Yesterday I spent two delightful hours doing something I had only dreamed of for years. I went by myself to my very favorite place in the whole, wide world. The beach. There is a beach down the road that isn’t usually super crowded; in fact, I was there alone most of my time there. I laid in the sun and swam in the water and no one was needing me, and everyone I love was safe and otherwise occupied. I listened to the water and the seagulls, and was warm and oh-so-happy.
Toward the end of my blissful time a family of four came to see the lake. They were obviously tourists. This, I knew from the fact that they were fully clothed. They obviously were here to look at our fantastic body of water rather than dive in. As I laid there with my eyes shut, I picked up on their conversation. Only the parents were talking and this is much of what I heard: “Palmer, lay down. NO! Lay back on your towel! Not like that! Relax your arms! Lay ALL the way back. Stop fidgeting! Now, close your eyes, Palmer! I said, lay DOWN! I don’t care if you don’t want to! Hold still! NOW, SMILE!”.
Apparently, Palmer had finally laid back on his beach towel to look like he was relaxing at the beach. The camera snapped shut, and off they went.
I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself as I remembered a moment or two of just wishing my kids would look happy for a picture. In a field full of sunflowers (and BEES), when the pictures could have been perfect, but no one was really having any fun. I was too busy making it look pretty to care how my kids were really feeling.
Now, when I look at those pictures I remember the frustration of that day instead of seeing the beauty. I bet I know what Palmer will remember when he looks at his beach picture. I doubt he will think of it fondly!
I’m sure all these pictures would have been much better had I stopped my kids from posing with perfect smiles, and captured them scrambling from the bees. And if only Palmer’s parents wouldn’t have forced him to pretend to sunbathe, but just snapped a shot of him staring in awe at the water.
As I relaxed there on the beach, I remembered being in a car on the way to church, once upon a time, with my parents in what was surely day three or so of some nasty fight between them that was continuing in the car. I distinctly remember my mom, still with her angry face on, turning around to say to my sister and I, “We are almost to church. Everyone put your happy family face on!”. And she meant it. And we did.
There’s freedom in living authentically.
Authentic: adj. true to one’s own personality, spirit, character.
There are situations in this life in which we feel compelled to be something we are not. What are we hiding from?
I recall a time when a close friend of mine told me that she appreciated being able to talk to me “for real.” That there were just things she didn’t want to talk to her friends from church about. These were real life issues and struggles and those were the friends she spend most of her time with. But, she didn’t feel safe enough with them to let them see what was messy.
I was reading a book this week and the author was describing how each of the characters was hiding behind something. One hid behind the way she dressed. Another hid because no one really knew the truth about her. One worked so hard at being the life of the party that she hid right out in the open so no one got to get past the surface. One hid behind her hard work.
I know I’ve spent my fair share of time hiding. It’s much easier to do what it takes to keep the front up than to trust that it’s safe to feel how I really feel. The older I get, the less important that fake front has become. I’m finding that I’d rather not waste my time and energy around people that I can’t be authentic with. I have spent many decades coming to grips with the Alison that God made me to be. I have been shaped and molded by Him just this way. And it’s just got to be enough.
Certain groups of people demand certain behaviors. I find that exhausting and I tend to stay away from those things as much as possible. For instance, company parties. Since my husband is in the industry he is in, there are certain functions I’ve had to attend over the years. Can I just say, I hate them. Strong word, I know. But I really hate them. Why? Well, I get into clothes that I will be thrilled to peel off at the end of the night to stand around and make small talk with folks I don’t know, probably will rarely see again, and don’t have anything in common with. When the dinner comes, I will hardly enjoy eating it because I’m too worried that, as usual, I will spill something, or accidentally spit a bit of food at someone while I’m talking to them, or of course, have spinach between my front teeth the whole time but no real friends to tell me it’s there.
Now, why would I want to do this socially correct night, when I could be hanging with true friends, laughing like crazy, playing euchre and eating tons of junk food, and not caring if they see me being stupid because I know they love me anyway?
So, I ask myself, and I ask you: What am I hiding behind? When do I most feel the need to put on a front? Am I really living authentically?
You know, it’s exactly what seemed to frustrate Jesus, too. He really got irritated at anyone who was so busy trying to create an image, even one of trying to be super holy that He publicly called them out!
Matthew 27-28: “You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You’re like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it’s all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you’re saints, but beneath the skin you’re total frauds.”
He chose to hang with real people who were trying to get a hold of what it was that He had. People who didn’t have all the answers. People who were too short, or didn’t have a popular job, or had physical defects. They were living their need right out in the open.
There was room for Him there.
I don’t know about you, but I want to leave room for Him. Even if it means I don’t look perfect and may not have everything all together. I think it’s going to be a daily challenge, but I want more of what He’s got to offer.
– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad