A few years ago there was a corny little reality show that Matt and I got sucked into watching (and without a doubt, we would have won if we were on it!).
The show was Here Come the Newly Weds. Basically the premise is to put a bunch of newlyweds together in one house, have them do marriage challenges, and then vote on who gets to stay. It was pretty comical (especially since the real challenges come when you've been married for seven years and your son falls out of the crib at the same time your daughter pukes up corned beef and you've got to get up early in the morning for a meeting but you still pull together as a team to clean and love and comfort).
Anyhow, one of the couples were Cody and Dawn Freis, pictured below. They were lovingly nicknamed "Ken and Barbie" by their peers. Not hard to see why. Now they aren't exactly my type (I prefer dark hair, green eyes, and smiles that aren't quite so large and toothy) but I think we can, in general, agree that they are a pretty good lookin' pair. What this picture doesn't show is Dawn's "Barbie" body complete with long legs, thin waist, and big boobs. Why am I going on and on about the Freis couple? I have a point; I promise.
During one of the newlywed challenges, the brides had to find 5 things they would change about their appearance and they guys had to determine what their brides would choose (this is pretty dangerous territory). The other women were not quite as attractive as Dawn and quickly chose their 5 flaws. But so did Dawn. In fact, for someone who looked so perfect, Dawn had no problem pointing out her imperfections. The other women actually made comments that if Dawn had 5 flaws then they were really in trouble.
Don't we do this everyday?
I can think of five women off the top of my head who always look good and put together, whose kids always behave, who seem to be so happy with their marriages, are confident about themselves, and are in line for the Mother of the Year Award. Do you know these women too? The women you always compare yourselves to? The women who, despite never meaning to, reduce your self-esteem to mere rubble just by having their hair and make-up on by 9:00 am?
At times, I feel like I'm the only one who is insecure and trying to gloss over my inadequacies.
Then I saw this. My friend Molly, who has a black belt in keeping it real--really, she wore a green 1980s sequin prom dress with a white T-shirt and Argyle knee highs to work on St. Patrick's Day, showed me this video last Wednesday night during life group.
I'll admit that upon first seeing Katherine it's kinda hard to watch her. I mean, here's a former model who is basically my age with serious health issues--troubles walking, missing a part of her brain, vocal problems, paralyzed face ... it's pretty heartbreaking in a world where what's on the outside is what "really" matters (sad but true).
But then you hear her perspective, that she is nothing more than the physical manifestation of what I most people feel.
She can't walk but who can walk and feels totally free?
She feels ugly but who is "normal" and feels beautiful?
She can barely talk but who can talk and feels truly understood?
She can't eat but who eats and is ever fully satisfied?
I needed this reminder that we all feel broken. Even those moms who unknowingly make me feel like mush struggle too.
So why is it that we can't be real?
Friday night my husband, Molly and I went to see the movie To Save a Life. The acting isn't great. The plot is predictable. But my husband called it one of the most introspective movies he's ever seen.
The movie is basically about teenagers dying, literally, to be heard. Everyone is acting in order to be accepted. I'd like to write this off as teenage drama but adults do this too. Everyday I want more, "need" more--I'm trying to impress so I'll feel accepted. I refuse to be weak before others for fear of the scorn, ridicule, or judgement. Even on this blog I'm dying to know that my thoughts resonate with someone else. I hope my followers increase. Do you do this? Are you still trying to impress the popular kids at school like I am (15 years later!)?
Remember the Velveteen Rabbit and how he learned that nice houses, a smokin' hot body, being a part of the "in-crowd," good paying jobs, designer jeans and Cadillac Escalades love makes him real? Do we lack love? Is that why we can't be real?
I'm afraid we will never know love, from others or God, until we open up and are broken and vulnerable. I believe we are meant to live in community but is it really community when we only celebrate together? Is there some unwritten rule that our community of friends can only be about good stuff? Did I miss the memo that we aren't supposed to let others see our weaknesses or know where we fall short?
When did it become okay to not be real?
The scorn of "realness" is why we amass houses that are too big, eat too much, wear too much make-up, make ourselves too busy, obsess with our weight/looks/hair/boob size/whether or not we were invited to the party... We are dying for someone to love us and say we are worthy and we will do anything to get it---even forgo our feelings. We will sacrifice ourselves on the alter of acceptance.
This is not okay.
And that's why I think we have to be real with each other. We must make it okay to be vulnerable and show our weaknesses because in doing so, we glorify God. The Bible says that in our weaknesses, He is strong. How can I show the world His strength if I won't show it my weaknesses? How do I encourage someone to put their trust in Him when I don't do it? How will I teach my children that God loves them as they are, for who they are if I don't believe it about myself?
There is something powerful about being real about who we are because if I'm so together that I don't need God or relationships with others than what's the point?!
If you are reading this blog thinking I'm the paragon of the perfect wife, woman, and mother, I hate to disappoint you. If you were to come to my house you would see everything in order because I'm nuts. My kids would be obedient. My husband loving and doting. But if you looked closer, you might see that the laundry is not done (which is why that door is closed), that the carpet is filled with dog hair (despite vacuuming several times a week), and the kitchen table needs wiped down (which I've given up on until Pax is 2). If you talked to me you'd know that I'm struggling with some relationships (in-laws--are we legally bound to these people :o) ?), that I've always battled with my looks (if only I had platinum blond hair and no muffin top!), and I have troubles controlling my mouth when I'm angry. I'm not perfect. There are places in my heart and life that I have a hard time surrendering. I am broken. But He is faithful to meet me where I fall short.
You know what's amazing about Katherine's story and the end of To Save a Life and even The Velveteen Rabbit? It's restoration! At the end these people open up, become vulnerable, and break down. Their ugly comes through and ironically, that is what makes them beautiful. That's what makes them inspirational and loved. They lay it all on the table and say "I hope you still love me" and we do. We love them MORE!
*Plot Spoiler* At the end To Save a Life the lead character is with his father. They've had a bad relationship but they are spending time together--putting it back together. The boy is being redeemed to his father. And that's what will happen if we can be real. If I can be real to you, if you can look past my crazies and my faults, if I can just BE, I will be redeemed to my Father.
And that's what I think keepin' it real is all about!