twenty-second summer

22nd summer

I was talking a mile a minute about myself, about my passions and my beliefs and that girl who lives deep in my heart, when the words spilled from my mouth before I even realized that I had thought them:

Big life to be had.

And for a few hours, I was really proud of those words.  My conversation partner had noticed them too, writing them down to remember, looking at me with wide eyes and a slight smile.  She asked where I’d read that, and I said I didn’t think I’d read the particular phrase anywhere; I just said the words because they made sense, because I felt them, because it was in my heart.

It sounds very beautiful: I said the words that were in my heart.  That’s what makes me special, isn’t it?  That I have this way with language.  I spin letters like the fairy tales spoke of spinning straw into gold. 

But on my short drive home tonight, I mulled the words over in my head, and my pride slipped away a bit.  I believe those words – big life to be had – but maybe I don’t always live like it.  I have an anxious heart – a big, open, hopeful, loving, joyful, trembling, giggling heart, but an anxious one, too.  I know this about myself.  Last semester’s moments of panic and sleeplessness confirmed it.  The fact that it is difficult for me to get into cars with drivers who aren’t myself.  The fact that sometimes, I hurt the people I love most because I think I need to be in control.  It is indeed a big life to be had, but often my fear gets in the way, and I hate that.  Because I know in the deepest chamber of my heart that I was not created to be afraid. 

This summer has been one of rediscovery.  Finding again that girl in that heart chamber who runs barefoot through forests and cities and deserts.  I didn’t venture far: I stayed in my college town, lived with a lovely professor, and worked on campus.  I scaled no mountains, but I did road trip to the Pennsylvanian Appalachians.  I went to four weddings, visited my boyfriend’s family, went home a few times, watched my sister graduate high school, buried my grandfather’s ashes, saw the destruction of a tornado, ate dinners on the deck, read many books, watched many movies, took a yoga class, babysat tinies, went to Florida, flew alone for the first time, wore more dresses than I did shorts, stayed up very late, held hands, saw three shooting stars, went on countless nighttime walks, and felt like it all meant something.  My best friend lived minutes away and so we could celebrate our 8- and 9- and 10- and 11-month anniversaries together.  The depth of the fear I had felt the previous semester began to dry up, and though I slipped many times back into the leftover muck, I started to find myself again. 

And my goodness – my self is complicated.  All selves are, I am convinced.  I shift so easily from joy to self-pity.  My temper flares suddenly and dies out slowly.  Sometimes I can’t stop speaking.  Other times, I can barely stutter my way through a thought. 

And yet.

This summer, I remembered time and again the love that abounds for me.  Love from the Maker, yes, He who molded and bought me, He who wins me over no matter how often I drift.  This love drenches and soothes, and I have felt it so clearly at so many moments these past few months.  But love from others, as well.  From the family that does not try to hold me back or call me home, but instead lets me grow elsewhere, and always answers the phone.  From the friends with the front door that I do not have to knock on before entering.  From the yoga teacher who looked me in the eye and told me that my strength had nothing to do with my size, but instead everything to do with the love I poured into the earth and the people around me.  From the young man who keeps walking beside me.  From the children with eyes that light up when they see me.  From the small, noisy little dog who cries and licks and runs to me when I come home for a visit.  

Love.  It is all love.  Find it, again and again and again.  

So maybe the words I spoke were truer than even I realized.  Big life – big life full of love and road trips and going to the office.  Life with the people who make it big.  Stay in the small town when all the kids go home, and find again the community that surrounds those who remain. The secret, it seems, is not to find arrogant pride in the big life, nor is it to believe the lie that the fear defines you and steals the big life away. 

The secret, if it was ever a secret at all, is to find the life you have, over and over again, and see how big it must be to hold all the love poured in. 

It is a big life to be had, dear heart.

Ignore this.

I think I might’ve just written the most ignorant letter ever to God.  I want to eat every single word I see on the page before me, because each one is testament to my inconceivable stupidity.  Please tell me that I am not the only one to ever do this.

I will pretend you just consoled me.

