Sometimes I love how honest my children are - the good, the bad, the ugly- they let it all hang out in front of their father, their sisters and me.
This morning was a slow one. We have had gray day upon gray day with more rain than anyone in their right mind wants. While it wasn't raining this morning when the alarm went off, it was gray (again). So I hit snooze a time or two or three. The end result was that I headed out the door for my walk nearly 45 minutes past my target time. If that late start wasn't enough to slow our Monday down, I decided to make chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. By the time we sat down to light some candles together and do Jesus Calling, I was feeling the pressure to get our school day started. Instead of rushing through our quiet time, I took a deep breath and went slowly. My theory was that a few more minutes spent in quiet wouldn't put us that much later than we already were and they might do far more to help us than hinder us.
Here were the words that awaited us:
Everyone wants to look good. You want to wear the right clothes, fix your hair just so, and say just the right things. It's easy to clean up your outside, and make your friends think you have it all together on the inside. You can fool a lot of people that way. But not Me. I see straight through you. I understand who you really are, and I love you.
Talk to Me about your struggles, about the times when you feel that you just aren't good enough. Little by little, I will take those struggles and turn them into strengths. You don't have to pretend or put on a show with Me. Just be yourself. There is nothing you can do - or not do - that will stop Me from loving you. (Jesus Calling for Kids, January 14)
Last Friday, I had explained to the girls that they could use their quiet time bracketing our devotion to ask God for the grace they need. So this morning, I suggested they might ask God for the grace to see a place where they pretend and the grace to change. "I can't do that!" B exclaimed. "All I do is pretend. You know the pin I have on my backpack? The one that says, 'I just want people to accept me for who I pretend to be.'? That's me! I can't stop pretending. I could never do that." Her words and her response were to true and authentic that they made me catch my breath and say quietly to her, "Maybe you could just ask God for the grace to see one way you pretend. You don't even have to ask for the grace to change it. Just to see it."
The interesting thing about this interchange is that I think B is very authentic for a child her age, especially a female child. How many 11 year olds know immediately that they are pretending for other people?
I turned 40 nearly 40 days ago. I've been thinking a lot about this decade I'm just beginning and what I hope it will teach me. I think my 30s taught me about my body - its gifts, its limitations, its importance as a part of who I am. As I read elsewhere today:
The feminine body can be seen as a cauldron of transformation. Her body turns things into other things—her body turns a love act into a perfect little child. Yet, in her heart, she knows SHE did not do it. All she had to do was to wait and eat well, to believe and to hope for nine months. This gives a woman a very special access to understanding spirituality as transformation—if she is able to listen to her own experience and her own body. (Richard Rohr)
My 30s helped me see my body for all it could really do. I hope my 40s will help me see who I really am. Not who I think I am, based on what other people have told me over the years, but who I really am. We all pretend, sometimes consciously, sometimes habitually. Sometimes we pretend for so long that we don't know we're pretending any more. We think that's really who we are.
It's like someone has on a pair of sunglasses and tells you something about yourself. You grab the sunglasses to see yourself that way and end up wearing them for the next thirty years. Along the way, you add other sunglasses, reading glasses, an assorted miscellanea of glasses. The next thing you know, you're looking at yourself through all of these lenses, left with no idea whether these filters apply to you or not.
It's hard to let go of these filters. They've been a part of us for so long that we don't recognize them as something we've picked up along the way. Like a tree that encounters a power line, we just grow around them, taking them into us and making them part of us. So we certainly need grace to not only identify them, but remove them and see clearly. I'm guessing if this is a task for my 40s, I will be lucky to accomplish it before I turn 50. I have much unlearning to do before I can actually start learning correctly who I am.
All I can do is keeping asking for the grace to see where I'm pretending and hope God's mercy eventually reveals who I am underneath it all.