Always and never are my old nemeses. As long as I remember they have made me feel boxed in, summed up, dismissed and classified. No wiggle room.
It is hard to write without always and never. They add a touch of drama, a nice new step of exaggeration. Writing that some people in my family sometimes say these words, doesn’t have the same ring to it. But that is the truth, myself included in that some, often enough. I, who so hate being told what I always do, am the queen of flinging it back. You never give me the benefit of the doubt.
All this introspection is both nothing unusual, and born of an unusual stretch of family time. I am crazy about my family, love this Christmassy, all together, loud and game-filled holiday time. But I find myself, after a few days, frustrated. And I am frustrated mostly with myself, both who I am and who I am seen to be. Who it feels like I will always be seen to be, the girl I’ll never shake.
She is loud – but it doesn’t bother her too much to be shushed. She is stubborn, and talks over people without meaning to, but that doesn’t make it right. She thinks she IS right, mostly, and will try to prove it. And she tries, though perhaps no one will ever be able to tell, she tries not to be the worst versions of herself. She tries for gentle teasing, but is misunderstood. The weight of history buttresses the position of the offended. And so, accusingly “you often speak before you should”. And this girl feels the impossibility of explaining that, this time, I swear there was no secret steel in me. This girl hears the always, sees it lurking behind their eyes, and feels as though she will never be seen to be different, even if ever she is. One regression, real or imagined, confirms the suspicion all along, that this new her has been an aberration and now she is back to normal. And I am so tired of being that girl, a curious mix of used to be and still can’t shake. Sometimes, in a completely boring and wearing way, I am tired of being me. So very unlovely.
And what it comes down to is fear, really. Fear that everyone secretly breathes a sigh of relief when I retreat for a while. Fear of being the person no one dislikes, but everyone needs a break from. A solid second or third choice, good for a laugh, an ideal 4th player to make up the numbers. Even as I write it, I know it is stupid, but fears so often are. Born out of our knowledge of our ugliest parts, wondering whether anyone can actually love us.
Does this sound like a wallow? Far out, I can’t even write the way I mean to. It isn’t mean to be a wallow, more of a plea, or confession, or explanation. I am caught between being the person I am and the person I’m becoming, and sometimes it feels as though the latter is taking her own sweet time. Haven’t I waited long enough for that magical morning when I wake, and every word I say is understood as it is intended, and every mistake is breezily forgiven, slotted into the sometimes column? A clean slate.
At the beginning of a new year, that is what we talk about, don’t we? New beginnings, fresh starts. A year that will be hard-pressed to top the last one. Or a year we limp into, hoping for better, different.
The activity I retreat to at the moment, when my fear threatens to engulf, is Calvin. It is dutiful, no more. I am still going on last years, truth be told. And on this blog of mine, I do not mean to preach at you. It is to myself that these words are often urging. To God, I hope, that they are rejoicing. And because I am no great magician, I don’t have a trick up my sleeve. This post will end as I hope they all do. When I cannot stare at myself any longer, it is Jesus who lifts my gaze. “Every discourse in which his name is not spoken is without savor”*. My Saviour, the savor.
He salves all of my silly fears, the God who became man, lifting my eyes to see the one who chose me before time began. And it does not comfort by reminding me of my value, as though somehow I just need to remember my loveliness, as proved by his love. For he loved me when I was yet unlovely, chose me when I railed against him. It is he who makes me lovely, he alone. And he is not done yet.
“For it was not after we were reconciled to him through the blood of his Son that he began to love us. Rather, he has loved us before the world was created, that we also might become his sons along with his only-begotten Son- before we became anything at all.”*
This year I have great hope that I may yet know him better, and come to be more like him, and less like the always and never girl. I am thankful that his salvation act cuts through my always and changes the direction, utterly. So that something completely unexpected is here. A saviour for this girl, who so badly needs him. New mercies, every morning. A fresh start.
*The words of good old Mr Calvin. Meaty, but delicious.