I pray in two ways: the first is the most common way – I just talk.  I talk to Him as I’m falling asleep, or as I’m walking to a particularly gruesome exam, or when I drive by myself in the car.  I talk to Him in my head and out loud, in complete sentences and in incomprehensible noises and sometimes I talk to Him by glaring at the sky (that is by far one of the more ignorant things I do).  I talk to Him alone and with groups of people.  I talk to Him like He is my Father and sometimes like He is my unruly pet.  I shouldn’t talk to Him like He’s my pet.  But since we’re divulging my ignorance here, I figured I would just throw that one in, too.

The second way I pray is by writing.  This is most common for me.  I used to write to Him daily, sometimes twice daily, and just tell Him about my day, or give thanks for the things in my life, or ask for help and guidance for things I didn’t understand.  Those pages look like transcripts of a spoken prayer – something that I wouldn’t mind saying in front of others.  Something that was Christian and right and normal.  Don’t get me wrong; those prayers were real.  They were genuine, and sometimes they were gut-wrenching and sometimes they were the only things that held me to the ground.  But I still held back.  I didn’t pray about most of what really mattered.  I don’t know what I was thinking – that I could hide a portion of my soul from the One who made it?

I know it is silly.

As I’ve gotten older, my written prayers have changed.  They’ve become less simple.  Sometimes they aren’t even addressed to God, but both He and I know that I’m trying to speak to Him.  I’ve been looking through my most recent journals – my prayers have gotten jerkier.  Every so often, I’ll come across five pages of hopelessly-flung insults and childish passive-aggressiveness.  And it’s awful because I know, as I write things like that, how stupid it all sounds, how I am answering my own fiery questions and scoffing at my own anger.  It is sinful.  There isn’t a way to make it any more than that.

I don’t like that I can be joyful one day and angry the next.  I flip the page and there I am, sure of the Gospel and sure of the path the Lord is taking me down, prayers that are actually humble (if I can say so without not being humble).  Both prayers – the jerky ones and the grateful ones – are like reading the words of two different people.  I don’t understand why God puts up with me.

But I’m not hiding anymore.  I give Him the dusty, bent up parts of me that no one else will take, even if I tried to offer them.  Because we’ve got a God who takes the mess.  It doesn’t make it okay to pray with anger or ignorance or sadness.  But He’ll take it, because He is big enough for that.  I have a habit of limiting God.  I am like a vacuum, sucking up all the things I think I’m tough enough to handle, the questions I think I’m smart enough to figure out.  I don’t think God wants that.  I’m hesitant to justify my sinfulness – I don’t want to come across like I’m doing so – but maybe God wants the ugliness even if it is sinful.  Maybe He would rather me shout at Him than tear myself apart.  He can handle the shouts of a fragmented, tiny, insignificant girl.  But I cannot handle the claws on my own hands.  What is deadly to me is nothing to Him.

So here we are: my open notebook taunting me with the things I’ve written.  But the trouble is, I feel that.  I told Him the truth when I wrote what I did – that it was the way I felt and that I don’t know what to do about it.  But it doesn’t make it right.  It just makes it even more important that I do something about it.

I don’t know why I was compelled to tell you all of this.  It holds me accountable, I suppose, when I blog about things I probably should just keep to myself.  But I promised myself not to fake it, here or anywhere else.  So I won’t.  It’s the one things you can be sure of with me.  Writing this makes me feel like I really do have to do something about it.  I think everyone needs a way to be held accountable – and it is beginning to seem like mine is through the public forum the internet.  I thought I hated the internet as a primary communication tool – but maybe it’s not all bad.  It’s the thing I seem to need lately.

New prayer.

Father.  Forgive my ignorance.  I hate it.  It’s ridiculous.  Give me eyes that see only You, past all my blurry desires and supposed answers, past all my shouts of anger and pleas for simplicity.  I know You only give good things.  I know nothing slips past Your view.  I know You teach me the way I need to be taught, even if it hurts, and even if I hate it and think that I know better.  I know nothing.  Push me down.  Grant me the peace that comes with humility.  All of us – grant us all that peace.  Amen.