Saturday, April 28, 2012

Made to Fly

A week ago, I had just arrived home from New York, my highlights were fresh and my hair was still coiffed, my nails painted perfectly, my feet blistered from walking all over the City and then toddling around in 4-inch-heels. Today, my unwashed hair is piled in a messy ponytail on top of my head, and my nails are chipped beyond repair, practically begging me to dig into some of the goodies Sally Hansen sent and fix them up. And yet I somehow feel just as comfortable, if not more, with myself today as I parent and discipline and sigh with frustration while chocolate milk splashes over the floorboards in our new van. Which, miraculously, has actually remained clean far longer than I thought it would. In fact, it was probably about time for a good messing-up anyways.

Last week, cameras clicked frantically while approximately seventy-five people looked on. I smiled uncertainly, trying desperately to keep my equilibrium in my heels. I unsuccessfully fought off disappointment and criticism as I stared at my finished product in the mirror and on the camera screen. Your hair is too big. That dress really accentuates that extra baby weight. Your chin is double. If only you were more like the other winners, they're comfortable in front of the camera. They're good at being extroverted and networking and raising money. You will never be enough.

The ridiculousness of my sentiments are not lost on me. I was, for-the-love-of-pete, in New York precisely for the purpose of celebrating who I am. For celebrating the things I do and have done and because some folks believe that I AM enough. And yet. The culture, the media, my past . . . Blame whatever you will, the enemy has many tools for keeping us, especially us woman, in bondage. And I know that my freedom has not been bought without great cost. Yet, again and again, I return to enslavement, choosing to believe lies over truth. Choosing to wallow in self-pity and insecurity. Questioning my worth and believing the world when it tells me I will never be enough.
One of the other winners, Carrie, has a beautiful story of why she started her organization, Severson Sisters. She was bullied mercilessly as a child, to the point that she had to bribe someone to protect her physically at school. She developed a program using creative outlets to help girls find their sense of worth, to help them overcome both being bullied or being a bully themselves. We bonded over similar past experiences, and I pledged to her that I would always pray for and support her ministry because I had been deeply wounded in my past by my own merciless bullies. Later in the trip, I remarked to her how impressed I was that she had so fully moved on from being bullied, and how I sometimes still listened to those voices from my own past. The ones that reminded me every single day of how ugly and fat I was. Who said no one would ever like me or want to be my friend. Who laughed at me and wrote mean songs about me. And do you know what Carrie said? She told me she could tell. That I didn't believe in myself all the time. That I doubt myself and shrug off the good things people tell me in favor of criticism. I laugh and make jokes about myself when people say I should write a book. I squint my eyes and try, but usually fail, to see what people mean when they say I look beautiful. I beat myself up for losing my patience with Jayci, or for being oh-so-tired of carrying around my little twenty-pound miracle baby boy constantly. If I'm honest, I only traded childhood bullies for one far more merciless: myself.

And here's the thing: I just don't think I'm alone. I think there's a whole bunch of other self-bully-ers out there. Because otherwise we wouldn't be over-medicating. We wouldn't drink too much or escape in the vortex of the internet. Eating disorders wouldn't be so epidemic. We wouldn't be "pinning" desperately trying to come up with ways to make ourselves more beautiful, our house more perfect, or our kids more well-behaved. The self-help section of the book store wouldn't be so vast. We wouldn't feel a rush of satisfaction at seeing other kids throw temper tantrums, or a wave of self-doubt when other moms post about how perfect and wonderful their children are and how much they just-absolutely-love-every-single-part-of-being-a-mom.

Walking through our neighborhood, I cringe as I hear a mom yelling at her seven-year-old: "you're so stupid." Or when Adam tells me he heard someone at the local school telling a third-grader he wasn't even smart enough for preschool. Because here's the problem with seven year olds and third graders: They believe you. And once they start believing that the things people have said about them and to them are true, then they STOP believing what IS actually true about them. They stop recognizing who they are in the mirror: a perfectly-formed child of God. Suddenly, instead of developing their own identity and voice, they (we) start trying to be something different. To change ourselves, to silence those who speak ill of us by doing more, acting differently, being someone else.

But in doing so, we rob the world of something precious: the person God made us to be. The person I am intended to be is the very person God hand-selected to be a mom to Jayci and Caden. To be a wife to Adam, and a pseudo-mama to hundreds of kiddos in our neighborhood and at camp. To take pictures. To write. And if I stifle those things in favor of making myself more like someone else? If I try to be who I think everyone wants me to be? Then I have to believe that I am robbing the world of something beautiful. I HAVE to believe that.

A few minutes ago, a little girl from next door came frantically banging on our door. Tears ran down dirt-stained cheeks and she clutched a bundle tightly to her chest. I made a mistake she sobbed. I stroked her hair and tried to decipher what she was so upset about. She finally opened her hands to reveal a dead bird. After trying not to panic unnecessarily (have I mentioned I hate birds? Dead or alive, they freak me out), I asked her what happened. Between hiccuping tears she said she was trying to catch it, and accidentally crushed it. And isn't that exactly what happens to us? We try to hold things so tightly, try to encircle the winged hope in our arms. But it is in the grasping and smothering that we crush and kill. We try to control our future, to hold onto status and looks, to be popular and well-liked, to lose the last few pounds and cover up all the imperfections. And somehow in controlling we end up with death. Because life necessitates surrender. Gently holding things with open hands. Offering our future, our lives, our children, our identities to the One who carries them anyways. The one who knows us intimately, who created us with wings, fully intending for us to fly.

But believing is not always easy. And an individualistic, self-reliant culture lends itself to trying harder rather than surrender. But surrender, faith, hope . . . these are the things I cling to when I feel the remnants of old lies grasping at my heart. And I will always, always passionately speak truth to my children and the kiddos. To tell them that no matter what ANYONE else says about them, they have infinite worth and value. That they are precious, beloved, perfect. And I will speak it as loudly as I can, until the voice of Truth is so ingrained in them that they begin to believe in who they were created to be. Because then, my friends, they will change the world.

**A disclaimer for y'all: This was a hard post for me to write. Until like 2 years ago, I hadn't even told anyone besides Adam about being bullied so badly. I was afraid if people in my new home in Georgia knew about how badly I was picked on in my old life in Canada, they would decide to pick on me too. So I just didn't talk about it. Anyways, talking about it now feels important, momentus. And I've struggled and gone back and forth on having the comments opened or closed on this post because I really just dont want people to think I'm looking for compliments or reassurance. I dont just want a bunch of comments on here saying nice things (seriously, I dont). But I'd love for you to email me (Becca1612 at hotmail dot com) if this has resonated with you in some way, and/or you want or need prayer for your own bullies (internal or external) or your kids being bullied, or anything at all really. I love y'all. Thanks for being you.


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