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Beautiful Warrior: Hello, My Name Isn’t

by Tina Yeager

Book excerpt from Beautiful Warrior: Finding Victory Over the Lies Formed Against You

Introduction: Why Me?

Fresh print lured me in. Textured hardcovers called for me to caress them. Smooth pages kissed my fingertips. Written treasures dazzled my eyes as I floated along the aisles. Book-intoxicated passion drew me further.

Dead center in the bookstore, I froze. Dread raised the hair on my arms. I tried to dismiss the foreboding. Told myself to keep moving. Shake it off. As if ignoring the trigger could prevent the inevitable attack. But it was too late now.

I had ventured into a known battleground. I recognized the incoming assault. Familiar doubts shot through my head. Repercussions shook my core and sent tremors into my soles.

Look at all these books on the clearance table.

I swallowed hard. Stiffened. Prepared for inbound missiles, the ones that always came next.

If there are so many books already on clearance, who needs your words? Thousands of acclaimed experts fill these aisles with advice. Who do you think you are?

Celebrities beamed from book jackets lining the shelves around me. The experts seemed to sneer from those photos. I lowered my gaze to the carpet. I could hear the subsequent bombs heading toward me, even before the words made a full impact.

You’re nobody. Just give up.

I steeled myself. The crash of self-doubt and despair had stung tears into my eyes in the past. After fighting this war for so many years, would I lose another battle here in the bookstore?

I considered the carpet in front of me. A billion loops of hardy fiber massed together. Designed for heavy traffic. Though stained and worn, it supported countless soles. Multitudes wandered this battleground. How many others would the enemy crush with these missiles of doubt and despair?

I clenched my fists. No self-pitying tears this time. This attack deserved a warrior’s response. I narrowed my eyes. For once, I raged at the lie instead of myself. Called the enemy for what it was—a low-bellied reptile. The uncreative, oldest of bullies. Then I commissioned the ultimate defense—truth’s iron dome.

Nobody? There’s no one here by that name. My identity comes from a higher authority than yours. Not to mention that I wasn’t called to give up.

I lifted my gaze to the books lining my pathway. Space remained at the edges of the top shelves, enough to accommodate future releases. I scanned the cover photos and the aisles full of customers—none of them were named “Nobody.” All these people had significance. If I had a chance to help one other person survive this battle, I had to persevere in my call to write.

But the enemy persisted in his attacks. I faced many temptations to quit, especially during the course of writing this book. Yet, despite many challenges and rewrites, I got up from each painful blow, determined to fight through these pages.

An authority higher than mine had called me. The process taught and strengthened me. I forged onward in devotion to the ultimate healer. My true source of identity. In days riddled with doubt, the loving call of Christ willed me onward, reminding me that He had given up everything to redefine me. And not only me; the healer offers new identity to everyone.

Which is why I often thought of you. Esteem-attacks may not happen to you in bookshops. Perhaps discouragement targets you in clothing stores, at work, or even at home. But while the doubts ambush you in different locations from mine, we still face the same enemy. His ancient strategy shows little deviation. He strikes tender spots. Attacks purpose. Draws the victim in as his accomplice.

My hope is that my sacrifice on this battlefield saves you from a bullet of self-defeat, but if you’re expecting me to have it all together, I will most certainly disappoint you. I have yet to declare victory. But I do stop the bully when I stop fighting against myself.  When I refuse to take these attacks lying down.

So, then let us learn to stand together as sister warriors.  We are created with divine strength. Our natural ferocity must not be wasted on self-enmity. Nor should we fear one another from a position of insecurity.  None of us may have it all together, but we can face it all if we stand together in our divine calling and strength.

Chapter One

Hello, -My -Name -Isn’t

I bent over the spiritual retreat’s sign-in table, Sharpie poised over the “hello my name is” sticker. I hesitated, struggling to decide what to reveal on this label without exposing too much.

I had not come to offer psychotherapy services. I wouldn’t need to add the LMHC (licensed mental health counselor) title at the end. A surname would distinguish me as the “Tina married to Mr. Yeager.” I could safely write my last name without sharing too much about myself. Those who recognized my face would identify me by a four-letter label.

