Breaking Free

The intense college-application season has hit our household for the first time. Previously, my daughter wrote her essays to achieve the honorable “A” from her schoolteachers. She is now meticulously crafting her words for another audience—the college admissions review team. Eventually, this essay will serve as her rite of passage to adulthood as she has chosen to profess her journey to faith in Christ and the discovery of her authentic self as a pastor’s kid.

Pressure to Perform
She coined a term— “theatrics of Christianity”—for her narrative. And I’ve been marinating on this phrase within the context of my own life.

I am a woman in ministry. In my pursuit to fulfill my missionary call, I married my life-partner, Ted. In becoming a “Mrs,” I also became a ssa-mo-nim (the Korean word for pastor’s wife). I hated this title because as I joined Ted’s church as his new bride, no one knew my name nor my desire to serve God—even without a husband. This title came with nuanced, unspoken expectations for me to perform.

From living in the shadows of my two older, gifted siblings as a child to becoming Kang ssam-no-min to then getting lost in the demands of motherhood, I felt tossed back and forth in this pendulum of searching for my true self. Outwardly, I wore a beautiful mask of strength and security. But inwardly, I struggled with the pressure to perform the “theatrics of Christianity” for my shifting audience: church members, friends, family, myself, and even God. Who was I trying to prove to be and for what?

Breaking a Vicious Cycle
This pandemic season, with its intensified demands of people and needs around me, has aggravated and exposed my need to perform. This season also has offered me space and time to realign my heart to break free from this vicious cycle. When the stress and pressure to perform prevail, I go back to reflecting on the baptism of Jesus. Before Jesus performed any public ministry or proved His worth and mission to the world, He received His Father’s stamp of approval. From that place of significance and security, Jesus was able to live and do.

Daily, I long to hear the Father say, “You are my daughter, whom I love. With you I am well pleased.” Such affirming words stabilize my identity in Christ, feed me courage to face challenges, empower me to shine, and ultimately free me from the drive to perform. I have nothing to prove or gain from people when I rest confident in who I am and Whose I am.