Dusting off my denim jumper
This is a very old photo. I’ve been thinking about movement: the flow of life and growth, the journey of life being the bridge that takes us from then to now. And all the stories, events, and experiences that occur along the way.
This version of me didn’t know how much she was loved. And yet she was surrounded by such a close knit tribe of wild, artistic souls. Things are different now. I am very much in a wilderness, and yet also very much home. This paradox contains the sort of depth I thought I had (“I must be a mermaid, Ringo. I have no fear of depths, and a great fear of shallow living.”) but didn’t. It was the sort of depth that says, “ooo, I’m so deep; see how deep I am?” but the roots were confused and my language, quite pompous.
In this photo, I desperately wanted to be the woman I envisioned in my head. I wanted to be edgy. When you always feel other and different, you learn to cope by being other and different on purpose.
But really, I just wanted not to be weird. Truth be told, I am forever that awkward homeschool girl with frizzy hair and a denim jumper. Who pretends not to notice when strangers stare and their lips move when my family files past. And you can’t help but see the numbers add up on their lips: “...seven, eight, nine...” and the attempt at whispering. “Why aren’t they in school?” “They must be Catholic.” “Is it a blended family?” Or the outright inquiry to my parents, “Do you know what causes that?” Followed by the 1994 version of LOL.
My heart pounds. People are staring. I am red-faced and frizzy-haired and weird.
When you always feel other and different, you learn to cope by being other and different on purpose.
I guess surrender comes with time. A certain weariness brought on by the frantic quest for love. When those who loved you quietly depart, one by one, because of the slowly-widening in-between. (Bless you and you and you and you. Be blessed and abundant in your living.) When you metaphorically dust off the denim jumper and hold it up with a tiny smile of satisfaction, not because it no longer holds pain, but because it transcends pain. And maybe the me that was she had a kind of courage and strength I forgot for awhile. Did she care? (Coffee choke.) Oh did she care! By God’s grace, she survived. And in her surviving, her roots grew deep. Confused sometimes, but deep.
I need to learn from her.
Because I’m still learning how to show up as me. In what I believe and know to be true. In my mind I’m standing on a street corner with a denim jumper and red cheeks, holding a sign: Jesus is coming soon. In my mind, people still stare.
Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. But here’s what I know: it’s none of my business. They are not evil. They are human. We all are.
They have their stories, and I have mine.
They have their calling, and I have mine.
They have their beliefs, and I have mine.
The work before me is to love, anyway.
With time, I’ve learned how to detach myself from the expectations and questions. I’ve learned how to allow the questions, and the tensions, and the not measuring up, and the misunderstanding, and the disagreeing.
Because under it all, aren’t we all the same?
We all want to be accepted. We all want to be loved.
We all have secrets. We all want to avoid shame.
You have your own denim jumper. The one you hide in your closet or tried to sell at a yard sale, but nobody wanted.
Mine haunted me for awhile. But since I’ve traveled the bridge between then and now, it’s become a secret source of courage. In all my awkwardness and eccentric truth, I will survive. When I look into your eyes and earnestly tell you of salvation and grace, I’m telling you something I came to discover through pain. Not to glorify pain. But to transcend it. To close the eyes of my face and learn to see in the dark. Where life begins. Where roots spread out. Where faith is.
Maybe it’s time to dust it off, that thing that haunted you for so long. Maybe it’s time to listen to the secrets it holds. Maybe you’ll discover what I did: that life is here. Healing, strength, and courage are here. So is your story.