I’ve felt out on a limb lately. For months now. And it feels good sometimes – exhilarating, but then it feels crushing at other times. You know, for some of us, it feels crushing just to be seen.
I make this mistake and I think I need to get myself together before I can be seen. I need to lose weight, I need to be younger, I need to be smarter, and better read, and have better taste. Really, I just need to BE BETTER.
This feeling that it’s unsafe to show up in the world as I am is a clue that I’m feeling unpresentable before God, too.
But God made me unwhole.
Built into my DNA is a desire for something more than just me, more than you.
This longing is a need for God, for a Higher Power. That’s why nothing ever feels finished. Why I’m never “done” – because that’s the way I’m built.
God loves us, even when we’re not at our best, even when we’re not “finished”. And that means, it’s safe to show up in the world, because God is stronger than the world.
I am a girl who spent my weekends growing up trapped in my room, needing to pee. See, my bedroom door opened up into the living room, right into a square made by our chairs and the sofa. And my dad and his drunk friends spent nearly every weekend in our living room, yelling at the tv about the fight, the football game, basketball game, baseball, the olympics, a MARATHON. What. Ever.
There was NO TELLING what would happen if I walked into that room. Often my dad and his friends would turn to me and make fun of me, make comments, whatever, and I’d basically die inside, so instead of facing that, often I’d climb out of my bedroom window, go around the front of the house and in through the side door so I could slip behind the chairs and get to the bathroom down the hall.
NOT BEING SEEN felt like a matter of life and death. When I was seen, my dad would crack some joke about my body to his friends, or he’d reach for me to give me a kiss and a hug – gross wet mustache, too-tight, sloppy hug and I’d feel both loved and repulsed. I loved him, but it was gross, and I kind of hated him for it. For everything.
Now, as a grown up – as a woman, a mom, a PTA member, a grad school girl, a girl at the reading, or at the fancy artist talk – I carry this feeling inside me, still – afraid to be seen, unsafe, nearly all the time.
And yet, I want to be seen. Seen = safe.
So, when do I think it will be safe to be seen?
- When I’m prettier.
- When I’m YOUNGER.
- 10 years ago.
- 15 years ago.
- When I’m in a 30 under 30 book.
- When I’m rich and famous.
- When I lose 10 pounds.
- Ok, 17.
- In the future.
- In the past.
- Any other time, than right now, today.
Often it feels like I want to be seen by people, but really, it’s God that I want to be seen by. God, and myself.
That’s whose approval I actually need. Mine and God’s. And really, in a pinch, just God’s. God’s approval is enough to get me through.
What’s up with this fear of being seen?
At it’s root, it’s that same old, same old, same old thing: shame.
Shame tells me – You’re not good enough. You should really stay inside until you lose that weight. You should really do SOMETHING about your hair. You should get some new clothes.
And then I get new clothes and What looked good at the store doesn’t look so good once I get it home. The new clothes are mysteriously ALL WRONG after I’ve worn them a couple times. And I think: Still, not right.
Hmm. Still, not right.
Let me tell you a quick story:
When I was dating, I thought I had to be beautiful, fun, pretty, smart, casual, flexible, ALL. THE. TIME.
It was exhausting. And it never worked. The facade cracked and the other person, the person I was dating was like, What the? You used to be so COOL, you used to be so FUN, you used to be so INTERESTING. Now you’re just like, needy and depressed.
And I would get grumpy because I was always so dressed up and refreshing my lipstick in the bathroom and it was tiring and I really just wanted to take my makeup off, put my hair up and put on a pair of sweatpants once in awhile.
But I couldn’t do that because I had built this whole relationship based on the myth of the pretty girl, who is ALWAYS pretty, never has her period, is always FUN and never too tired to make out. She ALWAYS listens to your stories and laughs at your jokes and she is up for anything. Anything. She’s flex.
But I’m not like that exactly. No one is, really. So these relationships always ended in a bunch of failed promises based on who I had led them to believe I was – this perfect girl. Or at least this girl who really, really, really wanted to be perfect and would really, really try.
But luckily when I met my husband, a miracle happened. And the miracle was that I had a broken heart when I met him.
I’d been in one of those terrible relationships that just goes back and forth, where you break up every few weeks and the person I was dating JUST COULDN’T DECIDE between me and his ex-girlfriend, so he’d totter back and forth between us, keeping me abreast of every little nook and cranny of his indecision. (As the book says, he just wasn’t that into me. You know.)
After we finally broke up – when he told me it was his destiny to be with this other woman, blah blah blah – I met my husband. He was cute and smart and I figured – why not? – but I was just too tired to do my perfect-lady dating thing.
So I just showed up. I came straight from work and I didn’t change my clothes. I was in the conversation but I didn’t carry the whole thing. When I was bored, I acted bored. One night, I was tired from work and he insisted on taking me to this super far away restaurant and I begrudgingly went and then in the middle of the date when he was talking about something terrible, like say, musicals, I was like OH, FORGET IT and I asked him to take me home as soon as dinner was over because oh-my-god WHY was I all the way on the South Side when my apartment was waaaaay on the North Side listening to some guy talk about freaking musicals? And I was just so tired and thinking it’s NOT MY JOB to be on this date, so I went home and WHOA, he was still talking to me the next day.
The world didn’t crumble. I could be tired and really not up for feigning interest in Broadway musicals, and he could still like me. WHAT? That, my friend, is marriage material.
That was the start of the best relationship I’ve ever had: me showing up and being basically as flawed as I am. Now, don’t get me wrong. My flaws go a lot deeper than not wanting to drive to some far flung Mexican restaurant in Chicago rush hour traffic, but the point is, by letting down my guard, I was loved MORE. Not Less.
And it’s like this with God. I am fine for God just as I am. God approves of me just as I am. I am God’s blessed child. I am God’s favorite. And so are you.
I am God’s favored child, right here, right now, in my old pink sweatshirt, messy hair, old pajama pants. With something smelly that I noticed has gone bad in the refrigerator, and a 401k from an old job that I don’t really know what to do with. I am just fine for God. God doesn’t need me to attend to all of these flaws before I go to him.
God wants to be with me all day, just as I am.
God loves us.
It’s safe to be seen in the world because it’s safe to be seen by God. And God’s got us, God’s got us all well in hand. We can show up tired, and messy, and just as we are, asking for more, more, more love, and God’s got it to give. God’s big enough to love me even in places where I can’t yet love myself.
God made us, just as we are, and we’re good enough for God.