wife. mother. teacher. recovering scaredy cat
He sat across from me at the restaurant, trying to sweet talk me for my phone while we waited for our food to arrive.
“We’re not playing Madden,” I told him. “We’re on a date and we’re going to talk to each other.”
This was the first time that I had my nine year old all to myself in over a month and I was looking forward to our evening together, just the two of us. Finally conceding to the fact that technology was not part of the plan for the evening, he began to venture into discussions with me about things that intrigue the mind of a young boy who is on the cusp of a double digit birthday in June. We racked our brains to come up with answers to important questions like what three things we would most like to have if stranded on an island and what we would do with a million dollars. I love capturing those moments of insight and humor with my kids. And once in awhile, one of them will say something to me that pierces my heart and reminds me that I am learning way more from them than they are from me.
While eating our meal, I glossed my napkin over the side of my face; the same side where a dark brown birthmark is situated by my lip. Watching me, my son put down his burger and said, “Mom, I don’t think about your birthmark when I look at you. I don’t really see it anymore.” The comment took me a bit by surprise because well, let's face it, that mole is not hard to miss.
He then explained, bless his heart, that when he looks at me, he just sees me as his mom, not the mark on my face. It was a sweet sentiment that left me thinking that if he weren't nine, I would wonder if he knew about the struggle that I have in life to keep my blemishes from plain sight. I might even ask him if he had made the birthmark comment in an effort to encourage me as I often lack the courage to let others see my faults, presenting a pretty face to the world.
I was a huge fan of the Dixie Chicks in the nineties and embraced the song, "Wide Open Spaces" as my anthem. I remember rolling the windows down in my jeep and singing the tune to the top of my lungs.
“She needs wide open spaces
Room to make the big mistakes…”
Oh how I wanted the words of that song to encapsulate who I was; an assured and fearless young woman who unflinchingly took risks and dared to follow her dreams. But in reality, I was anything but ready to strike out for all the world to see.
Forget the wide open spaces, give me a small quiet room with zero percent chance of failure. No big mistakes here, thanks. Just tiny gaps, please. Tiny gaps of right choices and unending anxiety about screwing the whole thing up in front of people.
I've made some progress in my attempts at lionhearted living since then, and what I am finding is that true bravery is found in letting people get to know my story...just as it is. Nothing photoshopped. No perfect filter. Just me as I am for all the world to see.
And guess what I'm seeing? The wide open spaces really aren't that wide. The gap is not huge, the expanse is not unreachable, the chasm is not too far. When I open up about my own challenges, I find that the person right next to me is struggling with something similar as well. It might not be under the same circumstance, but the battle is still there. And their story gives me courage to face mine. And because of this, I am beginning to understand a very profound truth that is propelling me into unabashed freedom....
I would much rather be authentic than impressive, and that requires vulnerability.
I think the real reason why I used to love that southern anthem of mine was because the lyrics suggested packing up and starting over with new faces; a chance to get it right with a clean slate of people. People who don't see my marks and are impressed by my perfection. But true freedom can't be found there for me. It's found right where I am with the relationships I have that are real and sometimes messy because we've shared the truth about ourselves and are still sticking around in spite of it. We become immune to impressing others when we settle in and let them see us in our broken, messed up story. Our lives become relevant and redeemable when we choose to share the reality of our busted up beings instead of some trumped up version of who we really are.
There is beauty in sharing the imperfect adventures that we are living as we begin to view the shattered pieces that we try to hide as situated segments that God wants to use. We can stop striving to cover up the potholes and quit making pitstops on the road of pretending. No more detours driven by doubt, no more u-turns in our unsettled souls. Just our feet on the gas, with the wind in our hair, as we bravely share the broken road.