I’m not generally a sentimental person, but from time to time I go through a box I’ve kept over the years that contains a written collection my thoughts from when I was younger. This box is a reminder to me of my life before God and it is also a reminder to me that I didn’t get where I am today without deep scars.
Here are a couple of the last passages in a series of short exhortations I wrote to myself (I was 19 at the time, and these thoughts could have been written weeks apart):
If there is one thing I have learned in my short existence, it is that the little things never mattered. They didn’t change me or define who I was. I’ve spent my entire life searching for meaning behind life and I have finally concluded that it was never meant for us to know. If God had made it obvious, we wouldn’t have appreciated the struggle to figure it out. I have also decided that it is easier to forgive than it is to forget; though perhaps we should not want to.
A friend once asked me, “Is there anything you don’t do?” My answer? Life. It amazes me that that people can spend their whole lives wishing they were someone else ~that they’d had someone else’s family, because if they had, life would have been so much different. When we were little, were wore our mom or dad’s shoes so we could pretend we were grown ups but I guess as “grown ups” we’ve exchanged dress-up for something else, but only because we know that no matter how hard we try, that foot just isn’t going to fit in a size 5 child’s sneaker. Instead we pretend that if we were this person or had this much money then we would be happy. The thing no one considers is that if you had been someone different, you still would have had hurts; you still would have sleepless nights wondering what went wrong. No one’s life is perfect. Everyone has their own demons they are fighting. They just aren’t your demons.
I used to think if I tried hard enough not to cry, I would forget how. I think it’s worked and now I think I’m broken. All I know now is that is that it is only a matter of time before, well, before I die. And it scares me that I have never truly learned to live and I don’t feel anything anymore.
Oddly enough, given the rest of what was written in the pages of this document, that is one of the more optimistic tid-bits. Optimistic in that, I had finally come to a resolve about my situation in life. I was ready to forgive and I was ready to stop being bound by the hurt in my life… ready to stop letting it dictate how I would live.
But it was also really sad. There were a lot of things I also had resolved myself to. I had resolved myself to pain being the normal human experience. I had resolved myself to becoming numb, which meant being numb to both the good and the bad. Because of that, I don’t think I ever really learned how to develop healthy feelings.
My husband and I have stolen the joke from Harry Potter, and we often say that I have the emotional range of a teaspoon. It’s probably not funny, but I’d rather laugh about it. Now that I am older, more mature, and have had a few years living with my husband, I’ve been allowed a safe place in my life to explore some of the things that do come up. And fortunately, he doesn’t find it exhausting.
With all that said, I have to say that I find it strange how many people tell me on a regular basis will say to me, “I wish I could [do that][not care what others thought][dress like that][etc., etc.]…”
I’ve been told by a good many people, both men and women, that I am a strong, stubborn pain in the rear… and sometimes, even that I am intimidating. Being admired for my sense of self is a bit new for me though and it warrants some reflection. I certainly don’t mean to be intimidating… and I certainly am not looking for admiration. I simply am who I am and the road I’ve taken to get here was made of pretty sharp glass. If people would only look closer, they wouldn’t see a noble woman who was born into self-confidence. They’d see a woman whom from head to toe was covered in battle scars.
I wasn’t born with thick skin and I certainly didn’t grow it over night. It was years of hurt bestowed to me by the very people I thought were supposed to love and support me. It was years of being told I was never “enough” of anything: not pretty enough, smart enough or wealthy enough. Years of being told I would never amount to anything and my personal favorite, being told “[I] walk funny, [I] talk funny, [I’m] just kind of weird… [he] caught [me] and now [he was] throwing [me] back into the ocean…” by my first boyfriend.
Yeah, about that… I haven’t changed and for the record, I’m still pretty weird. I have no intention about changing that or anything else about me that God put there. And someone did find and love me for everything that God made me.
But for a long while, I really struggled with my identity. I struggled with a lot of hurt and rejection. I struggled with feeling like I would never measure up. At more than one point, I considered calling it quits and taking myself out of this world.
It took a while to stop dragging that bag of rocks behind me. It took a while to stop letting people add more to the bag and to stop being angry. It took me a long time to finally just own my “weirdness” and be comfortable in this skin. Because let’s face it, how many people dream about having rainbow colored highlights all over their head and wears their ren-faire skirts year round at the age of 30? (Although, who knows…maybe there’s a lot of us weirdos and I’m just the 1% to actually do it…)
Ultimately, it took me a long time to learn to forgive everyone in my life who made me feel like I was less than human. I learned that I had a choice to make. I could choose to believe the lies of the world, or I could choose to believe my father in heaven about who He said I was.
I wasn’t born with thick skin and I didn’t grow it over night. It took scars… deep, angry, ugly scars that I wouldn’t erase anything. Because even though I have suffered, I have also overcome. I found my salvation on the road to destruction. I know I am a broken vessel. I know I don’t function quite the way I should, but I also know that God’s grace is sufficient for me. If he is for me, who can stand against me? If he cares enough to know the hairs on my head, then what do I care if someone else doesn’t like the color or style of the strands? If he has called me worthy and beloved, who is anyone else to say I am not…
This skin came at a price. I won’t talk about how those scars came to be, or about the battles I won them in; not here anyway. And I won’t compare scars. As the young version of myself said, no one’s life is perfect. Everyone has their own demons they are fighting. They just aren’t your demons.
And it’s true. Every day each and every one of us is facing a new spiritual battle. I’ve figured out how to put my thumbs in my ears for some things… and you’ve figured out how to put your thumbs in your ears for others.
Maybe if we could remember that, people would lose themselves in kindness for one another. We’d stop judging books by covers because we really have no idea what the contents are like inside.
Maybe if we could just remember that, we would finally figure out that we are all looking to be accepted and loved. That no one has the perfect life. And no one knows the internal struggle of another person. Each and every one of us desires meaningful relationships. We desire to feel loved, accepted and received.
I decided a long time ago, life is too short to keep stumbling over other people’s opinions of me. We are all human. We all fall short. My failures are no better or worse than anyone else. And I want to encourage people to think outside their box; outside their context for how they view and see the world. To not judge the book by its cover. You might be happily surprised and I guarantee you, the most meaningful thing you will do in a stranger’s life, who looks entirely outside of your context, is to give them a friendly smile and a polite hello that seems to be completely out of the blue.
…Or you could do what I do and fiercely overwhelm them with your own weirdness and hope they’ll love you back.