Thursday, 1 September 2011
Free to be authentic
I am participating in a six week Life Course with a group of other women. At the beginning of the session, we were asked to choose a stone to represent us and place it around the candle. The candle represented His light, and each stone represented a participant. The stones were placed in a circle to remind us of the circle of trust that we had agreed to respect with each other.
The basket of stones were passed around. The woman next to me took a long time deliberating over her decision. As I would be next to select a stone, I looked into the basket and had already made up my mind which one I would choose. I hoped that she didn't choose the one that I wanted. The woman finally made her decision and said, "I like the colour of this stone (pointing to the one that I wanted), but it's a bit ugly and it's not smooth, so I chose this pretty one."
I was delighted! I picked the stone she had rejected as ugly and said, "I've picked this one because it is red, and because it's not perfect, just like me, but still beautiful." The woman next to me said, "Awh! You are perfect.", obviously thinking I was putting myself down, and wanting to make me feel better. And I replied, "This stone is just like me, broken and flawed - and I'm OK with that!"
As I reflected on what had taken place in those few moments, I realised something- I was finally OK with being me. I was embracing my imperfections and brokenness that make me unique, instead of always fighting to improve myself. For years I have been measuring myself against a fake, mythical, unrealistic version of myself and striving to change into this super human 'Jo Perfect'.
Jo Perfect, of course, would be the perfect wife to the perfect husband; perfect mother to perfectly well behaved children; keep to the perfect schedule; home educate her children perfectly; be a perfect manager of her home; have perfect health and be perfectly fit; wear perfect clothes to go with her perfect hair and make up; write perfect blog posts; have the perfect ministry; and would be the perfect daughter, sister and friend to all who knew her. (Doesn't she nauseate you?)
I only realised recently that I have put so many expectations on myself to be Jo Perfect, that it was crushing my soul. I am letting go of the expectations of others and those I have on myself and embracing broken, imperfect Jo, who I call - Jo Authentic.
Jo Authentic is nothing like Jo Perfect. Jo Authentic fights with her not so perfect husband; yells at her misbehaving children; is very disorganised and rarely keeps to a schedule; misses days of homeschooling because life gets in the way; never gets on top of housework; suffers from major fatigue; sometimes doesn't eat right; rarely exercises; is not up with the latest fashion; prefers to throw her hair up in a clip and wear no make-up; is still honing her writing skills, does more damage than good at times when trying to help others; fails often at being a great daughter, sister and friend to those who know her. But you know what? I like Jo Authentic a lot better than Jo Perfect! She has so much more fun than Jo Perfect and she is free to be who He designed her to be.
Sure Jo Authentic could work on her organisational skills a bit more or stick to a schedule. But being spontaneous is the way He made her. Jo Authentic comes alive when she is herself - her beautiful, creative and often messy self. Jo Authentic knows that life is a journey to be had, not a do to list to tick off. Jo Authentic is wired to be a little off-beat; a little quirky. She is know to break out in a rendition of 'Ave Maria' Operatic style in the middle of the park with her friends. She loves to dance around with her husband melodramatically to the 'Moulin Rouge' soundtrack. She lets her kids slide down the railing on the stair case and ride a cot mattress down the stairs.
Jo Authentic has issues in her heart that she is still working through from her teenage years, has suffered abandonment, rejection, miscarriage, loss of a parent at a young age and depression amongst other things. She is broken. She is flawed. But it is in her brokeness and flaws that you find her true beauty. She understands His Grace and that He doesn't expect her to be perfect. He delights in her being her wonderfully gloriously messy self.
Jo Perfect used to have control over me, but little by little, step by step, as I learn to live in the unforced rhythms of His Grace, I find Jo Authentic growing stronger and stronger each and every day. The more I get to know Jo Authentic, the more I want her to be the one that people see in me. And when I am Jo Authentic, I am free to be me.