I won’t lie to you, good reader. Coming across as reserved, intelligent and impervious is something I desperately attempt to maintain. Being judgmental certainly helps, and the appearance of reservation and intelligence are pretty easy- just don’t say much, and when you do, say it well. Ahh, but the ever elusive quality of being emotionally impenetrable- now that’s something I don’t think I’ll ever fully grasp, try as I might.
Do you remember the old children’s rhyme “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” We said it on the playground to hide our feelings from bullies; we muttered it to ourselves in middle school when the slightly less awkward preteens taunted the slightly more awkward us. Maybe some of you, like I did, waited until you were in the private confines of your bedroom before you sighed or cried over what had been said.
Thirteen years ago I went on a white water rafting trip with my youth group. We were on the bus to get to the water when the youth pastor shouted, “Hey, Bethany, you better wear a helmet over your face too. Wouldn’t want to break it!” and the whole bus erupted into laughter. Honestly, even now, I don’t get what that means. I was the youngest one on the trip at fourteen, and I remember being baffled about why the youth pastor, of all people, would single out a teenage girl to ridicule. I wasn’t particularly pretty at fourteen, and I certainly wasn’t petite (something I’ve struggled with emotionally my entire life)- I had sprouted by age twelve to be taller than my sister eight years my senior- and, it wasn’t like I was sitting on top of the food chain in the church youth group, if you know what I mean.
Why would a man in a spiritual leadership position pick on anyone, especially a young girl? I grew to loathe him and dread going to youth group. Lucky for me, my parents began going to a different church soon after, so I wasn’t stuck around him for much longer. Four years later I avoided him at my brother’s wedding. Obviously, what this man had said to me stuck around for years. Regardless of what the old rhyme said, words clearly hurt. And, even though he’s a diminutive 5’6 and much older, I still haven’t found the courage to write him a letter to tell him how I felt. In this one rare instance I am avoiding the confrontation.
Years later I would be in a relationship where we both verbally battered one another. I’m sure I raked his ego through the mud; he put my psyche on a spit and roasted it to a crisp. We brought out the absolute worst in one another, partly because of arrogance and insecurity, and partly because we were totally wrong for one another. Captain Laser Pants came along and quenched the fires, but the damage had been done. I walled up, in fear that he too would hurt me, and I would be left a little more broken. I fought to be a citadel wall against his kindness. Thank God for Captain Laser Pants and the power of love (I don’t care how cheesy that sounds- it is 100% true). I shudder to think about where my life would be without my husband’s love.
Maybe being impervious, or even seeming that way, is the totally wrong route. Maybe if we were all more honest, more vulnerable, our relationships would be fuller. If we dropped the facade of arrogance and we were honest with our insecurities, we’re left without armor, yes, but that’s one less layer to remove before we get to the heart of who one another is. I am going to try to skip the pretense of being put together and calm, cool and collected- I am a new mom, with fears and desires and rough patches and big, black circles under my eyes. I need makeup to look human and clothes to hide the parts of me that aren’t magazine- worthy. I want to be real, the people around me to be real, and the relationships I have to be real.
What about you?