For me, being in the real world has meant becoming an adult. Consequently, I’m doing a lot of learning and growing lately, and that means the big C word.
I am changing.
When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up so fast. I anxiously desired the ability to eat what I wanted and buy what I wanted. In short, I equated adulthood with freedom. Now as an adult, I have learned that I am free to do what I want to do—I just have to count the cost and pay the price.
And interestingly enough, this concept of budgeting works beyond the scope of my money. I decide how I spend my time, in what and whom I invest my energy, even when I pay attention. These are precious resources that I cannot retrieve after I have used them, so I try to steward them well.
Sometimes, I reason that what I want is not worth the cost. Either, I cannot afford to do some things, or I accept that there are some things I just don’t need. Admittedly, I have put myself in some tight spots too, buying things that were beyond my budget. I justified it in my head and heart because I really wanted them at the time, and I definitely paid for them in more ways than with money.
Setting the money metaphor aside, I reiterate that I am becoming an adult and that I am changing.
A major part of that has meant being good to myself, accepting the good and bad things about what makes me the human being that I am. And I can honestly admit that I love myself where I am right now, despite the bad things that persist. I’m still a human, so I get that I am limited and flawed, that I will make mistakes here and there. Such is life.
I can also honestly admit that, although I love myself as an adult, I do not love those bad things. In theory, I wanted to own all of who I am, embracing the good and the bad. In practice, that worked great for the good stuff and not so much for the bad stuff that God doesn’t like.
Initially, I thought that being authentic and demonstrating courage would validate my adulthood sufficiently. I figured it takes a mature adult to do that. However, with a combination of time, prayer and fasting, and wise counsel, I also realized how hard owning the bad stuff without ruining the good stuff would be, how impossible it was to keep the bad stuff and love God like I wanted.
I wanted to do it all, improperly counting the cost and buying into a fantasy of being clean. This version of clean was clean in so many ways, but this version was a fantasy. For a lot of reasons, I had collected the crappy mess of my life, contained it in a metaphorical box, and placed it in the bottom corner of my being. Somehow, I irrationally figured I could keep the box of crap neatly and still be clean. And every time God made a move for that box, I held it out to Him without letting it go, justifying its smelly presence and defending its toxic value. This may sound really abstract, so I’ll be a little more frank in describing my fantasy.
I made excuses like “It feels good!” and “I just don’t want to…” and “This is who I am.” I claimed that I was “doing me and doing me well,” self-righteously securing the limited self-esteem that I possessed. To be even more candid, I was preserving my self-worth. Like dry ground desperately wants water, I wanted validation and acceptance, and some folks just wouldn’t give me a drop when I needed it most, so I became my own well.
I created it for myself and used it adaptively, not just to defend my own condition but to understand the unfortunate crappy mess that occurs in this world. That mess would hit the fan and fly in my face, and though I didn’t judge people for it, I sincerely wished they would get their crap together and not just put it away but throw it away. And it wasn’t until my mess hit the fan and my well dried up that I could see I was settling for less than what I deserve and what God intended.
I won’t lie. It is really hard to let go of the private logic we tell ourselves in order to cope with the bad stuff.
Like the song says though, “I’m starting with the man in the mirror…” and throwing my box of crap away because I’m becoming an adult.
I’ve owned the good and bad stuff, but I’m not stopping there. I am finally trusting God with and getting rid of that self-made, crappy box down below. I’m letting go of the nice-sounding but irrational fantasy for good and paying the price to really grow up. I am loving myself where I am while simultaneously striving to not just manage my crap well and do better but throw it away and be better.
And changing for the better makes it much easier to enjoy the good stuff and share it with others.
Love Love Love,