On Brokenness and Mole-Whacking
There have always been two conflicting notions in my head. First, there was the idea that I am lovely. As a young child, it was almost self-forgetful, filled with joy at all that life and God and light had to offer. Many of my earliest memories are filled with smiles and sunshine and responsiveness.
Second, there is the idea that I’m broken. I have some theories, but I don’t know exactly where it came from. I only know that when I was having trouble finding playmates, or dates, or people do do things other than study with in college, I thought: what’s wrong with me?
My time in church did nothing to allay these questions. I listened to sermon after sermon about behavior modification. I had the occasional dream that I had engaged in pre-marital sex and woke up sweating because had that actually happened: the world would end. I sat in small groups and shared struggles during prayer request time, only to hear everyone else ask for prayer for someone else. I sat in worship, wondering how the worship leader always looked so cute, hair curled and feet in tall boots. I felt like a call and response without the response.
At first, it was just me. I looked at myself and tried to force my behavior into submission. I read my Bible everyday, through in a year, and journaled about it. I faithfully confessed every sin, scared to death that I would die with some unspoken and be barred from Heaven. But then, as I started to memorize verses for candy and glory, I learned that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I learned that the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. I walked the Romans road without context or care. I wasn’t broken alone anymore, but I was still in a desolate place.
When I’m looking for something, I often find it. My view of the brokenness of myself, others and the world has given me an uncanny knack for seeing just that. I’ve entered into relationships with big red flags flying, sighing in frustration when things fell apart again. Every friend’s divorce, challenging friendship, or miscarriage has added fuel to my fire. Everything is broken. Everyone is broken.
Suddenly, I was no longer asking what was wrong with me. I was wondering aloud what was wrong with everyone else. I was still uncomfortable with my own shortcomings, but at least I was trying. Why wasn’t anyone else trying?
It made me not want to try anymore.
I fell in love with Brene Brown at first TED talk. She looked into my eyes and told me that the difference between those who feel love and belonging and those who don’t is that those people feel worthy of love and belonging.
At first, this seemed like really good news. I’ll just feel like I’m worthy of love and belonging, I thought, and then I will be fixed.
But it’s never that simple, is it?
Deep down in my stomach, there’s still a tight little stress ball whispering lies. I know that they are lies, and I’m whacking them as fast as I can, but as with fake moles in that terrifying arcade game Whac-a-Mole they speed up and come faster, and some are bound to get through.
My strategy for dealing with these lies has become similar to my strategy for Whac-a-Mole, strangely enough.
I enlist help.
With three or four of us on the same team, we could usually bonk every single mole on the head.
These mole-whackers are my friends and my therapist, my pastor, the Holy Spirit, even my favorites books.
And perhaps there is no greater mole-whacker than Jesus. Lately there are words of Jesus that are jumping off the page for me, even when I’m not reading them. There are words that are catching my attention just before I go to sleep or as I’m driving to work.
I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
I have no longer called you servants, I have called you friends.
Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?
The moles keep coming, quickly and erratically. They have not been fixed. Perhaps the most encouraging thing about this process is that I am starting to tell myself that the moles are not my fault, and even to believe it, sometimes. On certain days, I lay back and trust that others will keep whacking, even while I sleep.
But a strange thing has happened. Instead of looking inward and wondering what is wrong with me, automatically, I am learning to see hints of God, even in myself. Instead of looking at the world and seeing only brokenness and decay, I am starting to see snatches of life, flourishing even in places that don’t appear very fertile. Rather than looking for evidence of thoughtlessness and cruelty, I am keeping my eyes out for kindness and a desire for connection.
I usually don’t see a double rainbow on the way to work, but sometimes it is sunny. I don’t get flowers delivered, but I’ll get an encouraging text, or email. I don’t always go to bed satisfied with myself, but sometimes I speak aloud: “you’re lovely.” Because it’s true.