Tina, the “Christ-follower” by definition, had been chosen for the “Name Given” box on my birth certificate by parents not yet acquainted with my character. While my tiny, raw fists pounded against an uncertain enemy. While I screamed to protest my own breath.

Since birth, people had seen only the surface of who I really am. My mask. They called me by the cheerful name on my papers. Conditioned, I responded to “Tina” and hid any doubts. In secret, I called myself by other names instead. Less friendly four-letter words. The type of slander one reserves for an enemy.

Those titles could never be shared, especially on a badge, so I wrote “Tina Yeager.” I lifted my mask to face the greeters, and offered the Christ-follower smile they expected from me.

I strode into the dormitory, confident my mask would hold secure. The façade had never failed to cover all my battle scars. Besides, I reasoned, attending as a participant instead of faculty ought to prove easy. At a church event where I had no responsibilities, I expected my best people-pleasing behavior to shine. Calm ought to grace my every move and scent the wake of my path.

By the middle of the weekend, something raw and messy surged forth. If only the retreat had limited itself to a superficial theme, my veneer might have survived. But the message plunged a crowbar into a shadowy compartment of my heart. A triggered nerve vaulted my darkest insecurities to the surface and my serene persona shattered.

I never felt so resistant, so compelled to rebel against words and events. Snark and sarcasm burgeoned forth. Complaints spurted at those around me and leaders about songs, food . . .  everything. I even converted my water bottle into a squirt gun, blasting the volunteers who woke us.

Yes. I really did.

I assumed the mood would pass. I thought my inner strife would end at some point and I could reposition my nice-girl mask. Instead, the tension worsened. My attitude soured as the discussions built toward their climax. Though I didn’t recognize why I changed, an unconscious part of my mind dug its heels into the threshold it guarded. I could not allow this prying to expose me.

As the chaplain concluded the weekend’s pivotal message, volunteers carried white loaves into the audience. If they served as part of a communion ritual, I might have endured the experience better. But these bite-sized bits weren’t for eating. The bread represented a spiritual issue. The chaplain invited us to surrender our symbolic burdens at the altar cross. This dying moment, he promised, offered a chance to rise anew.

“My wife and I will be available to pray with anyone who needs it,” Reverend Hall said, then took a seat in the audience.

I shifted on the pew’s thin pad and glared into my cupped hands. The pinched morsel of bread seemed to weigh five pounds.

I was not going to cry.

Footsteps swept past me, but I sat rigid.

Other women might need the pastor’s time. Let him and his wife pray with them. Not me. I was fine.

Like always.

The back door clicked open and shut several times. I glanced up at women breezing down the aisle to lay their burdens in the basket by the cross.

I swallowed a stubborn clench stuck in my throat and resumed my downward focus as breadcrumbs melted into pasty drops on my palms. Maybe, I thought, the burden would stick forever in my dewy grasp.

Reverend Hall called my name.

I raised my heavy chin and scanned the room, as if someone else by the same name lingered there. The others had gone, and I remained the sole participant in the chapel.

Reverend Hall and his wife settled into the nearest pew and torqued the crowbar. “Can we pray with you?”

Broken, like the bread, I sobbed out a stream of long-buried insecurities. Their dark theme emerged to expose the name badge I’d always scrawled on the inner walls of my identity: UNLOVABLE.

My inner guard collapsed and my fight dropped to its knees. Exhausted to the core, I sat covered in the mess of my ugly cry. I had heard the message all weekend, but now sat ready to listen. My knees cracked when I rose and approached the chapel railing. I faced the cross. A feature gleamed there, one I hadn’t noticed in hundreds of prayers and worship services before this one—identity.

I dropped the bread into the basket along with my self-made names, both the veneer and the burden. I knew the shift would demand more than pasty crumb-droppings. Engraving a new name on my soul would require gut-wrenching work. But I committed myself to the effort in this first step. My true identity—I finally understood—must come from Christ.

I wish I could say my insecurities vanished in that moment. Years of attacks from the enemy and myself had etched slanderous scars on the inner walls of my heart.

Foolish. Waste. Mess. Pathetic. Failure. Worthless. Unlovable. And on and on . . .

I had to scour away the lies and rewrite Christ’s new name within my self-concept. His redeemed identity for me had been true since the dawn of our relationship, but I needed to work at accepting it.

