A former coworker of mine told me once that I wouldn’t truly know who I was until I turned 25. She would go on and on about 25 being the magic number, as if to say I would wake up one day and all of the pieces would have fallen into place. I shrugged her words off like an itchy sweater, attempting to breathe in patience and remember that some of the most brilliant people I have ever known are twice or even three times my own age and still figuring out who they are in a world where not all the pieces seem to fit.
Needless to say, I didn’t feel any different when I woke up on my birthday this year. There was no shift in the cosmos to mark the occasion by jolting me into a sense of belonging in my own skin. I didn’t feel any more secure than I had the day before.
Actually, by the time my head hit the pillow, I felt as though the rug had been pulled out from under me. What had begun as a strange and uncomfortable few days was starting to feel more like a strange and uncomfortable month for me and God. As the days progressed, I began to feel more and more as though something was getting in the way, but I didn’t have the slightest idea how to go about naming it.
In her prayer journal, Flannery O’Connor writes about worrying that her own shadow will grow so large that she will no longer be able to see God. She writes that she cannot love God the way that she wants to. I chewed on these words for a long time, but didn’t dare let anyone else into my shared fear. I have battled long and hard against that kind of deep vulnerability.
The truth is, I’ve been content with giving breadcrumbs. I want you to believe in my rehearsed authenticity. I want you to applaud my filtered version of honesty and marvel at how even my wrecks and insecurities are graceful and worthy of awe and envy. The effort to build this image, this platform, overwhelms my thoughts. Everything I say and do is motivated by the hope that you’ll keep following my breadcrumb trail.
What’s more, I do the same thing with God. And I cross my fingers in hopes that no one will realize how desperately lost I feel. Its all fun and games until you wake up one day and realize that living lost just doesn’t cut it anymore, and that in the end, all your attempts to fill the holes and numb the pain have just been miserable failures.
Lately, I’ve spent a lot of nights sitting cross legged on the floor. There have been tears for days, as I have slowly started to give up the fight. I simply asked God to search me, to reveal this ill identified chasm between us. I’m learning that God isn’t one to back down from a challenge, because as soon as I prayed it, I wanted to take the words back. I prayed and retracted and prayed and retracted: search me, but don’t look too hard; show me, but don’t make me look for too long.
I would turn everything off in an effort to clear my mind and pray, but I could never make it work for more than a few minutes at a time before once again craving some form of entertainment — something mindless to distract me from what was brewing inside me.
On my birthday, a favorite blogger of mine hosted a writing webinar. A handful of people were live Tweeting as it went on, and when I pulled up my feed, this word knocked the breath out of me:
if we want to be found, we have to be honest about where we are.
There was nothing magical about turning 25. The cosmos didn’t shift, but something in my heart did. I heard God whisper. I know you want to be found.
So here I am: trying unfiltered honesty on for size, begging that no one walk away. And these days, my prayers sound something like this:
Lord, I want to be found. Help me to want you more. Help me to care less about building an image for myself and more about the image that you have already graced me with. Help me to find security in you, and not in hollow attempts to puff myself up. Keep me small. Keep me grateful.
As Flannery said, it would be the greatest bliss.
So be it.