It’s crazy how in the midst of a large group of people, one can feel so isolated and alone. Among friends and family, the feeling of no support is as real as the feeling of windburn on any given winter day in South Dakota.

I couldn’t figure out why I had these feelings. Validated and acceptable as they might be, not getting to the root of the feelings would leave me with the same feelings. Through conversations, reading, prayer, and time this is what I’ve discovered: my old paradigm has been burned.

I had this way of life, this way of looking at and understanding the world around me. It affected the way I cared for my family, the things I did with my friends, and the words I spoke in my head as I looked in the mirror. This fixed standard of life influenced my passion and dreams. My education, career choice, friends, quiet time, and downtime were all deeply connected to this way of living life.

And then it changed. I’m not sure exactly when. But this paradigm, this pattern or standard of living is no more. I didn’t even realize it until I sat in a room full of people, feeling completely alone and misunderstood. I realized the one thing that these people desired was for me to be who I used to be.

All of the support, the compliments, the “attagirls” were centered on the old paradigm. A “hilary” box had been made to fit around me. The way I worked, the friends I made, the music I enjoyed, the food I ate, the way I spent my free time, the way I understood God and lived out my faith…all of that fit neatly into the “hilary” box. Cheers, approval, acceptance, prayers, support, encouragement surrounded and flooded the “hilary” box.

I thrived on a steady diet of attagirls.

So when I sat in that room full of people, realizing these loving people just wanted the old Hilary back, I said to myself, “That is the one thing I cannot give them.”

Because my old paradigm has been burned. I am no longer who I used to be.

Yesterday, I shared with my dear friends, and also coworkers, a quote from Steven Furtick “Don’t let anybody but God himself put you in your place.” (Sun Stand Still, 91) I shared how these wonderful, loving people were, and still are, trying to put me in my place, my safe little “hilary” box. I shared how it’s okay to break out of that box people have put you in, how in doing that others, uncomfortable with their complacency, are free to break out of their box….and then it hit me.

No one said it to me, but I felt deep within myself a thought that I didn’t come up with:

There was never even a box to be put in…

All this time I’ve spent trying to break free from this “hilary” box…feeling trapped, yet so liked and understood. Then, feeling alone and desperate for approval, I wondered why I couldn’t be the old me, giving people what they wanted. But the truth is, there was never a box to break out of. And with no box, there was no disapproval. Because God doesn’t make boxes around His children. He knows us deeply and intimately, with great purposes for each of us, but as He makes us into the image of His Son, He gives us freedom. He never has and never will place us in a box.

And if that’s true about God, then why do I live into a false reality? I am not my own, I have been bought with a price, the precious blood of Jesus. That is reality. Living into that means I do not even recognize any flimsy cardboard box a person might put me in. I am God’s and He doesn’t put me in a box. He is continuing to work in me, conforming and refining me. My heart is His. My aim is His approval only. He alone is my audience. I work with people, for God. I live with people, for God. I give thanks with people, for God.

So may you rise up today and realize the box from others you’ve been living in isn’t even real. May God speak to your soul, reminding you who you are. And may you live your life to please Him alone.

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