Monday, May 13, 2013

The me that was, the me that is - and what really matters

I remember during track and cross country in high school, the uncle of a good friend and team mate, training with us during hard practices and nine mile runs on the weekends.  In his glory days, he’d been fast, and years later he still ran faster than us.  We loved him.  And I remember, too, shrugging off some of his critical ways with a teasing smile, but feeling uncomfortable beneath it all.  The way he’d talk about one of our rivals from another school, how she looked like she gained weight since last season and we should have no problem beating her.  But she looked fine to me, and I wondered, sometimes, what he might have said behind my back, even as I knew he didn’t do it to be malicious.  I wondered if I stood up beneath his scrutiny as a runner; if I lived up to his expectations of my potential. 

I knew, I was never as fast as I could have been.

It’s how I feel, these fifteen years later, when I run into someone who knew me before.  Before my identity rattled and how I’d defined myself for years fell to the ground kicking up dust around my knees, where I knelt in the rubble of it all. 

There was me: the passionate, ambitious, idealistic, mostly black and white, wannabe-radical, larger-than-life dreamer, worship-leading, pentecostal-praying, performance-driven pursuer of God.  The girl who latched onto this vision of living in the slums in Africa, with or without a man beside her, and this is where she hung her worth.  I was scared to death of looking myself in the mirror and seeing who I was in the moment, so I fixed my eyes on who I wanted to be and ran myself into the ground toward that image.

And then, there is me: the mostly gray realist with a much too tamed passion, a hesitant dreamer, a tear-soaked grateful grace receiver, much simpler pray-er, rough around the edges follower of Christ.  The woman who is broken and messy and unfinished and tired.  The weary soul who leans on her Father and finds her strength renewed.  The one whose vision for her life is not much bigger than moments of love stacked upon moment.

It's not that I glorify the weariness, the brokenness, over the passion and zeal; the limping over the runningIt's just that the me that is is so much more honest than the me that was.  

And so I wonder, in those moments when I cross paths with someone from another time in my life, if I fall under their scrutiny.  I wonder, still I wonder, if I measure up, or if they think to themselves, “What happened to her?  She had so much going for her.”

I hate that I still wonder.

I see myself in the mirror, and I no longer hide behind an image, but neither do I love what I see.  

If I’m really, truly, gut-wrenchingly honest, my dim eyes see a disappointment.  They see a failure.  They see a sell-out, a side-lined lifeThey see a conflicted soul, no longer content with such a small and well-defined view of who God is and what it looks like to know and love him.  I see myself, holding stones in my hands, and I am the one to cast them at myself and shield my head as the glass breaks into pieces.  I know my eyes deceive me.

I sat recently on the floor, on my yoga mat, playing a song on my guitar and singing until my voice was too choked for words.  And I spilled it all out, all of these feelings and fears about myself to God, while my whole body shook like an earthquake, full of sorrow.  “Let me see, just a glimpse from your perspective,” I cried, hugging knees tight to my chest, “That I might know, all is not lost.  That it is never too late with you.” 

Why is it, I demand of my soul, in spite of what I say I believe to be true, that I continue to crawl to God and beg him to forgive me for being a big disappointment 

I thought of her, that broken woman with the tainted reputation who dared to come into an intimate gathering of men, beneath the scrutiny of them all, and knelt to bathe Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume and tears, wiping them with her hair.  Of her, broken and unfinished and ashamed, how Jesus saw her beauty behind the glass and delighted in her worship.  She was no disappointment to him.

I bent forward, pressing my arm out to lean against the sofa, and ached with all my being to lean into Jesus, to touch his skin.  Ached to give him something precious.  My soul hushed.  And gently cutting through the stillness, I began to sing.

When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot Thou has taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul

It is well, it is well
With my soul, with my soul
It is well, it is well, with my soul

Though Satan should buffet
Though trials should come
Let this blessed assurance control
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate
And hath shed his own blood for my soul

It is well, it is well
With my soul, with my soul
It is well, it is well, with my soul

My sin, Oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

It is well, it is well
With my soul, with my soul
It is well, it is well, with my soul

It is well, not because any one else - or myself - looks at me and declares it so,  declares me good or living up to my potential. 

It is well, because I have a Father who looks at me straight on and sees the reflection of his beautiful Son in this image I see as marred.  And he calls this good; he calls me good.  And then he asks me to put down my stones.

So yes, it is well, I sing to my soul, sing beyond the crushing weight of feelings, to touch my hand to truth and kiss his feet and know that I am loved and accepted, as I am. 

This, and only this, begins to open hands and drop those stones at his feet, one by one.  Nothing else matters but this - that I am not a lost cause to him, but oh - I am found in him.  

I am approved. 

. . . . . . . . . .
Linking with Heather and Emily


  1. Oh Amber so beautiful. I know all too well the stone throwing at mirrors and how they shatter. You know this. I love this hymn. not in part but in whole is our sin nailed to the cross. Such a hard thing to grasp sometimes. Love you friend.

    1. Yes, dear friend - it's so hard to grasp this, so much of the time. Praying God would help us to let go of these stones and see ourselves, even a little more clearly, through his eyes of complete acceptance and delight - that we would trust him, with all that has been nailed to that cross. Love you, too.

  2. this is so honest, so revealing, Amber.

    now i know for sure what i've suspected all along -- we are sisters in the deepest of ways.

    may we continued to let the silence of our lives (silence, at least, in contrast with the busy-ness of yesteryear) not scare us, but soften us.

    and may we allow the approval of God to seep into the very core of who we are.

    thank you for these words, friend.

    1. Amen and amen, sister. "May we allow the approval of God to seep into the very core of who we are." Oh, YES. Thank you for letting your story speak to me, too.

  3. Oh beautiful heart. I love you, and I am so sorry for this pain and for these struggles to find who you are in him. But I know that you are found, and you will be found, dear one. You will be found.
    I was just reading from The Children's Storybook Bible with Clara, and I knew this particular passage was for you. In the retelling of the Sermon on the Mount, this is what it said:
    "...the birds and the flowers hadn't forgotten - they still knew their song. It was the song all of God's creation had sung to him from the very beginning. It was the song people's hearts were made to sing: 'God made us. He loves us. He is very pleased with us.' It was why Jesus had come into the world: to sing them that wonderful song; to sing it not only with his voice, but with his whole life - so that God's children could remember it and join in and sing it, too."
    Jesus hold you and bless you and keep you, beloved.

    1. Ash, I've been thinking about these words from Clara's bible, and you were so right - they spoke to me, so deep. I've been saying those words throughout the day and asking God to help me believe them in the core of who I am - "God made me. He loves me. He is very pleased with me." How sweet, and precious, to think this is the song we were made to sing from the beginning. The song Jesus came to sing with his life. It makes my heart ache. I'm so thankful for your tender and compassionate heart, how Jesus loves through you.

  4. Replies
    1. Thank you, Laurie - it's good to 'see' you here :-)