Thursday, November 21, 2013

Perpetually Broken

I'm a woman who doesn't have a lot of "real" conversations. Because like nearly all of us, I am a woman with a story, and a human woman at that, and these two things combined make me a perpetually broken woman, something I've always been kind of ashamed and kind of scared of.

The way my mind works most of the time, I'm always thinking something. I am always reflecting, always pondering, always wondering what life might be like if this or that one little thing was different. Not in the past, but very much in the present. For every answer I ever give you, there are at least two alternate answers playing their own conversations in my mind - more authentic answers, usually, but at what cost?

I have spent my life afraid of my brokenness, ashamed of still being broken after all of these years. In the times and the seasons where that brokenness seems almost mended, I inevitably run up against something that reminds me this isn't Eden. It's still there, just not in the ways that it used to be.

As such, people generally have a lot of misconceptions about me. Some people think I'm arrogant, since the way I feel about my story makes me project an air of infallibility. Some people don't think I'm funny (me! not funny!) because they notice I joke more when I'm trying to get away from something. (I'm not funny, but sometimes, I can be.) Some find me to be untruthful, which to them makes me untrustworthy, because they sense they aren't getting the full story. Yet if any were actually to know me, they'd understand these things could not be further from the truth.

I was having this conversation with some of these people recently (which is what prompted this post). It was a beautiful broken moment.

Because here's what happens - we, I, get so afraid of our own stories that we start trying to shield others from them. We have a way to handle the brokenness, but we aren't sure whether or not they do. We don't know whether they're going to look at us with sympathetic eyes and then mother us to death for the rest of our lives. We don't know if they're going to look at us with disdain, that we could be such a people who would even dare to be broken. We don't know if they're going to look at us with scorn, that we're still broken all these years later. We don't know if they're going to look at us with disbelief, not understanding how we could have been broken by that. It's this delicate balance of how they are going to react with how we are going to react to how they react, and how they'll react to that and it's simply better, and easier, for everyone if we keep our struggles private and present only our resolved self to a world around us.

As a result, no one ever sees us. And it gets to where we look in the mirror and don't even see ourselves. If you're not who you are, then who are you?

I'm not suggesting we all just spill our guts and walk around relishing our brokenness. That's not always a safe thing to do, and I understand that. But in the right context, how incredibly freeing and gracious it is to be able to be your broken self. You start to see things differently.

I spoke frankly with a group of my peers earlier this week. They asked; I decided to answer, half-figuring they wouldn't ask again. But I answered without false pride in my brokenness. I answered without masking my heart with humor. I answered with tears falling down my face and the complete inability to look at anything but the floor. And they...sat engaged. They weren't running away; they were diving into my mess and sitting with me for awhile. And all of those fears that were still caught in my throat - that I was about to become the child of the group, that they wouldn't understand, that they would be burdened by my story, that they'd somehow see me as different or lesser, were unfounded. In the environment of that intimate group, I spoke aloud things that sound crazy to my faux-resolved self, and I was met with love, heartbreak, and absolute acceptance. I later asked how they were able to do this, how none of them thought less of me after that extended time of sharing, and the very idea of thinking less of me for this was so foreign to them that they did not understand my question. I am blessed to have such people in my life. I thought for a moment in their silence and with a tear on my cheek, I asked, "Do you know what a gift this is? Because you have not thought less of me, I don't have to think less of me." It was a holy moment.

For most of my life, I've thought there had to be one of two things - a broken woman who was always going to be written off or cast down...or a resolved woman who was normal and involved and functioning as a productive member of society. As a perpetually broken woman, I created the other as a figment in order that I might one day not be so alone.

But there is a third option, which I have discovered this week, and that is to be a healing woman. It's being someone who does not deny my story but isn't stuck in it either. Or at least, if I am stuck, I know that I'm stuck and I'm working on a way out. Rather, a way through. It's to embrace that I am perpetually broken, that there's always going to be something I'm working on and to present myself neither as broken or perfect, punctured or patched, but always as growing.

That takes a lot of pressure off, and that's really what the world wants to see. Not that you're broken. Not that you're whole. But that you're somewhere in the middle and you're working on it. You're growing. You're taking initiative and investing in yourself, working your way toward something glorious that God has created in you. All the better if you're doing it with God. All of a sudden, people can see it. They can see what God created you to be. And you look in the mirror, and you can see it, too. And you're getting there. You're getting toward that glorious thing.

But here is kind of glorious, too. At the very least, it's holy.

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