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"Hello, Pleased to meet you" - Thoughts on getting real
How well do we let people know us?
I was recently struck by this question as I sat at my neighbour's table with a piece of birthday cake and a cup of herbal tea. I was the only one drinking herbal tea. Everyone else had a bottle of something alcoholic. I had been offered one too, but I declined and was then offered herbal tea, which I accepted. Unfortunately, it was a bit of an ordeal to unearth the tea and the kettle and I sat there feeling really uncomfortable.
Finally, I had my mug of herbal, which by the way, isn't even my favourite. I may not drink alcohol, but when it comes to tea, I like the 'hard' stuff.
So, there we sat, with my herbal steaming conspicuously; drawing attention to the fact that 'little miss go to church twice on Sundays' was at the table and I could feel all the neighbours wondering if I was judging them. I was desperately wishing that I didn't find a bottle of beer so smelly and unappealing just so that everyone would relax. However, I gripped my mug bravely and began what I hoped was a cheerful, friendly conversation. People began talking and we sipped and chatted. We told stories about our kids, and then it happened; the moment when I realized how weird it is that we don't really know each other.
I shared a story about a time I was angry with my kids and all the eyebrows went up and skeptical looks crossed their faces and one lady said she didn't believe I ever got angry.
I was stunned. How could that be true?
We have lived here for six months and we didn't even have curtains for a large percentage of that time. Their daughter spends most of her free time at our house. Is it possible that they have completely missed the naggy, irritable, grouchy, annoying mom person I daily become?
How is it possible these neighbours have completely missed the real, flesh and blood person I am?
I wasn't sure if I should praise God that by His grace they think I'm more perfect than I really am, or if I should feel ashamed for living my life in such a way that people believe lies about me.
Now, I'm all for not letting all my thoughts and feelings flap around like a bunch a of laundry blowing in the breeze. I'm a big fan of blouses that button up sufficiently and tank tops under plunging necklines. I like my jeans to be jeans and not tights that define every loose and saggy muscle of my leg. I like sweaters and scarves that conceal curves and bulges. I'm very thankful we all wear clothes -- that we cover up. The alternative is ... well, frankly, it's just too much information. There are things I just don't want everyone to know about me.
But my neighbours somehow think I'm a patient, saint of a mother. Something is very wrong with this. I wonder if I've buttoned and bundled a little too much.
In fact, I know I have.
Two weeks later I sat around another table, clinging for dear life to another cup of tea (the black kind this time). I was meeting with a group of women for the purpose of Bible study. There were 6 of us and I had met 3 for the first time that evening. It was prayer request time and I was up first. What do you say? How much information do I want to share, how much do these women really want to know about this newcomer? I took a fortifying sip of tea, sorting through all the junk inside. I could use prayer, that's for sure and for certain, but I'm buttoned and swaddled and I'm not quite ready to just up and de-robe, so, I give a very generic prayer request. A request that does not truly reveal the real issues of my heart. It wasn't a 'fake' request, but it also did not shed a speck of light on my hurt, my fear or my brokenness.
On reflection, I have scolded myself for my cowardice. There, at that table, among my sisters in Christ, I should have been braver. With my neighbours, I was quick to assure them that I really am 'normal', I really do suffer from impatience and irritation, but around the table of sisters, I want to look holy. I want to look worthy; so, I pulled the cloak on tight and buttoned straight to the top.
To what end?
I feel like I missed a chance to be real. I missed an opportunity to have the real me supported in prayer; to let people see my heart and accept me just for who I am.
There will be more weeks of Bible study and there will be more visits with the neighbours. I'm not ready to let all my flaws and faults be flaunted. In fact, many of my struggles really are just between God and I - not everyone needs to know everything. However, with His help and guidance, maybe I can drop some of my layers and be just a little more vulnerable, just a little more real.