paint them daily.
you are standing nowhere in the frame.
I wait for the holiday crowd to clear the beach
before stepping onto the first wave.
Soon I am walking across the Atlantic
thinking about Spain,
checking for whales, waterspouts.
I feel the water holding up my shifting weight.
Tonight I will sleep on its rocking surface.
But for now I try to imagine what
this must look like to the fish below,
the bottoms of my feet appearing, disappearing.
- Billy Collins
paint them daily.
you are standing nowhere in the frame.
thank you for lending me your rich perspective as a First Nations leader at CCDA 2011. the Christian community has suffered a loss of a great advocate, theologian, leader.
We lost a strong, powerful, truth-filled voice. I treasure every minute I spent listening to this man’s teaching.
I am deeply blessed.
Can I just throw that out there?
I’ve got this awesome roommate. When we first started rooming together, we weren’t sure how this arrangement was going to pan out. All we really knew about each other was A) we both liked running, and B) we both considered ourselves feminists. But our shared love for running and women’s equality has turned out to be the perfect springboard for one of the most important relationships I could have asked for going into my final year of college.
For one, she keeps me in shape. Which is nice.
But two, I feel as if this year we have learned a great deal about what it means to be Godly women. So many of our talks wander into the realm of society, faith, career, love, the future, and what that all means for us as women who love Christ.
We spent an especially large amount of time talking about these things last week. As many of you know, the season of Lent is coming up, and my (brave) roommate decided that she was going to be taking away her freedom to wear makeup, and replacing it with concentrated, daily prayer; a continuous conversation between her and God concerning the future. Last week, I decided to join her. Our motivations are similar, but while I was wrestling with whether or not I should do something for Lent, and what exactly I should give up or add in, I was presented with a particular question:
What makes me feel like I’m not enough?
Earlier this semester, I began reading the book of Galatians. And in Galatians 4:6-7, Paul writes,
“Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father’. So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.”
I wrote in the margins of that page, “I am an heir to all that God has.”
That’s a huge statement. But it’s true.
I have everything I need in God. Everything I will ever need. It is all contained within my relationship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
So what makes me feel like I’m not enough?
Society tells me every day that I am not enough. That I do not have enough. Wearing makeup tells me that my God-given face is not enough. But one thing that has also stood out to me during my times of communion with God is that there is a much stronger message that is telling me that I am not enough coming in from every corner of society.
It’s telling me that I’m not a whole person by myself.
Every day, I am bombarded with messages that tell me 1 + 1 = …1? But we all know that math makes no sense. One half plus one half is what makes one. Every day, my mind is flooded with images, messages, and words that tell me I will not be whole until I am linked with another. I won’t be fulfilled until I’ve found that “special someone”. I am constantly told I need to find my other half, implying that I, by myself, am not enough.
Last week was hard. Occasionally, I am acutely reminded that many of my close friends are either seriously dating or engaged. Or married. With children. Recently, my Facebook newsfeed has been filled with either engagement pictures, or pictures of babies. And it brings up in me this strange mixture of happiness, loneliness, and anger. I am happy for my friends and family, but these images are far too potent reminders of…me. And just me. Not me, plus anyone else. And that feels lonely. And then I get angry. Partially because I wonder why not me, but more so because I’m sick of being told that I should be getting engaged and married and having babies.
I’m sick of being told I have a problem. That marriage is the end-all, the pinnacle of not only life, but of my life as a Christian woman.
I’m sick of women being told that we are half until a man makes us whole.
And now I sound like an angry, bitter, and lonely feminist, raging against the men of the world, hating marriage, children, and all things romantic as a way of empowering herself, which, as we all know is a lame way of making herself feel better because she hasn’t been asked on a date since her senior prom. And isn’t that a lovely stereotype?
Let’s get some things straight.
One, I’m a feminist. I’m a feminist because I believe women are beautiful. I believe we are strong. I believe we are necessary, and whole, capable, intelligent human beings that have just as much to offer the world as men, and that we should not be denied the same freedom and opportunities as men, just because of our sex. Moreover, I am a feminist because I believe God loves women just as much as He loves men, and that should be reflected in society and daily, personal interactions.
Two, I love men. I think they’re the greatest. Some of my best friends are men, and I treasure them. They have so much to offer this world, and I cannot wait to see how God uses them. Furthermore, I think fault for gender-inequality can be pinned on men and women alike. Men, be willing to sit down for a change. Women, be willing to stand up.
Three, I am definitely pro-marriage. I think marriage is a really beautiful and unique relationship, and one I hope that I can participate in someday.
But, and finally, I’m single because I’ve chosen to be. In the words of Elizabeth Bennett (or Jane Austen, take your pick): “Only the deepest love will persuade me into matrimony, which is why I shall end up an old maid.” I’m still trying to decide if this makes me laugh or want to cry. But, regardless, it is important: Feminism empowers women, giving us the space and freedom to choose someone that is actually good for us, instead of throwing ourselves at man after man with whom we are ill-suited. Is it better to be alone, or desperately mismatched?
