Like many of us, I have found my identity in things other than Christ. I’ve been the “good girl” and the “pretty girl.” More recently, I’ve become the “country girl.” Country girls are pretty, love Jesus, are a little crazy, but most of all, they’re tough. Physically, mentally, emotionally: they’re supposed to be tough. If I was going to live up to my identity as a country girl, I was going to have to be tough. I had to hit it hard even after the sun went down, and I did. I couldn’t show I was hurt. That was weakness; weakness was not allowed. I was good at that. I could push hard. I couldn’t hide when something affected me, but I could conceal how badly I was hurt (those of you who know me know I wear most things on my face). I hated crying, and I never wanted to cry–even when I was alone. I had to be tough.
And you know what? I was tough, but I was so tired. I felt alone, but I expected that. I’d been told my whole life that often the greats have to walk alone. I never let anyone in, so I felt like no one really knew me. I was completely on my own. I had to be. The weight of doing everything on my own made me tired. I have a great family and wonderful friends and mentors in my life who would help take some of that weight off, but I wouldn’t let them. I just had to be tough. Even when I did let someone help me, I was plagued by anxiety over not living up to my tough country girl identity. I did not find a stable identity. After much heart changing, I found one thing:
Tough is weakness that is calloused over and rough; it is hard and unfeeling. Strong is something divine that penetrates; it is constant and gentle.
Here’s the thing about callouses: when they first form, they can be ripped off, and the skin underneath is even more fragile and sensitive than before. Over time, they build up enough that even when they’re ripped off, you don’t get back to the real skin; nothing can get through.
Being tough is being calloused. You’re hard, unfeeling, and you’re not who you were originally made to be. All your effort goes into being tough, so you don’t have time to be real. Callouses are rough, just like calloused people. They are so concerned with being tough that they are rough to prove their toughness. Tough has to prove it doesn’t feel anything. Feelings can be used. Feelings make you weak. To be tough, you can’t feel…or you can’t show it if you do.
I still struggle with this. I have always struggled with transparency due to my perfectionist mindset, and the country girl image only reinforced that mindset. I was tough; I still am to some extent. But I don’t want to be tough anymore; I want to be strong.
Katie Odell 2013