My Own Princess Diaries
By M.W. Allen
All scriptures are quoted from the King James Version (Authorized) unless otherwise noted.
This summer, I went to see the movie “The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement”. In some ways, I can relate to the main character, Princess Mia. She spent most of her life not knowing that she was the heir to a kingdom. Like Mia, I spent many years not realizing the fact that as a child of God, I was now his heir. I guess I should have read my Bible more. In the Old Testament, God told the prophet Hosea; “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…”(Hosea 4:6, New Revised Standard Version) I almost destroyed myself because I had not come into the knowledge of my true identity.
It all started in 1993, the beginning of middle school. I was twelve years old. I just didn't feel as if I was as good as "everyone else." I was overweight (I weighed 154 lbs. at age twelve). I had a skin problem that I now believe was eczema. My face was covered with dark scars from the chicken pox that had tormented me the month before school started. I grimaced whenever I had to look at myself in the mirror. I can’t describe how painful it is not to want to look at one’s own face. I saw myself as ugly. In fact, so did some very immature boys that were in some of my classes. All through school, they made fun of me. One guy used to yell, "Harpoon that whale!" whenever he saw me coming. Other people pulled pranks on me, such as, throwing wads of paper in my hair and in the hood of my coat when my back was turned. It didn't help much that there were members of my family that would say unkind things to me.
I was different in from my peers in many ways: I lacked coordination so I couldn’t dance very well. People would ask me to dance for them just to get a good laugh. Because I didn’t spend much time with others my age, I couldn’t relate to them. Living with my grandparents caused me to think, act, and dress like an older person. I was considered a nerd because I actually enjoyed reading and learning new things-as long as I could understand them-and would spend most of my time alone with a good book. At age eight, I had read all 736 pages of Alex Haley’s “Roots” and could recite the names of Alex Haley’s entire family tree, beginning with Karaiba Kunta Kinte. I was the only person that I knew of who (at age thirteen) would rather be composing a song or writing a play rather than watching television. Music and literature were my two escape routes from the feelings of not quite fitting in with my surroundings.
I would later discover that I was an eagle in a chicken coop. This is not to say that I considered myself better than my peers. It is just that we had different purposes. A chicken in an eagle’s nest is just as out of place as an eagle in a chicken coop. A person can only be he or she has been destined and created to be. When God called the prophet Jeremiah to be His mouthpiece to the world, God said that, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”(Jeremiah 1:5, King James Version) According to Jeremiah 1:1, Jeremiah was the son of a priest. Traditionally, if a man was a priest, then his son was expected to enter the priestly ministry as well. I have not found anything in the scriptures that indicates that Jeremiah ever ministered as a priest. John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus Christ, was the son of the priest Zacharais (Luke 1:5). Like Jeremiah, although he was the son of a priest, throughout the scriptures his is regarded as a prophet. Tradition called these men priests but God ordained and destined them to be prophets. Tradition and low self-confidence labeled me a nerd and abnormal. However God called me his princess. Because I didn’t know my true identity, the pain of not being “normal” haunted me. I constantly compared myself to those around me. My heart wanted me to be myself, to be an individual but it seemed as if everyone had a problem with my individuality. There were plenty of people around me who wanted me to be someone other than myself. Friends and relatives would ask questions such as:
“Why don’t you wear a starter jacket like the other girls wear?”
“Why do you walk with a limp? You’re dragging your leg!”
“Why don’t you have fun sometimes?” (I guess because I didn’t have fun the way “normal” people do they assumed I don’t have any fun)
“Can’t you do anything right?”
I tried dressing the way my peers dressed but because of my size, there were just some styles that weren’t flattering to me. There were other styles that just didn’t appeal to me. I tried getting involved in extra-curricular activities such as orchestra, chorus, drama club, and auditioning for the cheerleading squad. However, I still wasn’t happy and no matter what I did, I couldn’t silence my critics. By their standards, I always missed the mark.