I’ve wanted to post something to this effect since last semester, but could not find a time when my thoughts were coherent enough to say what I wanted to say. (They are, arguably, still not coherent enough, but I promise they are way more organized than they were two months ago).
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I would encourage all of you, men and women alike, to ask yourself, What makes me feel like I’m not enough?
I don’t expect everyone to commune with God or even want to commune with God the way I do. But one of the most beautiful things about my relationship with Him is that not only does He have a huge, redemptive plan for this world, but He has a specific redemptive plan for me. He finds me to be enough. All He asks is that I stay close to Him. There is nothing I can do to make myself more in His eyes – He’s got this radical love for me, just as He created me.
For Him, I am always enough.
Perfect? No. But enough to love, and to love deeply.
And if someday I am given that wonderful opportunity to link arms with some man and commit to love each other and live our lives together, that’s awesome.
But for now, I’m enough. I am one whole person, all by myself.
And besides, I’ve got an awesome roommate right now. So I’m feeling pretty good about life.
So here, in the midst of commercials and a culture that objectified women and their bodies and in the middle of a sports spectacle that construes power in terms of violence, Beyoncé began her performance by upending the narrative.
I try to not miss what you were not.
You didn’t drink tea without sugar. I didn’t like that much. You didn’t read books. I liked that even less. You didn’t birth ideas – not to me anyway. We only spoke in pre-scripted dialect, tones and alphabets pieced together by people we can’t remember the names of.
I try to not miss what you were not
Because I like my tea strong and bitter. It makes my water taste sweet.
I like to read books. They teach me how to suffer. How to be joyful. How to listen. How to be human.
And there is nothing I like more than a crisp idea, gently whispered in my ear. I like to dwell with them, and watch them sink into every nook of life, rearranging order out of what used to be daunting chaos.
So I try to never miss the things you were not.
I am trying to remember those intermittent lovely days that carried me to where I am standing right now.
I am stronger than I thought.
I am actually standing.
I am tired of holding
These two metal weights in my hand.
They wrench my shoulder down,
Crooked to the floor;
Tying up the fingers I use
To brush back those hairs that get stuck in your eyelashes.
I wouldn’t mind you taking one of them from me.
I thought about asking you the other day.
But if you would rather not
My bones will crack.
I will drop them
Both on the tile floor
And think of them rarely.
These are the nights when I’m ready –
Ready to put my things in canvas bags,
Sling them across my back
And begin walking east and south.
I’m ready for Virginia grass.
That gentle view filled with bricks from old homes,
The mud that’s seen the bottom of handmade shoes,
And the bones of deer and men that are going through the cycle of history and dirt.
I’m ready for salt.
Water and sunlight thrown across cattails and reeds.
And long nights on eternal autumn porches.
Symphonies of smoke, the words of great writers, and our own, new ideas.
Currently Listening To: Sort of Revolution by Fink
“…intimidating leaders are not often told about their blind spots. We often wonder how powerful leaders could make such stupid decisions, but the sad reality is there was nobody around them willing to point out their mistakes. They’d pushed away anybody willing to question them.”
I came across this snippet this morning on Donald Miller’s blog (www.storylineblog.com). The original post is about leadership, which honestly doesn’t apply to me in this stage of my life at all. I’m really not in charge of anything. But regardless, parts of it hit home.
I’m a strong personality. Not in the sense that I’m particularly forward or dominating. So maybe “stubborn” personality is a better way to describe it: I know what I believe. I know what I think should be done. I act in specific ways because they seem best to me. I don’t really like being challenged in the ways I do things because, do you not know? I am super smart and have thought through this and it is indeed the best way to get said thing done.
I can also be a little arrogant. More on that later.
Probably the number one adjective used to describe me in high school was ‘intimidating’. That sure makes a girl feel good about her self, obviously. But it’s unfortunately true. The weird thing is, I honestly didn’t mind it that much. I figured out by the time I was a senior that being intimidating basically meant you could get away with treating people however you wanted, because no one had the guts to challenge you. But I was also a good, Christian girl who led worship and girls Bible studies and people came to me for advice about their personal lives and walks with Jesus. So I had to be sneaky. I became the ultimate master of passively treating people like dirt. Because if you don’t actually do anything, you can’t be accused of anything. And you can get away with everything.
Ladies and Gentlemen, that is a short road. It is a short road that comes to an abrupt stop at the edge of a cliff and you suddenly find yourself dangling, maybe holding on to a branch or two, really wishing there was someone around to grab you by the hand, the waist, the hair, anything, and pull you back on solid ground. But that’s the funny thing about being intimidating and stubborn and strong – no matter how strong you are, you can never pick yourself up. I mean, seriously. Go try it. Grab your hand and try to pick yourself up. It will never work.
