For the past few weeks my fiction class has been learning about characterization. One of the principles my lecturer has taught us is the need to discover our character's Grand Trio: the character's deepest need, greatest flaw and greatest strength. While the grand trio isn't an end all to characters (there will be times in a character's life when the 'grand trio' seems to contradict itself) these three things are often what motivates a person, whether the person exists on a page or in the real-life time and space of our tangible universe.
Consequentially, I've found myself picking out the grand trio in myself. My strengths and flaws have seemed to change over the years, but I'm fairly certain that my greatest need has remained the same: to be validated. I've always known I was a people-pleaser, but never realized it went so deep--that it's at the core of my motivation. It's as if I've never felt quite good enough on my own and use the people around me as a mirror to gauge my self-worth. When I'm relocated to a new phase or location of life (physical or emotional) I have a tendency to set down roots by pinpointing the familiar landmarks I need--people I designate as my worth-giving idols. I set them as the standard I strive for. And when it's time to move my nomadic life again, I pack the idols in my bag and carry them with me to the next phase of life. It certainly isn't the easiest way of going about life. I sweat and shake under the weight of my luggage and when I finally arrive in my new home, it's too cluttered with chintzy ideals to set up anything of substance. It's a scary thing to acknowledge my fragile dependency; one harsh word or criticism has the power to send my identity toppling to its death. Funny how the things we're most afraid of happening must happen for our own good.
A few months ago the unthinkable happened: I fell. The people I had relied on to validate my feelings, actions, and worth were gone. Some of them were out of reach, some of them disappointed me, but mostly I grew up and realized I had placed my hope in imperfect people and standards. I thought I would lose everything.
As I spun through the air, that's when God reminded me who he was. He told me he loved me and that he always would, and he asked me to trust his arms. At first I didn't want to. I'm stubborn and always will be, and God knew he had to get my attention in a big way. As the ground drew nearer the air blew by faster and one by one he gently peeled back my fisted fingers, asking, pleading me to let go and when we were inches from the canyon bottom I finally did; I let go. I looked down at my hands in amazement and saw that they weren't empty--enclosed in them were his hands, holding me safely above the ground.
"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18