The choice to begin building my esteem on Christ marked the first step in this long journey. The good news was that I didn’t have to endure it on my own strength, even though the battle often tempted me to believe I was alone.

Conditioning tempts us to adopt an identity based upon others’ judgments, circumstances, or the record of our mistakes. But the sum of things past and present fall short of God’s perspective, including how he defines us.  Unlike the guesses made by our parents at birth, he names us according to inert potential we can only fulfill when united with his Spirit.

Four-letter slurs can continue to limit us as long as we believe in them instead. Whatever names rise in puckered scar tissue from our hearts, our Creator knows our true essence as he dreamed it : “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption” (Ephesians 1:4–5).

Scripture abounds with examples of God redefining his servants before they show any sign of living up to their new name. He called Gideon a “mighty warrior” (Judges 6:12) while he still cowered in a winepress. He renamed Abram, which means “exalted father,” to Abraham, which means “father of many nations” (Genesis 17:5), even while the old man and his wife remained childless. The Lord defined Moses as the deliverer of his people, when the stuttering murderer lacked the character needed to fulfill his role and begged God to find someone else.

Jesus renamed Simon as Peter, the “rock” upon which his church would be built (Matthew 16:18). Yet this disciple’s great insecurity would soon lead him to deny Christ. Like the patriarchs before him, Simon Peter still needed work before he reflected the identity foretold by the Lord.

Engraved markings and deep gouges take back-breaking effort to remove. Fortunately, God provides the muscle to buff out our old nature. It isn’t all up to us.

Jesus didn’t leave Simon to transform into a rock on his own strength. But the would-be apostle had to participate in the process. As in all biblical and modern-day examples, he offered the disciple a personal experience to renew his identity. The Lord strolled alongside Simon Peter and other spiritual forerunners then, and still comes to walk with us today. Christ authors our significance and cultivates us toward fulfilling our divine identity—not a transient name dependent on our own effort, but one stitched into our DNA by the indwelling Spirit of our Creator.

The Lord values our identity so much he engraved our names on his hands (Isaiah 49:16). Christ includes our divine identity in his loving outreach as an indelible component of each thing he touches. Our potential, our true value, rides upon the scarred palms of the Lord.

We march onto the battlefield against evil in his truth and grace. The Lord reveals himself in scripture by his own names, one being Jehovah Nissi, which means “The Lord our banner” (Exodus 17:15; Song of Songs 2:4; Isaiah 11:10–12). “Jehovah Nissi” is the battle standard he raises over us as we march onward. Our significance rests not within our circumstances, but in the standard and identity under which we engage.

The Lord our Banner gathers our names to himself. Therefore, our fellow servants’ names weave together with our own on the standard flying overhead.

Sisters at my side, with Christ over us, let us not be tricked into believing we fight the wars within on our own. Children of the King need not stand alone on this or any other front.

While many of us struggle with self-esteem, others remain unaware of our common plight because we guard the secret so well. We hide in public behind our kept-together masks. We label ourselves as “fine” instead of “struggling,” as though the “fine” serves as a password admitting us to society.

If someone asks, “How are you?” we snap the acceptable reply, and redirect the focus. “Fine. How are you?”

An honest response could cause enough shock to unsettle our masks, and we simply can’t take that chance.

But we’re not fine. Nearly one in ten American women suffers from clinical depression and countless others experience the symptoms at non-clinical levels. Fifty-eight percent of adults in the U.S.   report stress related to their relationships and responsibilities.

Low self-esteem grows with us, it seems. According to a global study, 62 percent of girls report feeling insecure while 96% of women worldwide  do not consider themselves beautiful. The statistics paint a picture of millions in distress, but none of us want to open our hearts to share the truth. Instead, we grit our teeth and smile.

The threat of exposure drives a chill deeper into the marrow than the most harrowing nightmare. No one must know who we truly are because we’re certain they won’t accept us.

Mostly because we don’t accept ourselves.

If anyone saw the vulnerable depths of our souls, their judgment would cause unbearable pain. We assume others would respond to us with the same disdain we harbor against ourselves.

