"It takes real courage to endure the sharp pains of self discovery rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives."
Each day I sit with people who trust me with their biggest fears, their greatest failures, their deepest regrets. I am humbled by their ability to share so much of themselves with a stranger. Nothing is spared, yet all is sacred. Each intimate detail a piece of their soul, poured out for me to take and sift away the shame and guilt to uncover the hope and goodness...emotions often long lost or left behind with the broken shell of a life they abandoned out of necessity or a compilation of poor choices and bad decisions. We talk through each of these, looking hard to find whatever it is that drives them to be...to see...to feel...more. So often the focus falls on the ability to stop running from something/someone, or to turn away from something/someone, or to break an addiction to something...or, and typically worse, someone.
What I'm leaving out is the extremely personal ways this very quote touches my life...not the lives of those I work with, but mine. It's easy for me to get others to open up...it happens without me even asking most of the time. But, for me - someone who can have surface-level conversation with almost anybody - talking about the important stuff is next to impossible. I've spent years convincing myself that the things that have happened in my life...the really important, mostly painful stuff...didn't affect me like I seem to believe it would someone else. I was sure my mom moving out when I was 16 didn't hurt me. Sure of it. Until the past couple years... See, I have a really hard time believing I'm enough...trusting that someone could love me enough to not leave me...that relationships with those who really matter don't have a shelf life...that something like a marriage really could last a lifetime. I trust easily...trust that someone will care about me for a while and then disappoint me. I have buffered myself the past couple years from the potential brokenness that could come from allowing someone to really love me. I have purposely...although I didn't realize it until very recently...put myself in a situation where I could get hurt...and I have...but not broken. I have chosen to accept less in order to protect myself and have ended up missing the very things I value so much....because I have been afraid. I have preached, begged, plead and argued the importance of getting over the fear and loving openly no matter how badly life...er, someone...has hurt, disappointed and crushed you in the past. I have sworn that I know exactly what I'm looking for...and maybe I do, but am afraid of finding it because if I do then I could either lose it or ruin it. I am still terrified of not being enough. And I'm honestly not sure if I will ever be able to see myself differently. I feel like I've been a great big faker...that I pushed someone else to be ready for something I may very well never be ready for myself. Because, at the end of the day, I want the very life I'm fairly convinced I either don't deserve or would ruin if given the chance. Fear is an awful thing. It keeps us from being, and receiving, our very best. In realizing all of this...in being brave enough to face all the demons that have haunted me for years and likely held me back from many things...not just relationships...I am forced to see the ways in which I do need to make changes...changes that are hard, but necessary if I ever want more for my life.
Looking in the mirror and facing the very things we fear most is the painful part of creating exactly what we want most. I'm not sure if I will ever be able to think I'm enough...or worth it...but I have to at least try. I refuse to see myself as broken beyond repair. It's weird, in my conversations with my families, I'm learning more about myself than I ever imagined. Painful self discovery versus unconscious denial...how real are we willing to be with ourselves? What if what we find is too hard to see? What if we aren't able to fix the messed up parts? What if we can? I don't have any of the answers right now. All I know is I'm finding myself face-to-face with things I never realized I was dealing with and I can't seem to find a way around any of it this time. I'm just praying God will lead me to whatever it is He wants me to see and then give me the ability to do something good with whatever that is.
I slid in next to him, he in his "spot" a few pews back from the front on the far right-hand side next to the choir loft. My sister and her family beside me inside the quiet, darkened sanctuary. There were 26 of us - many family by blood or marriage, all there as part of God's family - a small, gathering to hear the story of Good Friday...a story of love, fear, friendship, betrayal, persecution, death and...trust. I read the words I was handed and took the time to really hear the story as it surrounded me...the emphasis different this time for some reason. The story is the same - I know it by heart, am always saddened by the ending yet never really took in the other aspects. See, I love thinking of Christ as human. I love imagining Him as a man, the Son of God, yes, but a man - nothing more, nothing less. I like to think that He walked here just as we do and in so doing, experienced all the raw emotions that I feel - many of which I've felt over the past week. I have always been drawn to the time when Jesus was in the garden praying...begging out of fear for God to change His path, to save Him from what was to come. His friends, the disciples, couldn't stay awake to stand guard for Him and His frustration was visible, yet He kept going back and asking for...what? Strength? To live? I have spent time on my knees, asking God to take something awful from me...I have cried and begged for it to get better, or to have some sense of understanding. While I've never gotten an immediate response, the answer...the strength, the reassurance, the whatever it is I'm needing always comes...when I'm ready to receive it.
My uncle read words that hit home with me...absolute inclusivity. As in, Jesus practiced "absolute inclusivity" - He never judged, never left anyone out, loved everyone equally...even in His final hours on the cross when one of the others sentenced to death asked to be remembered when He entered heaven "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). Jesus didn't know this man, this sinner, yet He welcomed him at His table with His (yours, mine, our) Father. I am always struck by His ability to have such kind words for a stranger while experiencing so much pain. Yet, it gives me hope to think that if He was able to give that much to a stranger hanging on a cross, maybe He is holding a place for me.
Last night was emotional for me...I tried to keep it together, but found myself holding back tears on more than one occasion. After the service was over, I sat in her seat in the choir loft and then Colin and I sat at the huge pipe organ, making huge sounds come out of the beautiful old instrument that has always been a symbol of church to me. I felt empty in some ways...was missing people who I wished so much had been next to me. I don't think I will ever understand how you can have people on either side of you and still feel lonely...or, rather, alone. I'm trying hard to trust His plan...to give myself over to whatever it is He has for me instead of forcing my wants, my thoughts, my idea of a plan.
I've typed, deleted and retyped so many things trying to make this first post something worthy of what this is...or, what I'm hoping it will be anyway. I've been writing for almost as long as I can remember, well, since I was in fourth grade - the same age M is now - and if I'm honest, I will say that I've often been timid with my writing, downplaying its importance in my life, not quite giving it the credit it deserves I suppose. Why? Out of fear, honestly. Words, especially written, are an insight into the very depth of our soul; the deepest reflection of who we are. Once put to paper, they give life to beliefs, emotions, thoughts, fears, hopes, dreams...at least for some of us. For me, this new site is a commitment to myself, an investment in a lifelong dream, a push to do something more.
Hang on, there is so much more coming! I am so excited!