I've been doing things the way I've been doing them for a long time. It's habit for me to respond a certain way. My fear and masks have become such a constant in my life that I reach for them. They are my phantom limbs.
Sometimes, these days, I wake up thinking that things are different. I've always been a dreamer, and at crucial moments I'll have deep conversations with people, some of whom I've never met (I once had a dream where I spent the day talking with Joy Williams of the Civil Wars). Dreams can be beautiful and life-giving, but they can also be tricky. I've woken up crying, after experiencing something all too real. I've had to pick up the phone, one or two times, just to make sure everything was okay. It takes a minute, in those times between waking up and being fully awake, to remember what is real.
I look at the span of this year in awe. Many of you didn't know the me I was at the beginning of this year. That me was tired of being the person everyone else wanted her to be. She was tired of being afraid, of being subject to the whims of the decisions of others. She was starting to think that maybe when Jesus talked about love, about abundant life, about the Kingdom of Heaven, maybe He didn't just mean Heaven, maybe He meant now.
But there are deep grooves in my mind and heart. They are tough to navigate around. I'm used to turtling up and shielding myself from harm. I have been that child crouching under her desk as the atom bomb hits. I know that if I can see the cloud, I'll be vaporized, but I've still curled up there, under my desk.
It takes time, and a gentle hand, to pull myself out of those grooves. I can't get mad at myself when I jump into them, but I can't stop pulling myself out, telling myself the truth.
I want to pour fresh dirt into the ruts and pack it down. I want to set off on a new path, blaze a trail into the unknown. I want to have an adventure.
Every day, I'm making decisions in this direction. Some of them are just small handfuls of dirt. Some of them bring in a few truckloads. I'm dancing over where the grooves used to be.
Today, I didn't even notice as I slipped into old patterns. It took me several hours before I realized what I was doing. Several hours is a huge improvement on several months, or several years (which is what would have happened before). I'm stomping on the new dirt, thanks be to God.
I've been talking to people about this lately, many of them much further down the road. I'm finding that I'm not alone. They tell me about when they first came out from behind their mask, they tell me how hard it is not to reach for it again.
I'm doing my best to break it so completely that I can't ever really put it on again.
There are things about me that are there for keeps, shaped out of the dust by God. It's so easy for me to forget that God thought I was a good idea. He took a look at the world and the whole company of history and chose to form me into me and place me in it. How hard it must be to watch me try to stuff myself into a box, or fit myself into a cookie-cutter. I'm not like everyone else, and not everyone appreciates that, but isn't that the point?
I think about the things that made these grooves in me. Well meaning people and churches and books, subliminal messages, songs on the radio. I myself picked up the plow handle and dug it in, trying to tell myself who I needed to be.
Now, instead, I'm looking to Jesus, really looking. Not at the Jesus I grew up with, trapped in anything man-made, but the fully-human-fully-God Jesus who sees me, trying to see and comes closer so that we can talk. He's different than I expect. He pulls me out from under my desk, out from my grooves.