Then came the famous, “You’re just like your mama” label. Whenever I didn’t clean my room, didn’t do something right, or even if I cried I was acting “just like her.” I didn’t (and still don’t) know my mother very well. I’ve heard two versions of what actually happened in the early 1980s when it was decided that I would live with my grandparents. My mother gave birth to me when she was twenty-three years old and living with her adopted parents. Not long after my birth, she decided to get her own apartment. The details are sketchy but somehow my grandparents convinced her that I had to live with them. I didn’t get a chance to really know her as my mother and to this day, I don’t feel a mother-daughter bond with her. My mother was always painted in a negative light. I have yet to hear my family say anything positive about her. Because I never heard the full story of why I didn’t live with her, I spent many years hating Mama. She tried to reach out to me by inviting me to visit with her and my two younger sisters but the visits often ended with me never wanting to see her again. I resented her because I thought she hated me. I couldn’t understand why my mother would leave me with my grandparents but my sisters got to live with her. I would spend nights in my room crying, wondering what it was that I could have done as an infant that was awful enough to make her not want me. Mama represented everything negative in my life and I didn’t want to be like her in any way. Whenever I would be labeled as being just like her, I hated myself. I didn’t begin to develop an open line of communication with my mother until I was an adult.
There were constant feelings of rejection. When I was fourteen, I was convinced that I was not human but rather an alien. I was determined to find out if there was life on other planets (I always wanted to move to Mars) so I could find my true identity. I grew up in church all my life but I only remember being told, that by getting baptized, going to church, and doing the right things, I would go to heaven. I wasn’t told of the earthly benefits of being a child of God. I wasn’t told of my identity in Christ. I wasn’t reading my Bible the way I should have been so I didn’t know what the Bible said about salvation other than the fact that it came by confessing one’s faith in Jesus Christ. I hated how I felt about myself and didn’t know what to do about it. I just wanted the pain to end.
By the time I reached my senior year of high school, I had considered suicide several times. My favorite pastime was thinking of different ways that I could end my life. I learned about the dangers of being a “huffer,” one who inhaled substances such as glue, paint, or correction fluid to get high. As a writer, I had several bottles of correction fluid on hand. Whenever my problems became too great for me to handle, I would escape to my room, open a bottle of Whiteout and take a deep breath. I could hear the Holy Spirit saying, “What are you doing to yourself?” I ignored Him. There was a constant struggle between the Holy Spirit and me. I wanted to end my life but the Holy Spirit would intervene each time. I wrote suicide poems. One poem detailed different ways that I could end my life. I was practically a hermit, only coming out of my room when necessary. I didn't feel that I had a reason for living. Instead of admitting that I had a problem, I put on a front. I pretended to be cheerful at times, but on the inside, I was hurting. An avid writer and musician, I stopped writing after I realized that my musical, “Two of a Kind” the story of a suicidal teen and the cousin who befriends her, began to reveal my pain. It seemed to be an unwritten rule in my house to ever admit that one was hurting. I didn’t want anyone to find out how I felt. After all, what goes on at home stays at home, right? I was bound to express my pain in one way or another because “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks,” (Matthew 12:34)
Something had to be done before I really did kill myself. Counseling was not changing the situation. Medication was not changing the situation. Going to church was not going to change the situation. This is not to say that I am against any of these things. I do believe that professional counseling can be helpful (especially if your counselor is a Believer); medication can be beneficial as well as the support of your local place of worship. However, after I’d taken the pills, been to church, and the counseling session is over for the day, I still had to deal with the day-to-day issues of being put down on a daily basis. I needed supernatural help to address my natural issues. I had to take solace in the Word of God. As I began to study the Word, I realized that I was valuable to God. I was His daughter, precious in His sight. I began to recognize that I had choices. I could choose to ignore the comments of those who couldn't accept me. I could choose to resist the Devil and he would flee. I finally gave up on trying to fix my own problems by myself. I had to learn to fully rely on Him. I remember when I began to fully understand the meaning of Psalm 139. I was in a Bible Study, and these words caught my eye, “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God! They are innumerable! I can't even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up in the morning, you are still with me!” (Psalm 139:17-18) Up to that point, I never realized that the Lord actually thought about me. Didn’t God have something more important to think about? Why on earth would God want to think about me? Why not? After all, he created me for Him. (Colossians 1:16). He loved me enough to demonstrate His love for me. It’s not everyday that someone volunteers to take on the sins of he whole world.
