I bare my soul publicly. And, I forget sometimes, in the freedom of being real and genuine and laid bare for everyone to see with the most sacred places of my heart, that not everyone is real and genuine. Human beings are often a disappointment.
What many of you who read these words on a computer screen do not know, is that I live in a very small town. I went to high school in a corn field. Back then, I was used to not trusting people. Used to people knowing everything you did and whispering words behind your back that defied the smiles on their faces. That was the game. That’s what girls do. They size you up and judge you, looking for signs of weakness. Maybe to deflect from their own broken places…maybe to feel less broken. It never sat well with me. And back in those days, I rebelled against it…most of the time feeling quite content with the role of giving them something to talk about.
I was never good at playing that game. My emotions were always displayed on my sleeve and I was pretty open about my motives, nothing ulterior or hidden. In fact, I didn’t often have an agenda at all. And, girls…well…they never liked me much. I learned to appreciate the way boys were free from drama, and most of the time…”what you see is what you get”. No games. Boys are still much easier for me to understand than girls. And, boys liked me just fine.
God so has a sense of humor, by the way. Giving me a ministry for women. And, grieving women, at that. I love that about Him. Love that no one…no one can put Him in a box.
I can’t tell you the battles I endure and the courage that must be mustered each time I step in front of a group of people who knew the lost young woman I once was…the girl trying to mend her broken places in all the wrong ways, giving mean girls plenty to talk about and spitting into the face of it all on the outside while weeping on the inside…to stand in front of them as the woman I am today and tell the story of a broken girl healed by the grace of her relentless God. I give them the most sacred pieces of my heart. I give them freely. But, in the bathroom, before I step onto the stage, the accuser stands in front of my face spewing all the ugly that once marred the beauty God intended for my life. My own sin. My own failings. The girl I once was. And, I refute those lies each time with His truth, by His spirit.
I close my eyes…
“Jesus meet me here…give me strength. Help me to do what you’re calling me to do.”
And, He whispers, “You are a new creation in Me. The old things are gone. The new has come. You are free. You are mine.”
When I was younger, I had a beautiful voice, but couldn’t sing, because standing in front of a group of people on a stage left me undone. Undone. I would shake and my throat would swell shut. Why? Because of the judgment of others. Because I felt like I wasn’t enough. Because I felt exposed and uncovered, laid bare. The only time I could sing without being scared, was when I was playing a part, covered in a costume. Not me. Someone else. Someone else was worthy. Being someone else made me confident, made me good enough.
I went to my high school reunion this weekend, thinking that 20 years would be enough time for us to become real people. No games. No foolish trying to size people up and make them fit into the mold we have for them. Just real. Because, that’s where I live with my life. I don’t know how to play the game…I never learned…not because I’m so inept, but because I refuse.
I was a foolish, broken girl once. I am not her anymore. She died the moment I became a mother and gave my life to Jesus. Not in a cliché…oh that’s something nice you did way. In a very real and graphic way. That girl. That girl stumbling along, looking for fulfillment and love in the wrong places. That girl died. And, a new one was born, one whose dead branches were quite painfully pruned away when I stood beside tiny graves and learned to love a man more than myself, a girl molded and sculpted and tested by fire. Purifying, cleansing, life-changing, soul-saving fire. The sins others were straining to see when they look at me were washed away by the blood of Jesus.
I am not that lost, broken, foolish, wild stubborn girl, the girl I’ve not seen in 20 years.
But, the problem with a reunion is what we remember about one another is in the past, the people we were…not who we are now. What we once knew. My friend Dinah used to call it, “putting on your graveclothes”. If you are resurrected as a new person, why would you want to go back and put on your rotting, decaying clothes that your corpse was buried in. It just isn’t fittin’. She also loved to quote the scripture, it’s like a “dog returning to his vomit”.
Dinah was a girl I could like, because she was real and told the truth. I’ve met a few girls like that.
And, mean girls. Well, until they decide to be reckoned with the One who knit them together in their mama’s womb…will always whisper behind smiles and speak words that stab deeply. Human beings trade the truth of God for a lie all the time. We miss the beauty in another human being and instead zero in on a flaw, a sordid nugget from their past, a weak place good for twisting the knife in deeper.
I can’t help what another person sees when they look at me. All I can do is walk in His grace and truth. And, when I’m discouraged about trying to be pushed into a mold that no longer fits at all. When others want to stir up strife where peace lives, and offer bondage in the place of the freedom I enjoy, all I can do is remember…they don’t know me. They only remember the girl who died. And, it doesn’t matter. The prayer isn’t about whether someone sees me anyway, it’s about whether they see Jesus in me.
I hesitated to write these words, for fear that those looking for the weak places would misinterpret what I’m saying and that it would in an inadvertent way stir up drama where there is none. Also, my mother said, “Never let them see you sweat. Never, never let the mean girls know they got to you.” But, the thing is. I am free. I am free from those rules, free from those games…and if that’s true, then I have to walk free. Be real. Even if it means someone else is mistakenly thinking we are playing some non-existent game, and they won.
Years ago, during a tumultuous time in my marriage, I was struggling with the opinion of others and how that defined my worth. It doesn’t have to be mean girls…it can be those we love, those close to us, too. All human beings are flawed, broken messes who perpetually disappoint and hurt one another.
During that time, I felt crippled by the ways I fell short. And, this simple scripture changed my life.
During the time he was in Jerusalem, those days of the Passover Feast, many people noticed the signs he was displaying and, seeing they pointed straight to God, entrusted their lives to him. But Jesus didn’t entrust his life to them. He knew them inside and out, knew how untrustworthy they were. He didn’t need any help in seeing right through them. John 2:23-25 The Message
Another version I’ve heard says…Jesus knew what was in the heart of a man. He didn’t need the opinions or approval of others and he wasn’t hindered by the disapproval. I threw away my measuring stick a long time ago. And, His opinion is the only one with which I measure my life.
Young girls and those young at heart, I want to encourage you to do the same. Throw away the measuring stick. Cast off the grave clothes. Don’t return to the vomit. He has a new life for you.
Just live it. You are beautiful and loved, and valued and free…and His.