It’s intrinsic to our nature to hide our flaws and distract away from the messy parts of who were are. We build scaffolding for ourselves in which to stand so we appear bigger than we are and paint our stories up real nice so our veneered lives are easier to digest than our actual lives.
The shallow conversations, status updates, “I’m fines” and filtered images build a wall that is not easily penetrable. Our portrayal of another truth keeps us distant from the pain we feel when we experience our actual truth. We wanted to be something other that what we’ve become.
We haven’t “made it.” We’re afraid that who we are is not enough and we’re ashamed.
We can’t afford to replace the stained carpet. We aren’t where we thought we’d be in our careers at this point in life. Our kid’s have emotional problems….
The gulf between what we think we should be and who we are is like a vast chasm that is hard to reconcile.
I was recently reading Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle and was moved to tears by a particular story in the book. Boyle, a Jesuit priest, has spent his entire adult life rescuing gang involved youth and the disenfranchised in L.A. by creating programs to address their unmet needs. In the book he recalls how the church always had an odor to it. It was something no one wanted to talk about. It was much more comfortable to pretend it didn’t exist.
Here’ an excerpt from the book:
The smell was never overwhelming, just undeniably there. The Jesuits figured that if “we can’t fix it, then we’ll feature it.” So we determined to address the discontent in our homilies one Sunday. Homies were often dialogic in those days, so one day I began with, “What’s the church smell like?”
People are mortified, eye contact ceases, women are searching inside their purses for they know not what.
“Come on, now,” I throw back at them, “what’s the church smell like?”
“Huele a patas” (Smells like feet), Don Rafael booms out. He was old and never cared what people thought.
“Excellent. But why does it smell like feet?”
“Cuz many homeless men slept here last night?” says a woman.
“Well, why do we let that happen here?”
“Es nuestro compromiso” (It’s what we’ve committed to do), says another.
“Well, why would anyone commit to do that?”
“Porque es lo que haria Jesús.” (It what’s Jesus would do.) [sic]
“Well, then…what’s the church smell like now?”
A man stands and bellows, “Huele a nuestro compromiso” (it smells like commitment).
Commitment. It smells like commitment.
The thing that no one wanted to address was in fact the byproduct of what made the church so beautiful. Giving the messy parts a name called attention to the redemptive nature of who they were.
And the same is true for us. We each have a story. An unpolished story that we should not shy from. Nor take shame in. It’s in the midst of our undone narrative that strength is developed and transformation takes place. It is in the smelly, almost unbearable, places that we are able to sift what we thought should matter from what actually matters.
What would happen if we chose to peel back the layers and stand in the truth of who we are today rather than what we think we should be? What if we found beauty in the messy, the broken, the imperfect? What if we realized that sometimes the thing we are ashamed of is actually the thing that best expresses the strength of who we are.
What if instead of walking past the stained carpet and feeling like losers since we don’t have the money to replace it, we remember that the carpet is stained because our homes now bear witness of our expanding hearts. The mark of patience worked in us from every spill and stain from sticky little hands and vibrant lives.
What if the only thing that needs to change is our perspective.
TAKE ACTION: Look at your circumstances through a redemptive lens. Are there things in your life you’ve been endlessly trying to fix or make more appealing that actually represent something you should celebrate and feature?