By the end-curtain of 2016, the word I had chosen in January to usher me through the year (COURAGE) had become permanent in my life. At intermission between acts one and two of 2017, my word for the year hasn’t yet imprinted itself on my heart + soul + very skin. Patiently, timidly, it has paused at the door, awaiting the invitation to shed jacket and shoes, dig through the kitchen, rearrange throw pillows, settle into the couch. A rude and inattentive hostess, I ‘ve left that word (HONESTY) out on the porch, diligently turning a blind eye and pretending not to realize my invited guest has arrived and is hoping to walk through my front door and become family.
See, here’s the thing: once HONESTY walks over the threshold, I know it will become like family. And I’m not so sure I’m ready for that.
Family is comforting and supportive. Family is there, ready to help batten down the hatches and brace for impact, when the storm announces its imminent arrival with rolls of thunder in the distance. Family is an enduring presence when the hurricane-level winds hit unexpectedly. Family is bound to love and loyalty by deep, strong bonds. Always.
Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, yeah?
Family asks the challenging questions when avoidance seems like a more comfy option. Family sees through the tough demeanor presented to the world. Family knows – tender heart, dark tendencies and all. Family protects. Unfortunately, sometimes protection looks like leaning into the uncomfy, the messy, the terrifying.
And so, when HONESTY (with myself, with God, with others) becomes family, my tender little heart is in store for a big dose of uncomfy, messy, terrifying growth. I can feel it in my bones – I’m standing on the edge of a cliff with my toes peeking off the edge and half my body coursing with adrenaline in eager anticipation of the jump even while the other half clings desperately to the solid ground at the top of that cliff. I’ve been in this place for a while, waiting for the balance to tip in one direction or the other, all the while monologuing to God about why I don’t want to be here, why I don’t need to be here, why I refuse to be here.
We don’t get along too well – me and change. The logical, analytical, full-of-reason part of me knows how very beautiful change can be. The emotional, over-the-top, all-in-or-all-out part of me (which is bigger, louder, and stronger) tells me to run for the hills.
And so, the hills is exactly where I have spent act one of 2017. Finding caves and lost forest roads to evade the inevitable season of growth and change hunting me down. And now, finally, quietly and in the dead of night, I am creeping down out of the hills and unpacking my bags as I brace myself for what is to come.
Growth is this funny thing – persistent and unrelenting, demanding attention. But growth – the good, worthwhile kind – doesn’t happen without a commitment backed up with a willingness to face the truth and tireless work to become something new.
Here I am standing at the edge, eyes and heart wide open for what is to come, muscles and courage tensed to fight for the growth that belongs to me. A beginning of sorts, a continuation of a million different threads and plot lines. Considering the view from up here, I have two thoughts, two things to carry me through the uncomfy, the messy, the terrifying:
- Know my TRUE NORTH.
- Find my COMPASS.
Knowing true north means being able to navigate. That one piece of knowledge brings the entire map into focus and lends an awareness of where one dot on the map is in relation to the vast landscape. In life, I think we have to know our true north – the one thing that erases the fuzzy and replaces it with crisp, clear lines.
My true north is my faith. My belief in the unchanging God of the Universe helps me make sense of it all. On the good days, my heart knows, really knows, how deeply loved I am by that God. Navigating the imperfect paths of this life is possible. Not necessarily easy, mind you, but possible. But on days when my amnesia kicks in and I lose sight of my true north, I am left in the midst of a vast and scary landscape with no map and no hope. Then, my most desperate need is a reliable compass to point me back north.
Some days, my compass is a steaming mug in the still of the morning, melting away my uncertainty and leaving behind only peace. Some days, my compass is a moment of standing, paint brush in hand, in the middle of a makeshift living room art studio, reminding me I was created to create. Some days, the sound of waves hitting shore serves as my compass, soothing my anxious mind and focusing it back on my purpose to love fiercely. More and more these days, I am learning to let people be my compass.
In order for my people to point me back in the direction of true north, they need HONESTY from me. They need me to allow them to see the real picture of where I am on the map. I don’t know about you, but peeling away the layers to reveal the raw underbelly does not come naturally to my tender heart. Practicing the act of opening up my heart to the people I trust is all tied up in the season of growth and change I am allowing myself to enter. Little by little, God is rearranging the way I relate and teaching me to see the messy beauty of honesty.
As I’m learning how to seek out people and share honestly during my weakest moments, I am also learning how to show up as the compass for others. All too often, the easy option is to leave each other to our own messes, respectfully leave space, leave white lies of ‘fine’ unquestioned. I think there is another, better way to navigate this life, and I am braving the battle in order claim a place at the table where life stories aren’t polished and failures aren’t omitted.
When it comes right down to the nitty-gritty nights of battling unfulfillment, panic, and unanswered questions, I think this life is really all about knowing your true north and then fighting like hell to find your compass.
Wherever it is you’re reading this from, whatever battle you stand in the middle of, my hope is you are surrounded by people, activities, and things that point you back to your north star. But mostly people. People will prove to be the very best, most trustworthy compasses again and again, as long as we give each other the chance.