Back in March, I attended the Hope Spoken conference with my dear friend, Melissa.
Before I even knew I would be attending the conference or who would be speaking, I started to follow one of the speakers on Instagram. She’s one of those people I followed simply because her Instagram feed was beautiful—all white and bright, full of delicious food and blooming flowers and cute kids, even a refurbished Airstream trailer. You know the kind of feed I’m talking about, right? Still, I didn’t actually know anything about her. What was her family like, or her job? Where did she live? What did she do or believe? I went to her breakout session at Hope Spoken simply because I was intrigued by this woman with the perfectly curated feed, and I wanted to see what she had to say about Jesus and hope.
We filed into the room, and I sat down at a table. Eventually, she took her spot behind the podium and began to speak, a small zippered pouch in her hand. As she gave her general introduction, thanking us for coming and letting us know that public speaking wasn’t really her forté, she unzipped the pouch. She pulled out some wipes and a small bottle of make-up remover, and as she spoke, she literally began to wipe the make-up from her forehead, her eyes, her cheeks.
She looked out at the small group gathered, tears already welling up beneath the now absent mascara, and said, “I’m taking off my mask today. I don’t know how else to do this.”
And she began to share the darkest, lowest, scariest parts of her story. She shared the kinds of stories we don’t see often on newsfeeds or in carefully curated Instagram squares: infertility, disability, loneliness, unanswered prayers, infidelity, separation, hesitant reconciliation. Her story was very much still in process; she was in the middle, messy Act 2. There was not yet a happy ending, but she shared the story with us anyway, bare faced and open handed.
She didn’t have the answers yet, and therein lied the hope.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” —Hebrews 11:1
I am uncomfortable with the messy middle. I like quick resolution, and I like to be very clear on what the lesson is in any given season. Being a writer doesn’t help; I am too quick to want to draw conclusions and synthesize what’s happening in my life into a well-packaged story.
Furthermore, I normally expect myself to have made a certain amount of progress or feel a certain way within a certain timeframe. It’s one of the reasons why I find it increasingly frustrating to still feel homesick some days; shouldn’t I be over this by now?
Instead, I am learning to take off my make-up. To stand, fully present, where I am. To not rush to the next season. And, above all, to let other people witness this phase. I want to ignore my desire to make it pretty and polished, to pretend I have it together when I do not.
There will be times when we, as perfectionists and as people desiring whole and peace-filled lives, feel the temptation to make our stories into something they are not, or to tie up the loose ends before they are ready, or to rush to the curtain call before Act 2 is complete. Instead, may be willing to stand, for as long as is necessary, with no make up on.
“Here’s what I’m holding onto right now: it’s okay to not know right this second. It’s okay to live–and even live well–in the uncertain in-between…because when it comes down to it, most of our lives are lived in the in-between. So here’s to trusting that we’ll know later, sometime down the road. Here’s to living with honesty & kindness & bravery & faith in the in-between. Here’s to not knowing right this second, & letting that be absolutely okay.” –Shauna Niequist on Instagram
“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” –1 Corinthians 13:12
All month long, I’m sharing 31 ways to fight perfectionism, as part of the Write 31 Days challenge. You can find all the posts in this series here (or by clicking the “31 Days” button at the top of the blog). Tomorrow, I’ll share the simple ways reading poetry helps me feel less frazzled and more grounded.