For some time now, close to a decade probably, I’ve been afraid to tell the truth in various ways. The truth about me, my story, how I think, my experiences, me. The truth about me. From that period of time when I thought I was gay to drugs to being unsure on certain theological issues to fully allowing my newborns to sleep on their stomachs, I have shied away from doing one of the things I think I do best, talk about it.
Why? Well, for about a million reasons and all of them come from fear. Fear of what people will think, mostly. Fear that I will be rejected, fear that exposing the things which I am most deeply ashamed of will result in less love in my or my kids’ life, fear that I will be abandoned and alone, all just fear. Fear.
Now, what’s funny is that we’re missionaries. Missionaries who fund raise to live. Do you know, smart person, what fundraising is? It’s asking people if they like you enough to give you money. Okay, no, it’s not that. But do you know what fundraising feels like? Yes, like asking people if they like you enough to give you money.
Now, ask someone with all those aforementioned fear issues to fund raise for a living for them and their family.
I always thought it was a really sick, ironic thing that God would ask me to do this with my life given my massive fear issues mostly surrounding judgement and love. Ironic and painful that He would continually ask me to live in such a vulnerable position. But it’s been in this transition, this transition back to Thailand, when the stakes are much higher, that I’ve come to see this not as irony but as a constant invitation to heal.
So as we’ve been in this transition, as we’re fundraising and moving in with my parents and getting rid of things and having talks with Shep about not seeing his friends or his Sunday school teacher for a really, really long time, people have been asking how we’re doing.
And generally I say things that are true but more bite size than going into my life-long fear narratives God is healing. Because, remember, I’m afraid to share. I’m freeze up and get nervous to say how painful this is and vulnerable and how it hurts but I’m learning to let the hurt roll through me rather than stuff it, because, what will you think when you know all this is going on inside my head and heart? How messed up am I? And what will you do when you see how messed up I really am? How broken I am?
A conversation I’ve been having with a couple very close friends over the last six months or so has been about the narratives we carry around inside us. How those narratives, the things we tell ourselves about the world around us, actually have the power to shape and inform what is really happening. How painful it is to see that the things we’re telling ourselves don’t line up with reality, but we force them to, thus continually living the same story over and over again.
Most of those narratives, we discovered after hours of talking and processing and putting pieces together for ourselves and each other, are around judgement and love.
The fear of being found out, discovered, known, seen and then the fallout of that finding, discovering, knowing and seeing.
Now, none of these friends are missionaries. None of them are currently fundraising. None of them are living my story, and yet, it’s the same. The fear is the same, the isolation is the same, the shame is the same.
So why aren’t we sharing?
If it’s all the same, why don’t we relieve each other’s pain by poking a hole in our own inflated forms and watch the stale air escape together? Why aren’t we going first and just saying the things that are really going on? Even with our closest, most trusted people?
I keep thinking why I haven’t done more of that myself. Why I haven’t just internally decided for myself that enough pretending was enough, that judgement from others was irrelevant because no one is without shadow, and just be honest.
And I realized it was because of arriving.
I think there’s this undercurrent of story driving white, Christian, American women around arriving. Some use words like ‘healed’ or ‘complete’, but it’s all the same idea.
The idea is that there is actually a finish line. There is an end result, a finished product, a proof. That we do get fully, 100% free this side of Heaven. That we can fully and totally say we’ve experienced what we set out to and that in so doing, we are exactly who we want to be.
And God can do whatever She wants and set you free from something or heal you in an instant, yes, but I don’t buy that narrative anymore.
There is no finish line. There is no arrival point. There is no ‘there’ to aspire to or live into or try and become. I’m not sure we will ever wake up and say, yes, this is it. I have done it. Here I am, arrived. This is what I’ve been working toward and hoping for all this time. And if there is no finish line and we’ll never wake up one day and say all those things, then why are we living like there is and we will? And why are we expecting the women around us to live that way?
There is nothing, not one thing, that can be taken from or added to you or your life that will either edge you closer or further from that finish line.
This is all we have, this moment. And in this moment, if we can drop the judgment on ourselves (how things should be, where we are in relation to that finish line and arrival point) and our sisters (how much closer are they at arriving or healing or wholeness or the finish line?), I think we would find such sweet relief.
This thing happens to most women in transition: they let go of all outside input and do what they need to do to get through- they don’t seem to care how their laboring will appear to others.
They just do what their body was created to do. There’s something in our marrow that knows how to move through transition, and if we can stay soft and surrender to the pain, we not only survive, but new life comes out of us.
As I’m in transition with my family, my damns to give have become fewer and fewer, and the desire to experience being known and free has won out a million times over. Along with all my old fear narratives, I’ve generally felt hesitant to say exactly what I’m experiencing because, in those broken stories I opened with, I hurt people. I used people. I lied, I stole, I did all manner of mean things, intentionally and not. And all I can hear in my head at times is a chorus of faces repeating hypocrite over and over.
But I have given myself permission to heal, to change, to not ever arrive and to stop chasing the illusion of the finish line.
And I desperately want to give that permission to the women around me.
For us to no longer experience the agony of the untold stories inside of us.
To live like we are enough, and to give that gift of being enough to each other as we just try to live as deeply and fully as we can.