We’re. Not. Fine. By pretending that we are, we block the sincere relationships that would shatter our loneliness and launch us toward healing. We can’t get out of this quicksand of self-abasement unless we reach out. But, in order to reach out, we have to realize others are close enough to our situation to merely wiggle their fingers to take hold of our hands.

The fairytale princess of the 1980s and 90s, Diana, Princess of Wales, epitomized the loneliness of secret pain, and she may never have fully understood the global impact of her story. Despite    popularity and status, “Princess Di” suffered from bulimia and depression. Her husband’s pursuit of a former girlfriend identified her as the unloved, second choice.

In an interview with BBC in 1995, only two years before her untimely death, the most adored celebrity of her time revealed her self-perception as she wed the prince by saying, “As far as I was concerned I was a fat, chubby, twenty-year-old, twenty-one-year-old, and I couldn’t understand the level of interest.”  A biography by Andrew Morton in 1992 publicized her emotional struggles, exposing women throughout the world to the fact that they were not alone.

Like most little girls, I had longed for storybook castles while doubting my worth. The real tale of the People’s Princess, as Diana was dubbed after her death, resonated with me. I wondered, more with each passing year, how many other precious women suffered inside the towers of their inner castles. Just as dedicated to performing a role in public. Just as isolated and miserable.

What would happen if someone told the truth? What if she lowered her mask, courageously, and showed her heart to those nearby?

As my Christ-esteem strengthened, a concern for my hidden sisters grew. So many others suffered in secret. Smiling at me from the crowds in the mall. Hurrying past me on the grocery aisles. Muttering self-curses in millions of cars lining the nation’s roadways. I prayed, begging with clasped palms for someone to lift them up.

Yet, at the end of my prayers, I saw only my hands.

I thought I’d been transparent enough. I shared with a few clients—if it seemed relevant. But, I asked God, should I do more? Or is that over-sharing?

Through years of prayer for the hurting, I realized God’s answer often comes through us. If I wanted to see healing, I would need to lower my mask first.

I set aside my excuses and began to write, expecting the work to flow with ease. Not so much. Writing a personal book is hard, even after extensive growth and healing. Yet I knew I could not stop because the two motives within gave enough power to keep me going—his call and a hope my words might help someone.

The Lord called me to bear his image, to become the heroine of an entirely different war. He revealed the futility of battling divine allies, particularly myself. I had misdirected the strength God forged into my core. Christ encouraged me to stop fighting my namesake and redirect that innate ferocity against the real enemy. The sinister foe of all those whom God loves. I recognize him now for who he is: the captor who shackles women with lies and hides their names under false labels . . . like unloveable.

Inner healing takes courage and perseverance. Applying the principles in this book might challenge you. You will likely be tempted to doubt your strength. Please don’t give up. Hold your hands in front of you and remember your healing matters. To Christ and others. Someone else depends on you to get to the other side of the problem. From there, you can lift them up. Focus on your healer and those who need your mask to fall, then let the silent cries of other princesses grant you the courage to keep going.

Empowerment Questions

Name a dream, passion, or calling. When have your self-doubts set obstacles in your life?

What masks have you worn?

Consider the extreme makeover list. Which Biblical hero(es) do you relate to most, and why?

Take a blank sheet of paper and write all the slanderous names you’ve called yourself across the center. Pray for the Lord to remove each one’s scarred mark on your heart. At the top of the page, write, “In Christ, my name isn’t.”

Pray through Isaiah 49:16 and your favorite Biblical hero’s passage from the list our list. What do you hope to get from this book?

Order your copy of Beautiful Warrior by Tina Yeager

Read the interview with Tina Yeager and Craig von Buseck – Beautiful Warrior: A Self-Image Makeover

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Award-winning author, inspirational speaker, and life coach, Tina Yeager also hosts the Flourish-Meant podcast and publishes Inkspirations Online, a weekly devotional for writers. She has won over thirty writing awards, including a 2020 Golden Scroll Award and 2013 FCWC Writer of the Year. Her fiction and nonfiction strive to clarify how we might relate better to others, to ourselves, and to God. Licensed as a counselor since 2005, she has over twenty years of experience teaching adults, teens, and children in academic, clinical, and faith-based settings. Learn more at TinaYeager.com.

 

 

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