While reading an essay by Booker T. Washington over the summer, I came across this anecdote: “The sheets were quite a puzzle to me. The first night I slept under both of them, and the second night I slept on top of both of them; but by watching the other boys I learned my lesson in this, and have been trying to follow it ever since and to teach it to others.”
Amazing as it is, at the great age of twenty-four, I still have a lot to learn. We learn through the experiences we go through. I’ve grown up using sheets my entire life so I know how to sleep in them. Booker T. didn’t grow up with that luxury, but instead of growing angry in his ignorance, he learned, and then he taught others.
For some reason I expect myself to be perfect. I give others a wide allowance, but I have to be perfect. I know when I started believing this lie. Breakups are hard. Whether I want to admit it or not, I still believe that no one, including God, will love me unless I’m perfect. I carry this weight on my shoulders every day. And as a result, I keep people at a distance. I don’t want them to see my sin unless, of course, I trust them with it. And then those poor people who have proved themselves trustworthy get more entwined in my life than they ever wanted to be.
My sister, always the encourager when I come home sobbing after class every other day, reminds me that angry people, depressed people, are hurting people. Not that they have an excuse for being angry or depressed, but they need love. That puts me in a pickle because I don’t trust anyone to love me. So I try to handle my hurts alone. I can’t. Maybe I could if I were just grieving over a breakup. Maybe I could if I were just overwhelmed with my classes. Maybe I could if I were just adjusting to a new job. Maybe I could if I were just missing my best friend who moved to Alaska. Maybe I could if I were just fearful about my future. Maybe I could if I were just discouraged about my place in the world. Maybe I could if I were just lonely. Maybe I could if I were just dealing with a chronic illness. Maybe I could if I were just going bald. But I can’t when I’m constantly confronted with all these things every second of every day.
The difficulty is going to be not growing bitter as God tries to teach me that it’s okay to not be perfect. After an emotionally draining day on Tuesday, battling discouragement and some scary health problems, I had to face play rehearsal. The director graciously reminded me that even if I don’t understand why I’m “here,” meaning every hurt I carry around with me every day, God has something to teach me. The pain won’t be wasted. And then we stood in a circle and prayed for each other. You know something? That rehearsal was my best so far. Because God had it. He had control of it. I let go.
I’m in that awkward place between crying and laughing pretty much all the time now. Thankfully, last night I was closer to laughing. “I can’t express my feelings, any more Than I can raise my voice or want to lift My hand (oh, I can lift it when I have to). Did ever you feel so? I hope you never. It’s got so I don’t even know for sure Whether I am glad, sorry, or anything. There’s nothing but a voice-like left inside That seems to tell me how I ought to feel, And would feel if I wasn’t all gone wrong.” Thank you, Robert Frost, for putting my insides so eloquently on paper.