”My story is important not because it is mine…but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours. Maybe nothing is more important than that we keep track, you and I,of these stories of who we are and where we have come from and the people we have met along the way because it is precisely through these stories, in all their particularity…that God makes himself known to each of us most powerfully and personally.”
Don’t you ever wish sometimes that you could just be completely messy in public? Just let it all hang out there? Just walk around with your mess smeared around and your smile lopsided and your eyes halfway closed – that people could take one look at you and realize that your life really isn’t so perfect and you really aren’t all that happy and the smile you usually wear is actually a Jane Jetson mask you pull out of your @ss every morning?
I am all for inventing a 1-800 confession line, where you can call in and tell the operator your deepest secrets, hugest fears, nuttiest imaginations, and biggest regrets. Get it all off your chest to a total stranger. Tell them that you’re not sure how you’re going to make your mortgage and it scares you to death. Tell them that your life is a fraud. Tell them that every time you pass a post office box, you feel compelled to throw trash in it. Tell them that your marriage is falling apart. Or that your kids are great, but only of their own accord, since they have woefully inadequate parents. Tell them all the things you wish you could do to your boss. Or how many times you’ve grafittied the bridge. Or that it was you who started that rumor. Tell them you drink too much. Yell. Scream. Curse. Cry. Wish. Hope. Cry some more. Hang up.
Its the line I need today. I considered just calling 4-1-1 and instead of asking for a phone number, unloading on the lady (or man) at the other end of the line.
Operator: City and State, please.
Me: North Richland Hills, TX.
Operator: How can I help you?
Me: Well, you see, I’ve had a really bad month. Couple of months, really, if you want to know the truth. It all started out with my mortgage going up because of a property tax thing, well, really, it started before that, but I’ll start there for the sake of time. Can you believe the government? It seems like all they do is take-take-take. Then two-thirds of our income went away. Yeah, try managing a 50% increase in your mortgage with 1/3 of the income!
Operator: Um, Ma’am, is there somewhere I could direct you? Are you looking for a business or residence?
Me: Well, I might be looking for a residence before long! On top of all that, my ex-husband is a real piece of work. Well, not him as much as his mother. She’s certifiable, and I AM NOT LYING. I’m reasonably certain the woman stays up at night thinking of ways to torture me. And you know what the worst part of it is? She just says it to me with a smile and a “honey” tacked on the end, like somehow that makes whatever she just told me palatable in some way.
You know what else? My smart, beautiful, intelligent, generous, imaginative deaf daughter still has no friends at school to speak of, and dreads anything social because she knows she’ll be left out. How is that fair? How is it okay that my daughter doesn’t have friends?
Me: Sometimes I yell at my kids when I shouldn’t have. Sometimes I feed them unhealthy food because it’s easier. Sometimes I curse – REALLY LOUD – at drivers who cut me off. I think angry hateful thoughts about people I don’t know. I judge people and I believe they have bad motives, even though they might not. I feel completely unworthy and inadequate in most areas in my life. I do most of my school work half-way. I’m passionate about hundreds of things, but I finish almost none. I avoid confrontation by lying about things. I take EVERYTHING out on Mark when I go home at night. I’m impatient, irritable, and frustrated. I struggle with depression even though my life is completely blessed. AND sometimes, when Walmart forgets to charge me for something, I have to think long and hard before I convince myself to go back in and pay for it because Karma always comes around. I am negative, and then when I’m stressed, I’m REALLY negative.
Operator: Ma’am… I need to go if I can’t help you with anything else…
Me: Well, you could help me with this: Can you just tell me how to trust God? How to believe that he is in control, even though I don’t see the evidence? How about that scripture that says “I was young and now I am old, but I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread”? I’m feeling a little forsaken at the moment, if you want to know the truth. And I’m pretty sure I could come up with a dozen case studies of others forsaken.
Operator: Ok, then… thank you for calling Verizon 411 Connect… Have a nice day, Crazy Lady.
Today I feel like my Jane Jetson mask is worn out and missing an eyeball. I mean, clearly I’m more of a let-it-all-hang-out kind of person than a lot of people, I’ll give you that. It’s not just anyone who would go up to the pastor of their church and tell him that you don’t trust him on spec. But man, if I could just be transparent with all the stuff that I hide, you guys would think I was the most ungrateful, wretched human being alive. I mean, Paul claimed the title of “Chief among sinners” but I’m pretty sure I have him beat most of the time.
“Oh ye of little faith,” I hear, bouncing around in my head like a ping pong ball. And I would say in response, “Damn straight.”
My faith is miniscule. SMALLER than the proverbial mustard seed right now. I mean, my faith for other people? HUGE. Enormous. Exceedingly abundantly more than I can think or imagine.
But my faith for myself? Non-existent. Ok, maybe the size of a dust particle. Microscopic, at least. Its not that I think God CAN’T do miracles for me. Its more that I think he WON’T. Its not that I think God CAN’T provide for all my needs. Its more that I think he has more important things to do, and I should really figure out a way to make it happen. It really comes down to the fact that I trust myself more than I trust anyone or anything else in this world. And if I can’t make it happen (in the event that someone or something else doesn’t come through), then I’m really not comfortable with that.
So I guess you could say that’s my mess. And it’s ugly. And it’s out there. And it looks stupid when I drive down the street counting off cars and saying “I don’t trust YOU, and I don’t trust YOU and I don’t trust YOU or YOU or YOU.” And the bottom line is that it’s about control. Specifically, it’s about maintaining control at all costs. White knuckling my way through all weathers, changing my own tires, figuring out how to maneuver through whatever disaster is in front of me. Doing it all by myself, not just because I can, but because I am too proud to tell anyone else what I’m dealing with. Because I’m thinking that my dilapidated Jane Jetson mask has everyone fooled.
So yeah, this is my story. But maybe it’s your story, too. And if that’s the case… well, you can call me instead of the 411 operator. Because BELIEVE ME, no matter what you tell me, I’m going to be thinking in the back of my head “Yep, still retaining my title of ‘Chief among sinners’.” Move over, Paul.
The bottom line is, I like to hear your stories. I like to hear about your mess. I like to see you without your mask. And maybe I don’t speak for everyone, but for me, it makes me feel a little bit better when my mask slips. It brings me a little closer to taking my mask off altogether and chucking it in a passing post office box.