Every morning, I stare at myself in the mirror. Not just when I put on makeup or brush my teeth or shave my unibrow-wanna-be. More like how the evil queen did in Snow White. Only I don’t ask “who is the fairest of them all?”
More like, “who IS this person?”
(This activity is post-coffee, so don’t have me thinking it’s just my early morning zombie brain.)
And then I think of how I used to be during childhood. From age 5 to age 17 I was a homeschooler. Shy. Extremely self-conscious. Sheltered. Judgmental. Motivated. Helpful. Smart. Honest. I succeeded in almost everything I set my mind to, whether at school or work. Even if it took many tries to get it right, like driving lessons, I would suck it up, throw my best at it, and eventually I would get what I fought for. I was determined, committed, loyal, ambitious, obedient, submissive. But I was also a doormat. Anyone could walk all over me, tell me not to speak and I wouldn’t, tell me I was wrong and I would believe them without a question. I also thought, because everyone thought well of me, that I was perfect.
Then I think of the person I became during the last year. Secretive. Dishonest. Motivated. Introverted. Lonely. Stressed. Scatterbrained. Rebellious. Militant. Committed. I really didn’t lie growing up. Thus, it came as a shock to me that I was really good at it. I considered myself to be a spy, a secret agent. I was paranoid, constantly on the watch for prying eyes. I started listening to different kinds of music, hanging with different kinds of people, and pushing everyone from my old circle out of the ring. I was miserable, imperfect, but I was free.
Then I look at myself and think of who I am now. Part of me really doesn’t know. I have scars on my face from where I pick at my skin out of stress. My lips are cracked from chewing on them. There are dark circles under my eyes. I keep staring off, losing contact with the mirror, roaming in a file somewhere in my mind. Searching…
I would say now that I’m broken. That I’m lost. I feel vulnerable, detached from reality, naked, bare, open, scarred. I would warn people to stay away from me, just in case anything rubs off. I thought I would be healed by now, I was wrong. The demons are still in there, reminding me every day of what I have done, what I have become.
When you feel my heat, look into my eyes
It’s where my demons hide
It’s where my demons hide
Don’t get too close,
It’s dark inside
It’s where my demons hide
It’s where my demons hide.
Imagine Dragons put it so well. I can see those demons every time I look at myself in the mirror, and I despise that image.
People may ask, “do you want to go back to the way you were when you were younger? Innocent? Carefree? Unscarred? That person that your parents want you to be?”
“What about that other person? Hey, you may have been doing wrong things, you may have been being deceptive, but at least you were free…Do you want to go back to last year?”
Here’s what folks. I can’t go back, and even if I could, I wouldn’t want to. Coming full circle isn’t the target in life. Being who I was isn’t my goal, just as staying as I am isn’t my goal either. I don’t want to be perfect. I don’t want to be secretive, even if it means being free.
I read a book series over the spring– Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant– by Veronica Roth. It really left an impression. *SPOILER ALERT* In the last part of the last book, one of the main characters realizes that he has become a monster–that he killed his friend in a gang uprising and abandoned his values. Everyone looks on him with pity, saying he is “damaged” and can’t help himself. His parents are separated, abusive people. His girlfriend is dead. His friends are scattered. He says, ““I keep finding myself stifled by the company of others and then crippled by loneliness when I leave them. I am terrified and I don’t even know of what, because I have lost everything already.” Because his memories are too painful for him, this character decides to erase his memory with a special serum. It sounds like a new beginning, without the pain of the past.
He is stopped before he does it, and eventually decides that erasing his memory is not the best choice.
“Take a person’s memories, and you change who they are.”
“The first step to loving someone else is to recognize the evil in ourselves, so we can forgive them.”
“You don’t believe things because they make your life better, you believe them because they’re true.”
“Sometimes bravery is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life.”
That’s why. To be whole again, people don’t need to forget what happened to them. What they suffered. Who they became. They don’t need to meditate on it either. They don’t need to talk about it for weeks, months, years, decades with psychologists or psychiatrists and counselors and friends.
I don’t need to keep staring into the mirror
I need to take that person, the person built and sharpened and persecuted and scarred and broken…so broken…and use that brokeness for something that defies it. Not to erase what I have become. Not to go back. Not to live in self-pity. Not to die. To live in the brokenness, because my family is broken, because my friends are broken, because this world is broken.
And whole, healed, perfect, scar-less people really can’t help a broken world.
One last thought. Another book that’s made a MAJOR impact on my life is the Bible. One verse particularly stood out to me.
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” 1 Corinthians 15:10.
Look. Read it. Because of Christ, “I am what I am.” I am not who I was. I am not who I will be. I am not even who I want to be. By His grace, “I am WHAT I AM.” (emphasis mine.)
And that means there is a reason I am this way.