I’ve always had this idea of who I wanted to be; some perfect mixture of Anne from Anne of Green Gables, Jo from Little Women, and Laura from Little House On The Prairie. I wanted to be a quiet girl, too; someone who didn’t have to ramble on about every thought that popped into her head.
I’d be a girl mysterious in her own way, tomboy through and through, above average in my education, and unlike your every-day teenager. I had plans to be a writer and see my name on great works of literature. And somehow, just somehow, I had to be better and smarter than my oldest brother. It just wasn’t fair how much better he was at everything than me (somehow I failed to realize that he was in fact older and therefore more experienced in general).
I’ve also never liked to be emotional. Growing up the only girl among three children, I was always frustrated with myself for being more emotional than my siblings. Even my mother has never been the kind of person to cry often, so comparing myself to her put me in the same sate of frustration.
Hold this back, push that back, brush that up, keep your chin up, stop talking so much, be smart, be creative, don’t cry so much… that was me, trying to be perfect; not because anyone else expected it of me, but because that’s what I expected of myself.
When I moved to a new state and began to meet people in the area, I had who I wanted to be all figured out. Then came chronic illness.
Goodbye Walls –
Several months into my chronic illness I was told that trials reveal what is truly in your heart. That wasn’t an easy thing to hear because this trial had revealed some pretty nasty stuff. All the embellishing and covering up I had done in years past was no good; I was forced to face the truth.
And the truth was that after the right amount of pressure, I gave up on God. After long nights of crying out “I trust You with this even though I don’t understand it,” I began to cry curses instead. Like Job I held on and trusted God for a time, but once the sorrow became exceedingly great I too became indignant with my Creator. I told myself that these thoughts and doubts were simply coming up because of my circumstances and that they weren’t really what was in my heart. The truth was that these things had been in my heart all along and the pressure had simply broken down the walls that I had built up to hide what I didn’t want people to see.
It was easier to judge other people when these walls were in tact. There were so many times I looked on other believers and wondered to myself how they could struggle with such things as they were or why they weren’t doing the right things like I was (pharisee much?).
And then the walls came down and I was introduced to the real me. The me that was too worn to rebuild those walls and too crushed and crippled to create a more appealing face. Here I was, no makeup to hide my imperfections.
I didn’t want to go out. I didn’t want to meet new people. I didn’t want others to see me not at my best. Without my walls I was scared and frustrated. For the longest time I felt as though people were not meeting the real me – that this illness had changed me and made me who I wasn’t. I felt as though my identity had been stolen. I didn’t realize that my true identity had actually been revealed.
Being Real –
I’m back in my hometown for a few weeks. I’ve spent the past five days with my best friend of almost 12 years. There are few people who know me as well as she does. That’s why all of these thoughts are coming to mind. I’m seeing the me she used to know – the face I put up even for my closest friend – and realizing all of the changes that have happened since I moved away over three years ago.
I’m tempted to build up the same walls and step right back into the place I’m most comfortable. But I’m still too worn to build those walls up. I literally do not have the strength to be fake.
So I’m being more open and honest than I’ve ever been. As another best friend of mine and I got close last summer, I explained to him that I wasn’t always going to be the easiest person to be friends with. Because of my illness, I have more bad days than good and I’m often over-emotional, over-dramatic, and depressed. I was ashamed and insecure without my walls to hide behind. And yet the honesty felt better than anything.
There was no more pretending to be who I wasn’t. There was no more feigning perfection. I could relate with the struggles of others in a way I had never been able to before because I had been there. And in this way I saw how brokeness can be a thing of beauty.
This is the real me, weakness and all. I wanted people to think well of me, I wanted people to be impressed with me, I wanted God to be impressed with me… I wanted to be impressed with me. Instead I found how miserably I failed at this whole perfection thing and I couldn’t hide it.
Throw Your Mirrors Down –
And then I realized how selfish this whole pursuit of perfection had been. I realized how over-focused I had been on myself and trying to be “all that and a bag of chips.” The girl that had been praised again and again for her amazing maturity in her writing and walk with Christ had to be brought to the point where she realized that all she was doing was by the grace of God; every last bit. I had said it before because I knew it was right, but it was a knowledge that did not comply with where my heart truly stood.
So yes, you’re seeing the real me (though I’m sure I still have walls to be broken down). But the point of seeing the real me isn’t to impress you with how great I am; the point of seeing the real me is seeing the real work of Christ in my life. Because it’s not about me, it’s about Him. Instead of preening myself in the mirror and hiding my imperfections behind a mask of makeup, I need to be that mirror and reflect the glory of my God.
And I won’t always be a perfect mirror. I’m gonna get smudged and scratched and chipped. I won’t be able to perfectly reflect the majesty of who my God truly is, but by His grace and with His help I will do the best I can.
“’My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” -2 Corinthians 12:9-10