“Seriously?” I’d think in a scoffing tone of think. “Pull up your diaper and get a job. Stop being selfish and thinking about yourself and do something."
Only recently have I have ben realizing that my dismissal of those ‘self discovery’ quests, my disdain for, and even sense of superiority to, people looking for themselves comes from a deeper place than a simple sense of productivity or efficiency. The reason I didn’t like them, was very simple, and unnervingly close to home.
I realized, I am that guy.
And I don’t like him.
Not knowing who I truly am is a feeling that I’d stuffed deep down, tried to not think about, ignored. Ever opened your fridge and seen that tupperware container of last weeks dinner (ok, admit it, it’s actually from last month’s dinner), growing various unnatural colors and textures, probably smelling up a storm inside it’s little plastic coffin, just waiting to offend the smelling sensibilities of anyone foolish enough to open it? What did you do with that little container of overripe meatloaf? Yeah, pushed it into the back of the fridge, maybe hid it behind the bag of carrots. Pushed it away, to be dealt with later, hopefully by someone else, when you’re not home.
That’s what I did. I pushed my smelly little container of my rotten identity, or rather, an uncertain identity, into the corner behind a container of ego or false humility or something and tried not to think about it. But it was there, and though it’s hardy tin of polycarbonate did an admirable job of containing it’s festering contents, some would always seep out, reminding me of it’s presence, affecting my life. I couldn’t ignore it, but I also couldn’t deal with it. I didn’t know how. I wasn't brave enough to face it, so I pretended that it wasn’t there, and mocked those who were brave enough to admit that it was.
“Besides,” my subconscious must have reasoned, “Look at the rest of the stuff you got, it’s all pretty good, not even close to it’s expiration date, don’t worry ‘bout it.”
* * *
In each of us there is a longing to be loved, but to be truly loved, you must be truly known, deeply known. And the deeper someone get’s, the more likely it is that they’ll find something they won’t like. So we close up, close off. They can’t hurt us if they don’t know how bad we can be. I mean, can you imagine what they’d think if they found that tin nestled neatly behind the eggnog? Can’t let that happen.
And yet, the desire is there, for someone to know you all the way, to know all those nasty thing’s you don’t know what to do with in your fridge that is life. But there’s a risk in letting them in, a risk that as they go deeper in, they’ll get weirded out by all the gunk, or maybe just not be able to handle the stench, and they’ll pull out. But after you’ve let someone in, there’s no going back, because now they know, and they know too much. But what if they get in, and they don’t look at what you think is garbage with disdain? What if they see it, and feel empathy, compassion, and love? What if, in seeing that you’re not perfect, they’re opened up to reveal that they’re not perfect either?
We’re all broken, walking this broken way, which conveniently enough, is the title of a book I’m reading right now.
Those people we meet in this life who are brave enough to be broken with us are like gems: rare, beautiful. God may only bring a handful of them into our lives this side of heaven, but oh how sweet is the fellowship of those who are raw, who are broken, and who love the broken. Yet as amazing as those friends are, there is One who actually knows the extent of our brokenness, and loves us more than any other human ever could.
* * *