Saturday, February 14, 2015

You Don't Know Me

The other day I opened up my daily devotional book (the one I call "Spiritual But Not Religious") and this was its first line:  "Perhaps we all sound better on paper."

For more than one reason, that sentence seemed oddly appropriate for me.

Of course, I couldn't help thinking of the blog that I have been keeping, lo these many years, where I have written about my life as a pastor and a step-mom and a wife and a lover of dogs, and knitting and good books.  I have worked hard at good writer, which includes (to me) being truthful and vulnerable and honest, and trying to write a few shimmery sentences along the way.

And yet, if I am truthful, my life on paper sounds at least somewhat better than the life I know I am leading.

For example, I will admit that my life and my house (and my brain) is messy, but I am not (for the most part) showing you pictures.  I do keep some secrets.

I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing.  I think it is good to have boundaries around our lives, to be able to choose what we will share and what we will not, what becomes public and what remains a secret.  Some things it is not wise or safe to share, for our own sake, as well as others.

It's just good to be aware that we are doing it:  that we are, in fact, carefully curating our image of ourself, for others, even for ourself, sometimes.  Because it's not even just safety or privacy:  maybe just a wee part of myself thinks If they knew that about me, they wouldn't think quite so well of me.

"Perhaps we all sound better on paper."

While I was in seminary, I interviewed for a summer job at the congregation where I was doing my field work.  It was an activities program for the children in the neighborhood of this inner city church.  I loved children, I was idealistic about inner city ministry.  It had not seemed that long ago that I had been a missionary in Japan.  I really wanted this job.  I wrote up my application, interviewed with the two pastors who oversaw the program and got the job.

After the first week, it was clear to me that I was in over my head.  I was much less sure of my qualifications than I had been the week before that.  When I mentioned my misgivings to one of the pastors who hired me, she said, "Well, you interviewed really well."

"Perhaps we all sound better on paper."

In the end, the job didn't go as well as I had (in my starry-eyed way) hoped, but probably not as badly as I had feared, either.  My perception of myself probably needed adjustment at both ends.

We all sound better on paper.  There is no perhaps about it.  And as I round the corner into Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent, it is here where I begin:  with the confession that my truthfulness is approximate, that while I strive to be vulnerable and give to the world an honest representation of myself, for a variety of reasons, I leave things out:  abject failures, wincing moments of ugliness, some of the darkest of self-doubts, even successes.  

I may curate my self-image, but that is not all that I am.

That is my confession, for Ash Wednesday.

And it is also my glory.

If only I remember.

1 comment:

LoieJ said...

Yes, exactly. Good to remember so we aren't harsh to others.