Being the stepmother of 3 boys, I have often jokingly referred to myself as the “wicked stepmother”. When things with the boys got a little…bumpy (which was pretty frequent, particularly in the beginning) a friend and I would joke that my warts were showing.
We all have those things in life that bring out parts of ourselves that we aren’t necessarily keen to show everyone. I think that even in the best of situations it’s sometimes helpful to just imagine that our “warts” could be hidden away in a closet somewhere so we could pretend that we are always the sweet, friendly person we want to present to the world.
It would be difficult to find a person that wasn’t trying to cover up some part of themselves. Whether it be a physical thing like a receding hairline, a birthmark, or, if you’re like me, a horrible scar that sends children screaming and crying in the other direction, or something like a learning disability or mental health issue, all of us expend some of our energy trying to cover up things that are contrary to the image we think is the one that we are supposed to be presenting.
I suppose it’s possible you are very well adjusted, happy with your appearance and not struggling with any unseen challenges, but I can pretty much guarantee there are things you have done in the past that you just wish everyone would forget. Those poor choices that seem to find their way back into stories over and over again. I have far too many to discuss here, but there was this period of time when I was younger, I went through a period of time that I had new jobs about every 6 – 9 months. Friends and family alike made fun of this job hopping and I was (and honestly, still am) humiliated. I withdrew, afraid to even talk to anyone about what was going on at work for fear of the response I would get. Similarly, up until a few years ago, I would rarely, if ever, try something new when it came to sports or games. In the back of my head, I always heard my mother saying, “if you can’t do it right the first time, don’t do it at all”. I went through decades of my life refusing to put myself in new environments because I didn’t want to embarrass myself or my family. Looking back, I’m sure there were opportunities I should have taken that may have helped me avoid some pretty negative things I ended up going through, but I was, at that time, incapable of seeing past the barriers I had created around the risk involved in trying something new.
Regardless of how much we may say we want to be seen as the unique individuals we are, we really just want to fit in with those around us. Having something that makes us special is one thing but, but having something that others can use as a source off bullying, quite another. Of course there is a problem because God wants us to be the unique individuals He created us to be. He planned a life for us that is dependent upon those qualities we are often so keen to hide but, at least for me, I have spent a good portion of my I’ve trying to force my square self into that round hole I thought everyone else fit into to seamlessly.
So why is it so difficult to own our uniqueness? Shouldn’t we be cheering our individuality rather than hiding it? Yes, we should be, but it’s never that easy.
Pride and fear get in the way.
Despite the way most of us cry out to the heaves that we want to be seen for who we are as individuals, we don’t want to stand out. Fitting in makes us feel safe, accepted and protected. School children and adults alike bully those who don’t fit in with what we determine to be “normal” appearance or actions. And yet, the more we poke fun at others for their individuality, the more awful we feel about ourselves because we are smothering our own individuality.
I have spent the past several years working on not just accepting who I am, but breaking down those walls and obstacles I have created to become someone I actually could never be. It hasn’t been an easy journey but there is a woman I know who has been the greatest inspiration to me.
From outward appearances, it is clear she has physical challenges that she has to deal with. Her legs and arms don’t function the way most of ours do and she struggles to do things most of the rest of us take for granted. In addition, she is subject to chronic pain the likes of which I can only imagine. But rather than grouse or complain about her challenges, this woman not only gets through her day with grace and joy, but she has obtained both a bachelors andmasters degree and has her own business. Sure, she has her down days, as we all do, but she is confident in the perfect imperfection that God desired her to be and I can only hope to be half as comfortable in my own skin some day.
I know what you’re thinking. If God created us in His image, why are we not all perfect?
I think that’s a great question and one I have thought about a good deal. Here’s what I have come to believe.
If we take the time to look at all the things in this world we consider beautiful – flowers, music, art, etc. – I can guarantee that every piece is unique. There are things in every flower that may be considered a mistake or flaw and every piece of art or musical performance would be the same. The thing is, it is the flaws that make each piece unique and special. The flaws are what make each item Godly and the same is true for us.
God created all of our “warts”, be they things we were born with or things that have come about through life experiences, in order to give us all of the tools we need to handle all of our challenges. And the thing is, though we can’t know how our challenges and the way we handle them affect those around us, God knows and He has it all woven together perfectly. Our job is to use the time we have been given to grow in acceptance of ourselves and those around us, recognizing that “perfection” doesn’t exist in the carbon copy similarities we have always assumed, but in the warts that separate us.
I know words are easy. My prayer for all of us is that we can all take a fresh look at ourselves and see those warts as the unique gifts God designed them to be. Yes, it’s hard and I would venture to guess that none of us will ever be able to rejoice in all of our imperfections, but as we enter into this holiday season, I do pray that we can each find a little more grace to show ourselves, accepting that in God’s perfection, He can only create perfection and we, therefore, are all perfect.