to sit in front of the mirror when (I thought) no one was watching and talk to my imaginary friend, a reflection of yours truly: Princess Rebecca.
There’s a lot I can explain about my childhood: an obsession with floral dresses (hey, they made a comeback), refusing to go to school if my pink socks didn’t fit just right (still annoying), the fact that my nanny had a secret cupboard of lollipops just for me (hello, Freudian sweet tooth). My affinity for the name Rebecca is not one of those things. But at the time it was clear that anyone named Rebecca deserved to be a princess.
“Princess, what is life as a princess like?”
“You’re supposed to be a princess too, you know, since you’re my twin. Safeena, you should find out for yourself!”
“I’ll go get my magic wand and we can trade places for a day. You can see what it’s like to be a princess and I can see what it’s like to be a normal person.”
“Oh, Princess, you’re so beautiful.”
Needless to say, even from a young age, I knew myself pretty well. Clearly, I was a beautiful princess trapped in a normal 5-year-old’s body. And if you asked either of my older sisters, they might confirm that my personality reflected that undeniable truth. Even when I found out my family had been spying on me the whole time and I dropped my imaginary friend, I knew deep down that I was a secret princess who should have been named Rebecca. And that’s all that mattered.
Fast-forward a dozen years. By senior year of high school, self-identity levels had skyrocketed. I knew exactly who I was, what I wanted, and what I deserved. That translated to me being remarkably stubborn and convinced that no one else could possibly know me or what I needed better than myself. And thus was born the tale of me running off to California to follow my dreams. I had comfort in how well I seemed to know myself, because, in my mind, I could only really rely on myself if I wanted to thrive.
A couple years later, everything had changed. With all the freedom I had ever wanted and everything having gone “right” for my circumstances, I was less sure of myself and my future than I’d ever been.
Somewhere along the way, faith became my driving force. Having struggled with anxiety, trusting my future in God made so much sense. I realized how many decisions I had made or that had been made for me that were born of no strength of my own. I had been brought to exactly the point where I was, and it was an unlikely, incredible journey, so how could I not? However, trusting my identity in God didn’t make quite as much sense. It often still doesn’t. I’ve been so sure of everything I know about myself, as sure as the princess reflection identity of my childhood. How can I trust my worldview, my experiences, my identity in something that can seem so unclear as faith?
“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
Now I’m interning with Made in the Streets in Kamulu, Kenya, worlds away from everything familiar to me. And with everything and everyone familiar stripped away, I’m realizing again just how little of my identity I’m actually so sure about. There are no roommates, college traditions, or solo soul-seeking road trips to rest my identity in.
When people ask me if I’m lonely, I try to be pretty honest. I LOVE the people here so genuinely and dearly. There is just an absurd amount of unconditional love constantly shown. However, it’s hard for me not to have that one go-to person who already knows me really well. The person I can stay up late talking to, uninhibited. The person who knows my story and can read my silences just as well as they can hear my words. It’s honestly really difficult. And the easy, faith-centered response is, “Well, you have God, don’t you?” And I do, but that’s where I’m learning to place identity in Him rather than compartmentalizing God as the big guy upstairs who’s obscurely but probably involved in my life.
I am realizing again, I do not know myself so well. I do not know myself as well as Him who has been guiding my most important steps and let me think they were totally of my own volition. I do not know myself as I am known by God.
The things I know now, about life, about myself, are but an obscured reflection of a grand picture. Every time I think that picture is done and that I can finally understand it fully, it gets a fresh coat of paint, a new layer of understanding.
It’s an odd thing to find comfort in, but it’s something that becomes a source of strength rather than loneliness when I choose the right mindset: I have been engraved in the palm of His hand. Nobody knows me but I am known. I do not know myself but I am known.
If you would like to lear more about my purpose in Kamulu, Kenya or support me, here you go!