I’ve always had an affinity for the underdog. As a kid, I often felt like one. According to the world, I had a lot working against me in my childhood: raised in a single parent family, not a lot of money, wasn’t academically gifted, blah, blah, blah. I believe that in everyone’s life there are a set of circumstances that one could hang their hat on to say, “The odds are stacked against me,” & I had my share as well. Society’s labels seem to solidify the world’s perception of kids and adults, so I had a few of them too: latch key kid, dirtbag (term used in the 80’s for poor kids; that one always stung- assuming that a kid is dirty because they are poor), stupid, etc…
I have an especially awful memory of my third grade teacher pitying me, using terms such as “disadvantaged, unengaged, poor.” I hated that year. Thankfully, I have Laila Ali for a mom, & after having enough of seeing my soul disintegrate a little bit each day, she went down to the school and said enough. Fourth grade was a gift; my teacher literally spoke my full name with pride & confidence every time she addressed me: “Kathy Entrekin, here’s your paper.” I’ll never forget it. It took me at least six months to believe that I could just be “Kathy Entrekin” & not “poor, little Kathy” in a teacher’s eyes. I learned a powerful lesson about identity that year… words are powerful.
Growing up in my teen years, I began to discover my voice, & it was no wonder that it had a bit of a boxer’s flair to it too. A quote that seemed like ta banner over my heart was, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” (Dr. King). I wanted to fix all of the unfairness I saw; I wanted to be a part of the solution. I think this is a powerful gift for adolescents; to have the awareness & passion to be a school, community, & world changer. It’s like the Lord whispering into one’s ear: You matter. It’s a powerful soul muscle to develop.
Consequently, this year has brought me to a new understanding of what the Lord wants me to do to make a difference, & that is to listen more & speak less. Yes, to actually close my mouth & to receive the thoughts of others. When I started on Young Life Staff a year ago, I had charts, vision, ideas; I had plans. These are all great things, no doubt. I’m certain that every great leader is a visionary, but I’ve also learned that a great leader also has great ears & a soft heart; these things keep you humble. There were times when I wanted to prove myself, when being present with someone’s heart & words was a much better way to serve them.
I’m certain that my “underdog” self plays a part in wanting to see my plans succeed. But in the end, it’s not about my plan. It’s about that one person who is front of me, being vulnerable, showing me their souls, & receiving the divinity of that- no matter how that looks or sounds- & saying thank you. I could continue being a Laila Ali, but I would rather be a Maya Angelou- a person who takes in the moment, gives it to the Lord. When I speak, I don’t want it to be about me & my plans coming through, but about His love and truth, where my words mean something.
So, in turn, I’m learning to say, “I don’t have an answer on that right now, but let me get back with you.” You see, it’s not about proving myself anymore; I’m slowly shedding that winter coat that is three sizes too small. I have to remind myself that I am no longer that little kid sitting in class fighting labels.
I am learning to fully embrace that in Jesus I am enough. I am purposeful. I am the daughter of a King. I am forgiven. I am redeemed. I am fully known.
I’m thankful that the Lord has given me the opportunity to release the shell of prove & perform. I’m conscientious of the shards that remain when I feel the lurking of wanting to answer every incoming email or text as soon as they arrive or be quick to give a reason behind everything I do.
I’m learning to ask more questions and remember it’s not about me. Performing for Jesus is counterproductive. Therefore, it’s counterproductive to perform for anyone else. His passion for His message is in my heart; I don’t have to dazzle & shine. I just need to show up with open hands. He has developed valuable skills that are a part of a wonderful, well used tool box, but it’s not about walking around saying, “See what I can do with my cool skills.” People don’t care about your skills; they care about how you make them feel (another lesson learned from Maya Angelou).
It’s good to examine one’s self. This one was a hard one to process this year, but I’m so glad He gave me the opportunity to do it. I’m examining the labels that society tells us are so valuable (hard worker, go getter, organized, entertaining, etc.), & in many ways they are, & praying about my expression as something that is more & more true to who He created me to be so He shines through. I believe that’s a better way to leave a mark on the world.
I’m getting used to His voice calling me by who I really am, much like my fourth grade teacher did. It’s a new normal to receive this & not feel I have to prove myself to earn worldly labels. That’s a labyrinth I choose not to walk anymore. I’m doing something more powerful now…I’m listening more & talking less.