While in college, I was surrounded with brothers and sisters in Christ who constantly reminded me of how much God loved me and His purpose for my life. They have taught me the true meaning of a family of faith. Just because a group of people live in the same house does not make them a family. Just because people have the same marital and genetic ties does not make them a family. True families have a bond that transcends DNA or adoption papers. It is a bond of love, devotion to one another and unity. I have encountered people whom I consider my relatives although they are in no way related to me. These were people who saw past my flaws and into my purpose. People who recognized the fact that I was first and foremost a human being created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). These were people who didn’t throw up their hands and give up on me even when I wanted to give up on myself. They were people who demonstrated their love for me by being honest with me, praying with me through tough times, and letting me know that their love for me was unconditional, just like the agape love God shows us. They have helped me learn how to move past the pain.
My mind is like a camcorder. It is constantly recording things but somehow, it has developed the ability to record and pause at the same time. Allow me to explain: my mental camcorder tends to pause at every hurt I’ve encountered but continues to record past that hurt. As the “tape” is recording, the pain is being displayed as an instant replay in a separate screen. I read in a VCR manual that if a tape is paused for too long, the equipment can be damaged. Think about that the next time someone dwells on painful memories. I am now learning how to view each paused scene. Address the issue, and move forward. God is repairing my “equipment” in a way. In the words of the Mississippi Mass Choir, “He can fix what is broken up…in me.” I’m learning to forgive those who have offended me and to correct past mistakes.
Two years ago, after a powerful worship service, I sat quietly, meditating on everything that had been said in the message. The message had been about how Christ bore our pains on the cross. A friend of mine approached me and said, “Come here, Princess.” He put his arms around me and began to pray for me. I will never forget this prayer as long as I live. Some people pray the simple, “Lord, please bless Sister So-and-So. Amen.” However, this prayer was a prayer of thanksgiving. My dear brother in Christ thanked the Lord for me, whom he called “This precious jewel.” He said that there was no amount of money in the world that was equal to my value. I don’t remember what else he said but that prayer reminded me that I was precious to God. Ironically enough, two months later a pastor three states a way would use the words “precious jewel” to describe me in a prayer that he prayed. I believe it was God’s way of reminding me of who I was.
I have done some research on the origin of my first name. Matasha appears to be a combination of two words, the Greek word meta meaning, “beside, after, next” and the Persian word shah meaning, “monarch”. When the two of these words are put together, you get Metashah, “next monarch”. Sounds like a princess to me. However, even if my name did not mean that, it didn’t change the fact that my relationship with Christ birthed me into the family of God. “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.” (1 John 5:1). When I came to realize that I was an heir of God’s and a joint heir with Christ (Romans 8:17), then I began to walk in my God-given authority as His daughter. “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” I John 5:4 says that, “For every child of God defeats this evil world by trusting Christ to give the victory.” No one attacks a princess without having to deal with the King! The personal battles that I was fighting were more than just personal attacks. They were spiritual. How do I know this? Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” The taunts and the verbal abuse that was causing me to be depressed was Satan’s attack against me. However, now that I know that I have the victory over him, I can arm myself with the armor of God and handle my pain victoriously. I am not saying that I’ve never had another struggle since then, but once I came to the realization of who I was, it transformed my thinking and warranted a new response to the things I was experiencing. It’s not easy. There are some days when it is a struggle to get out of bed. There are some nights when I have to delve deep into the Word of God to find scriptures to refute the lies that the enemy of my soul wants me to believe.
I’ve created what I call a mind filler list. Philippians 4:8 provides what I like to call a “thought checklist.” My mind likes to travel with all types of baggage but just like on an airplane, all baggage must be checked at the gate. Here is the standard by which I check my thoughts, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” When a questionable thought enters my mind, I ask myself:
· Is this thought full of the truth of God’s word?
· Is this thought an honorable, respectable thought?
· Is it right for me to dwell on this thought?
· Is this thought clean or carnal?
· Does dwelling on this thought make me happy?
· Is this an edifying (constructive) thought?
If I catch myself dwelling on a thought that does not meet the criteria, then I call upon my mind filler list. I counter the negative voice of the enemy with the truth of the Word of God. This requires me to devote time to the study and understanding of God’s word. When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, He refuted every temptation with scripture. The word of God is our source of life; “…man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.” (Deuteronomy 8:3). It is the sword that fights the enemy of our souls, “ And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). Keeping my thought life under control is the biggest battle of overcoming depression and low self-esteem. I have to remind myself that as a child of God, I am no longer a civilian but rather a soldier. When I gave Jesus Christ my heart and my loyalty, I became a member of the Lord’s army. As a child, I used to sing:
I may never march with the Infantry,
Ride with the Calvary,
Shoot the artillery.
