My twelve year old daughter loves Taylor Swift. Shocker.
This past weekend she offered the full play by play of the new TS video and how different, slightly dark and obscure it is in comparison to what she has created in the past. Typically I am not intrigued by pop culture in a way that calls me to my laptop to google search and watch the latest videos, however my girl was so worked up and a little confused by this other side of TS, my curiosity got the best of me. Instead of heading over to my drive to plug away at this post, I watched Look What You Made Me Do. Three times.
This Be You entry has been gnawing at me for the last few weeks. I have prayed on how to put into encouraging words the formulaic steps on how to be oneself when I personally grapple with who I am moment by moment, day by day. What makes us individual? What characteristics and qualities define me as a woman? Not just any woman, but Sunny Holub? Rummaging through the rubble of a life well lived at times, and poorly lived at times is no easy task. Sifting through the carnage to see what of me remains has been more difficult to pinpoint than I had anticipated when I volunteered for this blog topic.
And so confounded, I watched the Taylor video and cried.
At various points in the video, all of Taylor’s past selves show up asserting what once constituted as Taylor being Taylor, only to culminate in shadows, mean attack and judgement on one another. Taylor fighting with Taylor fighting with Taylor and finally, Taylor declaring that her old self dead.
These versions of TS hurl cruel words, laughter, mocking jokes and nastiness back and forth in a way that so mirrors the way my old selves war with and slaughter one another, spewing shame and condemnation, solidifying the fear that to be me is ludicrous, faulty and absolutely not safe.
Watching this play out during the course of the video, my heart sank further and further into my stomach, realizing that it is a nearly inherent thing for a woman to believe she has to apologize for herself now and shame herself for her past no matter what the circumstances, that to walk through a changing life is to be constantly conflicted about who she should be, that even grace is not enough.
I have no idea what the meaning is behind her song and cannot make assumptions that my interpretation is anything close to correct but as I struggle to find the right words to talk about being you, what I see in this video is a woman full of past selves, all striving to be yet relevant by the standards of the world and it’s unmitigable landscape.
Here is the hope: Jesus.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17
Through the love of Christ fulfilled on the cross and risen again, we are made new. The old self was buried in the tomb and only our true selves in Him remain: Spirit filled and one with the Living God.
Even though I am unable at times to hush the loud, judgmental and cruel voices of all of my past selves, cloying at one another, stealing my peace and bringing forth shame, I am reminded in Scripture that is not who I am.
I am the daughter of the King and in Him alone my value is established. I am free to live, free to be me.
The challenge that arises and is well characterized in the TS video is that the world is a tempting, powerful, alluring, dangerous and violent backdrop to life. The world uses our mistakes, our sin, our failures and accomplishments to label our hearts, almost always convincing us that our intrinsic worth and identity is coiled around what we do and therefore becomes who we are.
Galatians 2:20 states perfectly that all of those doings were also crucified when He was crucified, that the life given us now is one buried in His and therefore has nothing to do with actions because He brought us to full life in Himself.
How do we live this? How do you learn how to be you and how do I learn how to be me in a free and authentic way? How do we make peace with the past selves, setting those young girls and women free, offering pardon in order to fully embrace and step into the life that Christ has set before us in this moment?
We hold on loosely to the world’s expectations and cling with ferocity to the One who broke our chains.
No longer do we have to apologize for our giftings, our passions, our interests and desires, as He placed them there and continues to invite us to be ourselves for the sake of Kingdom work. He does not condemn us for our mistakes and sins of the past when we turn to Him. He does not tell us to buck up, calm down and get it together. Instead He reminds us with His compelling love that the new way is the right way, that His heart is for us and that our best interest is what He is after. What’s more is that He whispers into our hearts when the noise is unbearable that what we really need is more of His love and that this is enough.
My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth: your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. John 17:15-18
We still live in this world. We as Christians can get stuck on eternity and forget the commission: that His plan was to bring the Kingdom down and His Spirit is to work through our hands, words and hearts under His protection. We are here in the world to show the world a different definition of identity, one that is not hinged on broken standards and damning assumptions.
Taylor Swift’s unsettling imagery is reminiscent of the battle of the mind that takes place with each passing thought: we can either succumb to the world and the principalities that govern here, or we release and know that He has us in the world to do His work. Without boots on the ground, the world will continue to swallow up little girls and young women, placating with glitz and glamour and hooking them into a game that ends in shame and guilt, shouting lies of who she should be and denouncing the truth about who she is.
But here is where we take our stand, linking arms, affirming one another in the light of His heart that we may mature and just be. In order to be you and rest in this knowledge, is first to know Him and that His love alone defines your worth. The call is to step into ourselves and change the narrative of identity, to stand firm on the Cornerstone and with His Spirit, invite others out of the dark world and into His ever widening chasm of love.