I was planning to write about hope.
Tomorrow is Easter, and “hope” feels like an appropriate buzzword for this holiday – hope, redemption, restoration, beauty from ashes, life from death – all good and true and appropriate themes to reflect on this Sunday.
But I’m not going to write about hope. I’m going to write about love.
This week was brutal – hard, painful, crying in a conference room for 30 minutes and not being able to stop, brutal. It was brutal because I had to re-learn the same hard lesson that keeps coming up over and over in my life, that I’m afraid God in in His infinite wisdom, goodness, grace and love is going to keep reminding me of until I learn a better, freer, more joyful way to live. This week I was reminded that I am not perfect – which feels absurd to write bc #duh of course none of us are, but it is hard and scary and painful for me to admit that.
I have been trying so hard over the past few weeks to hold it all together, to deal with everything life has been throwing my way – so much of it good, yet still requiring energy and effort and processing – with a smile and a can do attitude. I have been one of those circus acts with spinning plates on sticks, and folks have been coming up to me asking to add a plate, and I’ve been saying “sure!” with a smile, denying the still small voice inside me begging me to reconsider, to take a beat before answering, to reassess the weight of the load already perched precariously high above me.
Spoiler alert – at some point plates crash. They crashed this week. Nothing – thank God – was broken beyond repair, but there was damage done, some visible and most internal, cuts that sting and will take time to heal. I was reminded in painful ways this week that I’m not perfect, and that there are limitations – of time, energy, creativity, physical endurance, emotional resilience, and relational patience – to my ability to be everything to everyone. More importantly though I was forced to take a step back, away from the shards of broken pottery lying at my feet, and ask myself hard, honest questions about why I was making all those damn plates spin in the first place.
Like 99.9% of people I know in the Bay Area, I am a perfectionist, a high achiever. I want to do my best, in everything, and not let anyone down – and while that is not a bad thing to want, like all good things it gets dangerous when it becomes an ultimate thing. The truth is that underlying all the plate spinning is a screwed-up and heartbreaking belief that me – just plain old me – isn’t enough. It’s a belief that I need to perform and please and succeed and say “yes!yes! always yes!” to earn approval and good standing, to be liked and admired, to earn my place in this world. It’s a belief that I need to work hard and hustle to earn the love and approval of others, and that if/when I let those plates drop, my worth drops with them.
Pardon my French, on the eve of Easter Sunday no less, but that is an f-ing screwed up hot damn lie.
If anyone I loved told me they felt that way, confessed they were afraid they weren’t enough just as they were, but had to tap dance their way across life with a top hat and smile, I would grab those damn plates out of their hands, throw them across the room and then hug them so tight so they wouldn’t be able to breathe.
Love – true, real, blood and guts, messy love – is not earned through high achievement or circus tricks. It’s freely given, it exudes grace, it covers over a multitude of things and makes us whole.
There is a line in the movie Bridget Jones Diary where Bridget is telling her best friends about Mr. Darcy and she says “He told me he likes me just as I am.” There is a stunned silence around the table as all of her friends process this radical notion – finally one speaks up timidly “Just as you are? Are you sure? Not thinner?” Another friend pipes up, eagerly “Yes, or clever-er?”
“No, “ Bridget responds, clearly incredulous herself, yet also just as clearly eager to believe it. “Just as I am.”
When I think about my faith, when I think about my belief that God “put on flesh and moved into the neighborhood” in the form of Jesus on Christmas and that Jesus overcame sin and death on Easter, when I think about hope and resurrection and peace and joy – I think about that Mr. Darcy kind of love. I think about the radical notion that God loves me “just as I am” – not because of my achievements or in spite of my failures, but just loves me for me, and that I can rest in that love – and I am brought to holy tears.
Easter is about hope, yes, resurrection, yes, life from death, absolutely – but under and above and woven through every one of those truths, like a golden thread glinting from every corner of a tapestry, is the reality that God’s love – made real in Christ – is freely given, no strings attached. I am learning and re-learning the lifelong lesson of believing that love, accepting it, abiding in it. The learning and re-learning is painful, but I believe it’s the only way that leads to grace and freedom – to a love that I can rest in, and then freely and joyfully extend to those around me. Because I need it desperately, and dear friends I know I’m not the only one. My prayer for us all is more grace, more love and more peace, this Sunday and every day.