Several years ago, I was hanging out with some friends and one of them shared with me she wanted to confess something to me. She stated that awhile back, she and others she was with, had allowed their conversation to turn to talking about me, along with some other staff wives, in a very negative, hurtful way. She hesitated to tell me what had transpired, but her desire to ask for my forgiveness outweighed her discomfort. I kept telling myself I should be angry, but I really just appreciated seeing Matthew 18, otherwise known as the forgiveness chapter, fleshed out. As I look back on it, it always sticks out to me as a time where you find yourself wondering if people are being the same to your face as they are when you are not around. And, lest you “go there” in your thinking and finger-point, trust me…I’ve been the offender, too. I do not think any of us can say that we’ve always been on the up and up in our speech. Most often we manipulate our speech to put the good spin on things so that, God forbid, anyone ever think horribly of us. I mean, come on, I like for people to like me, don’t you? This moment defined for me, however, that the very part of me that I want to most be – just to be REAL – is most often the hidden part of everyone with whom we come in contact. In my last post, even, this was the heartbeat – just loving people right, exactly where they are. Being yourself, being real, being vulnerable and even being our most ugly selves are all a part of this. The more we practice being who we really are, the more those around us are challenged to really, genuinely LOVE us right where we are. It’s a win, win.
Just the other day, one of our partners came in the church as I was working. I asked her the usual, “How are you,” and I waited, playing the game with myself I always play…that moment where I wonder, “Will she really tell me how she is”? It was then that the rare thing happened. She actually told me how she really was, and truth is, she was not doing well. She was tired, had a lot on her mind and just completely at the end of her rope, but she didn’t hide it. I told her how refreshing it was to actually have someone be honest enough to tell me how they are really doing…and, yet, so rare! I don’t know about you, but I want to be a trailblazer. I want to trail-blaze the way to break molds, crush stereotypes and just accept people for who they are, right where they are. It’s honestly the singular, most difficult thing for me as a pastor’s wife. I lived for so long hiding who I really am from others. I was afraid to let anyone see me for me…the me that doesn’t always like being assumed I love my life, or being put down because I actually do love my life… and the result of that has left me exhausted, with “I’m a people pleaser” tattooed on my forehead. As I began to embrace letting others see the real me, the result hasn’t always been what I’ve expected, but I’m no longer living in the shadows of people’s expectations of what they think I should be, but I’m living in the reality of who I am. I’ll warn you, I sense people talk more about me now that I’m letting them see all sides of me than ever before, but the difference is, this time they mostly say it to my face. I want no accolades in life, but only to be like the woman who came in my office this week – I want to just be who it is I am. Sometimes I’m
Say words that are kind
Say word that are bad
Don’t do what you want me to do just because you want me to do it
In the shadows holding the hand of the one no one else will touch
I really could fill the page with my polar opposite self descriptions. I’m all over the place, but I live with an expectation that you will love me for who I am, because, despite your imperfections, I certainly love you – while you make it difficult for me to do so, I’m no different from you that way. Loving is the center. It’s the right place where life may look incredibly messy, but be incredibly right. The journey to love deeply, and without discrimination is not easy, but worth the fight. Times like being talked about, to coming into contact with someone who will be real with you will both shape you. What’s your starting place? Do you need to forgive yourself before you can be yourself? Do you need to forgive someone else? Take the bull by the horns and be who are were created to be. Don’t have it all figured out. Don’t hide who you are to be what others expect. Today, just start by being you.