I may never fly over the enemy but I’m in the Lord’s Army (Yes sir!)
I never realized the implications of being God’s soldier. Soldiers and civilians have different priorities. 2 Timothy 2:3-4 says, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” In order to be an effective soldier for Christ, I have to focus on my assignment: the spiritual battle that is trying to hinder the will of God. It is a battle that isn’t won through carnal measures. “…the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;” (2 Corinthians 10:4) What are strong holds? According to the King James Version New Testament Greek Lexicon, a strong hold is:
“1. a castle, stronghold, fortress, fastness
2. anything on which one relies
a. of the arguments and reasonings by which a disputant endeavours to fortify his opinion and defend it against his opponent”
Thoughts of worthlessness, depression, failure, doubt, and suicide are all bricks in the enemy’s castle. The castle serves as a place of refuge and protection. It is also the operational headquarters for warfare. I believe that this verse gives us an example of how the enemy builds upon negative thoughts and then dwells there, using those thoughts as weapons against the people of God. A familiar quote from the movie, “Field of Dreams” is, “If you build it, they will come.” Why wouldn’t the enemy come and wreak havoc in my thought life if I’ve just built him a home in my thoughts? Destroy the castle by taking every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). I may not be able to stop a bird from flying over my head but I can do everything possible to prevent it from building its nest on my head. Placing boundaries on the thoughts on which I choose to dwell has been a tremendous help in overcoming my pain and in aligning my thought life with the mind of Christ.
The mind of Christ is a mind of humility, not a “God-owes-me-for-what-I’ve-endured” mindset or a mindset of retaliation or payback. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11) Although Christ was a part of the Godhead, (Colossians 2:9 says that in Christ “dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”) He was not so arrogant that he could not take on human form and come to Earth to redeem the lost souls. Christ could live as a human being without forgetting or compromising His true identity. Because as a child of God, my mandate is to be an imitator or follower of God, I believe that if Christ can walk in humility without compromising his identity, then I know that I can too. As God’s princess, I don’t have to go though life with a chip on my shoulder or unforgiveness in my heart. My prayers don’t have to be, “God, do you see what this person has done to me! You’d better make something bad happen to that person because they shouldn’t mess with me!”
Having a Christ-like mindset means that I understand that there are times when life is not going to be a bed of roses. Christ’s time on earth bears witness to that. If everything was always easy, Christ would not have had to say, “…O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matthew 26:39) The apostle Paul told the Christians in Rome, “…I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18) Even nobility isn’t exempt from hardship and trials. I’ve heard it said that “Heavy is the head that wears the crown.” However, life does not fully consist of suffering. There’s a silver lining to each dark cloud. I can say with confidence that each trial I’ve had to endure has worked with each joyous moment for my benefit.
As a princess, I’ve also had to learn the importance of taking the time to take care of myself. It’s not selfishness. It’s stewardship. A teacher once told me, “You know it’s a shame when you feed everyone else’s children and your own are starving.” In other words, a person should not become so enamored with the care of others that he or she neglects to care for him or herself. I call this the Dorcas Complex. “Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.” (Acts 9:36) Dorcas means “gazelle,” which leads me to believe that Dorcas was constantly on the go. If Dorcas had lived in today’s times, I imagine her as the owner of a non-profit organization, opening soup kitchens, soliciting donations for the needy, clothing the naked. All of these things are honorable but I wonder who was taking care of Dorcas while she was taking care of others? When a person loves himself or herself, then he or she does not consider self-care a form of selfishness, but rather a form of stewardship. After all, how can I love my neighbor as I love myself if I don’t first love myself? In the midst of my depression, I was pouring out my life through ministry. I was singing, writing, volunteering, and evangelizing but I believe that my ministry was affected by the fact that I was not taking care of my mental, physical, or spiritual well being as I should have.
In “The Princess Diaries 2” Princess Mia, upon learning her true identity had to spend time with her grandmother, Queen Clairisse in order to learn how to conduct herself as a monarch. At the end of this process, she was prepared to be a successful monarch. In my own experience learning my identity in Christ, I have had to spend countless hours with the King of Kings to understand what it means to be an heir to the Kingdom of God. Each day brings me one day closer to my coronation, my crown, and my reign with the King. “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. (1 Peter 5:4) “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him…” (2 Timothy 2:12)