So that’s where I found myself. Strong, independent, and crying on my couch at home because I hated college and never wanted to go back. What happened?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love that I’m stubborn. I love that I’m independent. But these beautiful character traits are so easily twisted. I found that there is a huge difference between being stubborn and independent, and living a stubborn and independent life.
A stubborn and independent life leaves you alone. And, to quote the Bible, “it is not good for man to be alone.” Spiritually. Physically. Psychologically. We’re just not meant to be alone. And it wasn’t until I realized my incredible need for deep companionship, deep community, that my strong facade was simply a way of making sure I was never challenged, that I sought out other people. Instead of keeping to myself and trying to keep everyone at a comfortable arms-length through my impressive powers of intimidation, I began to try and get to know the people around me. I asked them questions. I actually answered their questions thoughtfully and honestly. I began to let them affect me. And I watched as all of my blind spots came into sharp, clear view.
Which, by the way, smarts. A lot.
But I’m grateful every day for the equally strong/stubborn personalities God has made inextricable parts of my life. I have a sister who, over the past few years, has also become one of my best friends. Who knows me so well she can call me out on my crap, sometimes even before I’m aware I have it. I have a (non-related) best friend who has stuck with me, through thick, thin, weird, complicated, and heartbreaking, since the sixth grade. She’s not intimidated by me at all, because she’s seen me at my worst, and knows what I can be at my best. Our friendship has changed so much since middle school, and now I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I have a roommate who refuses to let me clam up in myself when I’m angry or upset. Who has taken the time and effort to understand my personality, and is willing to point out when I’m acting out of my weaknesses instead of my strengths. She never lets me hide behind excuses, whether elaborately thought out or just completely lame. I am surrounded by wonderful, beautiful people who never accuse, but instead ask me ‘why’ questions, forcing me to explain myself out loud – an exercise I believe the majority of humanity should make a habit. I don’t know what my daily life is going to look like without them come graduation in May.
It is because of these people that I am not an egotistical maniac. It is because of these people that I have been able to grow. That I have been able to better understand myself. It is these people, with our lives we have decided to live together instead of alone, that point out my blind spots, and call me out when I am doing something stupid. They question me. They love me
And sometimes I hate it. I hate being told that I’m doing something wrong. I hate being told that there is one right way to do things, and that I’m not doing it. Part of this is simply personality. I’d rather find as many different ways to do things as possible than limit myself to just one solution. But probably nine times out of ten, I’m just being horribly prideful. And would rather find an “alternative creative solution” than admit that your solution might be better than mine.
I guess what I’m trying to say (and have taken forever to say) is this:
Surround yourself with people. Let yourself get into the lives of other people, and let them get into yours. How often do we disregard people based on their looks or the way they talk or where they’re from or (college example!) what they’re majoring in? Take time to listen. Take time to ask questions. Seek people who are also seeking love and friendship and community, and decide to live life together. Even when it’s hard. Even when the other person is annoying you. Make it a conscious decision. A commitment. A covenant, of sorts.
If you’re bored and looking for a crazy spiritual or personal ride, ask yourself these kinds of questions. What personality traits of mine am I making into a lifestyle? Is this bad? Do I have someone in my life that points out my blind spots? Am I too prideful to let people affect me?
And then act on the answers.
These are the big questions in life that hurt. That are awkward. That take a lot of tears and gritted teeth and honesty and love to get through. Am I saying all of this because I have everything figured out? No. There are always more blind spots. Always more faults. Always more conflicts and people who you’ll treat wrongly and opportunities to love that you’ll miss. But, on the flip side, there are also always more people to love. More people to let in. More people that are different than you that will let you grow and flourish and expand yourself.
People hurt. Individuals hurt. We hurt each other sometimes. But I cannot even begin to explain how you will see yourself change when you are willing to let yourself be affected by others. When you are willing to let them point out your blind spots and your weaknesses. When you let people love you enough to keep you from dangling over cliffs.
sometimes when you have too much to say, it’s easier to say nothing at all. just for a little while.
Currently Listening To: For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver
Do you waste things?
Do you throw them away like old bouquets?
Or do you return them to the earth -
Creating burial mounds out of dirt
With your bare hands,
Cupping water over where they are waiting
For patience to bring something new?
Spill your water on me.
I am thirsty –
My tongue barely moves this morning.
Spill your water on me so I can drink:
Drink, be broken down,
And, in a later season, feed something new.
Something more brightly colored than I was before.
One of my poems, Starving for the Lovely, was posted to The Limn (www.thelimn.com), a space for college students to share through words, images, etc. Check it out, look at all the awesome stuff up there, and submit something of your own!