“Should isn’t good enough. I need definite.”
“What scares you?”
“Excuse me?” Immediately, I felt defensive. Obviously, that means sarcasm took over. For whatever reason, I’ve always tended to mask my own insecurities and hurt feelings with jokes and sly remarks. This was no exception. “Snakes. Dark parking lots. Leaving the house with my flat iron on.”
“Steph! I’m serious. If you know it’s right, why are you afraid?”
I tried to explain all that ways I know it’s right and how I’m not afraid, knowing on some level that I was trying to convince myself, not them. If we’re honest, I’m afraid to be vulnerable. It’s true. There, I said it. I’m a scaredy-cat. Vulnerability just hasn’t worked out for me in the past, so I try to avoid it like the plague. I know it’s crazy, but if the boat’s floating just fine—I’d rather not upset it by trying to get out.
When it was all said and done, I got in my car and drove around trying to decide if I want it more than I’m afraid of it…
They normally travel in a small army, all walking in like they are cooler than ice. It’s hard to take them seriously when they come together, always joking and each one wanting to be cooler than the other one. I’m never impressed, I outgrew that somewhere along the way. In a lot of ways, I have seen one of them as my starfish. You know the story.
Today was different though. Today, my starfish was the lone ranger. I much prefer each of them that way; they’re more apt to be totally honest, completely real about what’s going on in their world these days.
He came in grinning, “What is up? Where were you for Orientation yesterday? I didn’t see you anywhere.”
“I was there. I was in a side room, troubleshooting Admissions issues for students. Where were you? I looked for you too! Come to think of it, I didn’t see any of you guys yesterday.”
“Oh, we were there. Representin’.”
“So… why are you really here?”
We talked about a change in current plans and the endless possibilities that were in store for him. We talked about knowing God’s heart so we can trace His hand and walking so closely with Him that we’re right there in His footprint as He moves. We admitted we’ve asked God to bless things that we didn’t seek His face on first and how that usually leaves us with us on our faces instead, exactly how it should be. We dreamed big things for his summer and got excited over all the ways he could impact the kingdom if he’d just take that leap of faith. He got ready to leave and said, “I just tweeted about you. You always do this; change my life from that chair.”
When he left, I knew I had just done what I needed to do. I picked up that starfish and I threw him back. Tonight, as I sit and remember that moment today, I’m thankful for all of the people who have picked me up and thrown me back. I’m also left wondering if it’s time for me to take that same leap I encouraged him to take. And pondering what I would be jumping to.
I got excited because I know that I already know….
We raced from the car to the silver slide and both slid down, laughing as we landed in a small pile of leaves. The swings had us believing we were flying, even if just for a minute. She served as Pilot on our airplane ride and I taught her how a see-saw really works. Now we sat with our feet dangling off the side of the jungle gym, sipping on juice boxes. She slid up next to me looking almost bummed, then looked at me and told me what she was really thinking. I was expecting something simple, like whether we were going to blow bubbles or run with Zeva after naptime. Instead, we chatted about life and what she thought about things in her little corner of the world. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that it doesn’t get any easier to figure out as we grow up. Then she got right in my face, kissed me and said, “I love you, Stephanie.” It was like everything was fine just because we put it all out there. I could learn a lot from this three year old…
In the past 48 hours, I have heard from a twelve year old that she’s “so confused by this whole relationship thing”. I’ve listened to a nineteen year old wonder why “this whole dating thing has to be so messy”. At twenty-seven, I’ve sat and asked, “When did relationships get to feeling this dang complicated??” And I’ve listened to my thirty-something and married friends as they tell me it’s worth it, but it’s hard.
So, I need to know…. When did it get this complicated? How do we make it stop? And what do you do when it starts looking like the fun in dysfunctional is gone?
She slipped in and took a seat in the corner. A river of mascara gushed down her face. I gently closed the door behind her and waited until she was ready to share what on earth was going on. This girl is not my cry-er. She has been accused of being “too optimistic” but never one to let her guard down enough to cry over anything. I knew that whatever was going on– was a really big deal!
“It’s just so confusing.”
“What is? What’s so confusing?”
“All of it. Life, career choices, and guys. Guys are so confusing.”
“No argument here, on any of those accounts. But what happened?
Through broken sentences and hurt feelings, she shared what had happened and my heart was quickly resonating. Guys ARE confusing. And life IS messy. And words DO hurt. Whoever said “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” was mystified. Words do hurt! They cut deep and impinge on us greatly. I think I’d rather you just break my arm! It’s cool; my arm can be set and I’ll be able to watch it heal. The heart though, the heart is a funny thing. Break it too badly and it may never recover.
I heard her out and then shared my story. She wanted so badly to believe she wasn’t a freak for feeling wrecked. I talked about stupid boys and bad decisions. I encouraged the waiting and empathized with the frustrations that come with that. And I admitted that words have cut right to the core of who I am too. I reminded her that Satan knows our weaknesses, probably better than we do. And that he will take what we are most passionate about and try to use it against us. I reminded her that it doesn’t really matter what the world thinks or believes about us that it’s really just God’s opinion and He thinks we’re to die for!
Then I ran out of things to share and encourage her with, so I adopted the rule from Steel Magnolias and didn’t let her cry alone in my presence. I am so thankful that when words fail, tears can fall and tears can heal.
Oh, the paradox of giving out the very advice you need to be taking yourself…