I received an email today from a friend. It was mostly a commentary on my recent ‘of performance and all things heart’ post where I openly described how it felt to go up on the platform, and ‘watching; love dying’ where I talked about my friend’s marriage.
Reading the encouraging letter, I immediately turned to the Mother and asked, ‘would you think less of a person when you see their vulnerability? Or is it easier to think great things of great men?’
‘I would think them to be greater for showing that they can be weak,’ came her reply. I wasn’t entirely assured. I’ve seen people’s knee-jerk reactions to my open honesty; they immediately feel that a) they need to solve the problem, b) cover my wounds with beautiful words or c) laugh to make light of the matter.
Sigmund Freud said out of our vulnerabilities come our strength. Is that true? Will we turn people away with our desire for honesty? Is it better if we carry on with the veneer of perfection to avoid destroying our neighbour’s utopia?
I don’t know what happened in me when I accepted the role in the musical. It’s as though a layer of self-protection was removed and I find myself suddenly unable to pretend anymore.
In pretending to be Sophia – a woman of deep pain, great strength and quiet submission – I had to kill my life’s personal actress: The woman who has it all together. After the musical was over, I found my own personality changed. Some of Sophia is still with me. I am kinder with my words, sweeter in placating my own husband… but the worst (or best) part was that in needing to reveal Sophia’s pain on stage, I had to learn to strip myself emotionally bare in front of many. And now that Sophia is gone, I find that I don’t know how to stop being open about what I feel. My life’s personal actress is gone. There is no familiar skin to put on. There is just… me. I’ve forgotten how to be someone else.
The ‘someone’ that people are used to being with.
The words were getting harder and harder to come through.
Tears streaming down his face, I watched as Paddington took a deep breath and tried to speak, fighting the rising crumble in his person. ‘I wish… I wish I had been a better son to my mother. There are times, so many times I remember her and wish I’d done more, said more, to show her how much I loved her.’
Paddington and his sister, the Fair Maiden, were walking me through the pain of losing their mother last year to cancer. The emotions were very raw and their frank dialogue actually took me by surprise. This interview was for a new column I needed to write, one that is based on living life with God’s truth. I was angling for something real. I didn’t want the speeches I’d heard from those who give their testimonies because while those are good, that’s often all we hear. I wanted to document the gritty moments when we hit the ground and need a God. What do we do? How then is what we hear preached on the platform made alive on our very breath?
2009 was a busy year for both Paddington and the Fair Maiden. Both had planned weddings (Fair Maiden’s in November and Paddington’s in January this year), increasing work commitments and heavier schedules with the ministry. In the midst of it all, their mother was re-admitted to the hospital and within two months, passed away.
I was surprised when they agreed to do the interview with me. Even more so when Paddington said, ‘we wouldn’t have said yes to anyone else. We trust that you will handle this story with weight and well, we trust you.’ I was honoured. But as I watched them go through the myriad of emotions, I felt the first inkling of doubts.
I don’t want to make light of their struggles. I want to capture what I was watching unfold before me and yet again, I need to ask myself, how vulnerable can we go before we cause discomfort with the readers?
‘We are all a volume on a shelf of a library, a story unto ourselves, never possibly described with one word or even very accurately with thousands. A person is never as quiet or unrestrained as they seem, or as bad or good, as vulnerable or as strong, as sweet or as feisty; we are thickly layered, page upon lying page, behind simple covers. And love – it is not the book itself, but the binding. It can rip us apart or hold us together.’
– Deb Caletti (Honey, Baby, Sweetheart)
‘I wonder if we had all loved a little less, would the pain be more bearable?’ Paddington said quietly, when the sobs subsided.
I looked at him and smiled. ‘I think you have your answer there…’
‘His answer is the cheesy cliche!’ Fair Maiden burst out laughing.
‘Yes, yes…’ Paddington smiled. ‘It’s better to have loved, than to have never loved at all.’
God, let your love be my direction. Let it dictate my person, my actions, my words. Let love consume my being and thereafter, let Your love be all that anyone remembers when I leave. For my frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret. Your eyes saw my substance… and in Your book, my story, their story, was written, when there was not a single day yet lived.
Be the Author of our honesty.
Be the Strength in our vulnerability.