A few weeks ago at Lifetree Cafe, we were asked to think of a thing from our childhood that was meaningful to us. I’d never been much for dolls or stuffed animals as a kid. I did remember this toy bear that was in my bedroom. It had these creepy glass eyes that almost glowed. The fur was rough and wild looking and it was actually pretty terrifying at night. Thanks, Mom.
One fall after harvest was over, the hired guy (who we will call Don) came to the house to say his farewells. I was probably five years old. Before he left, he gave me two 8-track tapes – Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, and Hot Rocks by the Rolling Stones. They weren’t the original tapes – they were copies – pirated with the technology of the day.
We had one of those large wooden cabinet stereos with a record player, radio and 8-track deck. I played those tapes over and over and over. It was either that, or my Read-Along Disney 45’s, where Tinker Bell would tell us when to turn the page – like this. You’re hearing it now, aren’t you.
But mostly it was the Stones and Fleetwood Mac. Over the years I’ve bought those albums on cassette, CD and digital.
I annoyed the crap out of Don all summer. I liked ‘helping’ my dad on the farm, and I followed Don around a lot. And I talked a lot. There’s a chance I may have even been a bit smart-assy a lot. I was an early bloomer that way. And on several occasions he may have even yelled at me to get lost.
Me. A defenseless child (cackle). Hence, the 8-tracks may have been borne of a guilty conscience. I win, ha!
I tried to decide why this was the meaningful thing from my childhood – aside from the fact that Fleetwood Mac and the Rolling Stones are awesome.
All that summer, I thought Don hated me. When he left, he smiled, said goodbye and gave me the tapes – and it didn’t feel like he hated me anymore. It kinda felt like he might have even liked me a little. Never mind that a collection of Rolling Stones songs was not especially age appropriate for a five-year-old. In those days we didn’t read so much into it when Kindergarteners were bopping around the house singing Let’s Spend the Night Together, or about running for the shelter of her Mother’s Little Helper. Whoops!
I don’t think Don really hated me. I think it will have been a pain having a kid underfoot when you just kinda want to get your job done — and not accidentally bale them. But all reality aside, my reality felt a lot better when I didn’t feel hated.
I don’t know if this is why I loved these tapes so much. Probably not. Probably just because Stevie Nicks, that’s why.
What hasn’t changed much is how I feel when I think someone doesn’t like me. Or doesn’t approve of me. Or doesn’t accept me. Or doesn’t love me.
A while back, I posted something on Facebook about caring too much about what others think. The thread was sincere and thoughtful, and many comments stood out to me, such as:
“We think of these things in such harsh terms, like if I experience disapproval it will be a catastrophe. But in reality, with or without someone’s approval, there is no catastrophe… just a difference of opinion. Unless you are intentionally causing harm or destruction, what other people think of you really is none of your business. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy to just let that go, but it is a huge contributor to personal happiness and peace and therefore worth working towards.”
Relationships have different levels of vulnerability. A sideways glance in the grocery store, or a snub at church does not have the same effect that a wound from someone close to us does. Don’t get me wrong – those snubs and glances do their damage if we let them. But they are something to work at letting go.
My counsellor once told me that love and pain are two sides of the same coin. That as long as we are willing to love, we will experience pain. I think this is true.
Rachel Held Evans writes, “What each of us longs for most is to be fully known, and fully loved.” Unconditional love. We throw that idea around a lot. But I don’t know that it’s even possible on this side of heaven. You know.. the whole human thing.
And while I think it is true, that we do long for this, I think it’s also true that for many of us the risks are too high. The hurt has been too great. It really is just easier to keep people at a distance. Keep some walls up. Throw a few anti-tank barriers onto the beach, just to be on the safe side.
To be known involves vulnerability. To be fully known involves a shit-ton of vulnerability and doesn’t come with any guarantees. Which hardly seems fair.
And to be honest, it doesn’t really seem worth it. Until you catch a glimpse of what it could mean to be fully known and fully loved. It’s hard enough to believe this is possible with God, never mind another person. We know we’re fully known by God, like with the omniscience and all. But do we embrace that? Let ourselves be real, trusting in the fully loved part?
It’s a lot to ask of (or promise to) another human being, especially when, in our truest, rawest selves, we’re really not sure it even exists.
I think sometimes we catch a glimpse of it in Divinity, and it draws us to seek it out in our people and relationships. And sometimes we catch a glimpse of it in the divinity of our people, and it draws us to seek it out in our Maker.
I don’t know which comes first. I don’t know that it matters. I know that the greater the vulnerability, the deeper the knowing. And the greater the hurt. We are human, and we will hurt each other. Perfection is too much to ask of anyone.
But if we allow each other to reveal ourselves safely – and also challenge ourselves to be okay with being misunderstood – perfection is no longer the goal.
I think it might be worth it, but I also think it’s the hardest $%&# thing ever.