“Just beyond the veil is where you are and where I want to be.” – Merchant Band
They always say that how you view your father is a reflection of how you view God. I’ve heard this and agreed with the statement, but never thought my view of my dad affected my relationship with God. I love my dad, he’s always been great. He wasn’t the most verbal of fathers, but I have never doubted his love for me. He’s always been there for me. Just like God.
For awhile now, I’ve been struggling to reconcile the two versions of me that I have. One is the Now Me — the one who is always in the midst of becoming; who struggles with doubt, frustration and anger; who has good days and bad days. The other is the Me-Who’s-Yet-To-Be — the one who has arrived; who has stopped the self-doubt, self-blame, self- sabotage; who doesn’t get irritated by small things; who always shows the right amount of compassion, grace and empathy; is extremely confident in herself, and comfortable in her own skin; in essence, the Me Who Is Perfect.
I have just come to realize that the Me-Who’s-Yet-To-Be doesn’t struggle with any negative emotions or behaviors whatsoever. Nada, zip, nothing. No anger, no frustration, no grieving, no judgment, no pride. This version of me I’ve created in my head — this version that I have mistakenly thought was the God-version of me — isn’t real. It’s Stepford Monica.
So I’ve been mulling this over — thinking about it, wondering why on earth I have such an unrealistic view of who I’m supposed to become. I’ve been studying the Bible long enough now to know that every person mentioned in the book is human, has normal ups and downs, struggles with all these same things. How has this misconstrued notion permeated into my soul?
I go for walks a lot in the fall. The fall energizes me, and I come alive. So out on these walks I sometimes let my imagination wander, I sometimes just groove to Mary J. Blige and try not to sing out loud, and I sometimes talk to God about whatever thing I’m currently mulling. Today, I mulled – then finally shut up long enough to let God have a turn. And here is what he showed me…
Growing up, my mom was the aggressive, dominant personality and my dad was the laid-back, passive one. My mom’s dominating personality was very strong, her emotions very up and down, and her opinions were always made known. My dad on the other hand, was the one who everyone liked because he was laid-back, easy going and fun to be around. He never seemed to let anything bother him. He didn’t get worked up much. Because I always saw him not bothered, and because I always heard that this was a positive, good thing, I unconsciously equated in my mind that lack of negative emotion means perfection and likability. And I wanted to be liked.
At the same time, all I heard in Sunday School at church was how Jesus was perfect. Because there wasn’t deep theological discussion in grade-school-aged-Sunday-School about what that perfection looked like, I associated it with the only thing I knew — my dad. Ta da! In my mind my dad was perfect because he was the Stepford Dad. So Jesus’ perfection must be like that, too — Stepford Jesus.
If either, then or.
Either I’m emotionally well – or feel like I’m a mental case.
Either I’ve healed and am done grieving – or I’m sad and feel unwhole.
Either I’m eating well – or eating cake.
Either I’m exercising vigorously – or I’m a couch potato.
Either I’m perfect – or a walking disaster in heels.
If I’m satisfied, productive and fulfilled – then I won’t experience negative emotions.
If I have the capacity to accomplish one million tasks today – then I should have the capacity to accomplish that much and more every day.
If I’ve given myself time to grieve – then I shouldn’t have moments of surprising sadness that threaten to choke me out of the blue.
There is no balance. There is no moderation.
Of course we all know that Jesus was perfect. But his perfection only meant the absence of sin…it didn’t mean the absence of emotion:
He wept. (John 11:35)
He was angry. (Matt 21:12, Mark 3:5)
He rebuked. (John 18:11)
He challenged. (Mark 8:29)
He mourned. (John 11:33, 37)
He was scared. (Matt 26:37-38)
He was frustrated. (Matt 26:40, Mark 8:12)
If Jesus, in his perfection, could experience these emotions, then most certainly I should give myself permission to as well.
I have lived under a self-imposed expectation that I will never meet, for it doesn’t exist. I have spent my entire life expecting that someday I’ll turn into someone that cannot exist. Amazing.
A wise pastor once said that the journey is just as much the call as the call itself.
What a long, strange trip it’s been.