I’ve been sitting on this piece all week, wanting not to write it, and then wanting not to edit it up into a post, longing to find something else, anything else, to post instead. But sometimes you know the piece is right simply by your resistance to it. So here goes. I’m leaning into the discomfort.
I have been trying to make sense of, or at least put into words, my sense of fullness/flatness in my ways of being. I think it’s only been able to come about because I am finally finding peace in myself. I’ve chipped away enough of the non-me that’s been caked on for decades, and I’ve stopped fighting myself, my natural tendencies and my “flaws” (read: ways of doing things that isn’t the “right” way).
And it’s from this peace, this self-contentedness, that I can be sure in and of myself, I can be confident in myself and my actions. It’s as I lean in to my natural ways of being (not the ways I was long taught I ‘should’ be), that I get back affirming echoes. And as I repeat and deepen into my own ways of being, these echoes repeat too, reverberating into a fullness of sound, like a full orchestra in crescendo, where before I had only heard a reedy recorder played poorly and with the sound half-carried-away by the wind.
What I was being told was right and what my own being thrums with have been in discord. But slowly I have been tuning out the “supposed-to-be”s and deliberately privileging the voice of my own inner self over the words of the world, and even over the echoing voices of loving parents who only knew what worked well for them and what fitted their priorities.
I am allowed to differ. I am allowed to listen to the song playing in the depths of my heart. I am allowed to stand up and open my mouth and sing it for all the world to hear. I’m not going to shatter myself or the world by singing at a different pitch, because what is needed in this world is not another person singing a discordant song, out of tune and step with themselves and those around them, what this world needs is me singing, true and pure, the song which bubbles up when I stop and sit in peace, when I listen to the depths of my being.
There’s a song we used to sing at church when I was a small child, I haven’t heard in years, about Jesus coming and singing love/peace/hope, living singing love/peace/hope, and dying singing love/peace/hope. But then the pattern stops. “He arose in silence,” says the song, “for the love/peace/hope to go on we must make it our song, you and I be the singers.”
The song which bubbles up when I am most at peace with myself, most loving of myself, freely bearing hope for myself and that world around me, the song I find when I am most fully me, just as God made me to be, it is that song, that way of being which can best speak God into this world, best show God through me to the people around me. The song which echoes in my chamber of being, which sets up reverb, between who I am and how I live, until it embodies a great fullness of song… that is me when I am being most fully me, being who God made me to be in all its fullness.
For years I have felt flat. I would enter a space and observe from a corner until I could figure out what was expected of me and then fit myself into a cut-out of that shape. It was sterile and bland, trying not to upset anyone (including myself – after all, being not liked as a caricature of the “supposed-to-be” was fine, but being disliked when I was being myself? Ouch. That one hurt. And I had enough experience of showing a bit of the real me and it being laughed at to know better). That flat persona lacked depth, it lacked freedom, it lacked life.
The last few years I have been pondering again and again on the freedom we are promised in Christ, the abundant life and fullness of God promised, and what that was supposed to look like. Because I certainly wasn’t living it.
Life was easily categorized into right/wrong, should/shouldn’t, and if I stepped over a line my own head provided plenty of scathing criticism. This world had taught me well that the real me was not welcome, that I could only be approved of if I played the game to perfection. And despite knowing that perfection was impossible from eight-years-old (I distinctly remember arguing about the ‘practice makes perfect’ catch-phrase with my piano teacher), I still tried to play the game, even knowing I could never hope to win.
But in learning to let that go, to seek out nourishing and live-giving things for me and my ways, not ‘right’ as an absolute, I have felt myself fleshing out, becoming more three-dimensional. Rather than questioning how I will fit or what is expected, I now notice myself carrying a fullness of being. It feels like an aura; I don’t know how else to label it. It is not a self-protective bubble; I used to have that, it was strong and heavy and armoured, I know the difference. Rather, this is permeable, soft, affirming of myself and others, yet it carries presence, power.
That word makes me shiver, ‘power‘. I’ve always avoided it, my own or others, willingly following the rules or stepping right outside them so I didn’t hit power head on and have to see if I could stay standing (the answer always seemed an obvious ‘no’, I was the weaker, the lesser). I’m the one who, in a post-graduate class on social constructionism and language, asked if analysis of language had to include looking at power, I wanted that much to avoid it. (The answer is yes, yes it does; power and language cannot be separated.) As I write my PhD, I am against faced with it, this ‘power‘, in language and how we position ourselves and others, and so I am finding the need face it in my own life as well, to no longer let it find me afraid.
But this feels like a stepping into myself. I am happy and confident to move in the power that comes from it because it is an extension of me, and I am sure of me now (at least, most of the time). And I can assess whether I am acting in my natural ways of being, or in tune with God, or simply out of fear, based on whether I have a sense of fullness of being, or if I feel flat, squashed, unaffirmed. It also helps me know when I am kicking back against this fullness being squashed by others or systems, and so be able to act constructively, gracefully, patiently, rather than lashing out in fear or retaliation. This sensing of fullness is also helping me discover and lean into natural and spiritual gifts, and it is opening up new ways to act on long-held desires.
It sort of feels like the difference between reverential-, awe-Fear and terror-, frightening-Fear. One expands, one flattens. One we want to open ourselves to, the other we want to run away from. It is almost an awe of who and how God has made me, to be seeing it as clearly and openly as I now can sometimes blows my mind. And it is giving me confidence I could never find or muster. It is a confidence which comes in peace and comes from God. It’s a quiet confidence that I don’t need to cling to or shore up, but that can restfully be, without competition or challenge, because it is based on me and God, not anyone or anything else.
I’m still learning to sing this song, to sing in-tune with my soul, but it is already more fulfilling than I ever dreamed was possible. And it just inspires me to lean in more – I can’t wait to see what I am capable of as I live as God made me.
“The glory of God is the human person fully alive.” – Saint Irenaeus.
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman.
Original picture by Cristy Zinn.