When I was in sixth grade, I had a bedtime ritual that included two keys. One unlocked my American Girl Diary and one cranked my palate expander. Have you heard of these torture contraptions they call "orthodonture?" Expanders actually break your jaw and reshape it to correct its improper proportions. They cause your front teeth to separate and then you get braces to bring your wayward teeth back to the promise land.
Nevermind my school picture happened at the exact time the space between my front teeth was the widest. I'll never forget how traumatizing eating a simple cheeseburger became. The slurping, the sucking, and the struggle.
And the lisp. Let's just not talk about that part.
I just want to hug that girl.
When I was nineteen years old, I was sitting at my fiction creative writing workshop in college. Workshops are palate expanders for writers. It is painful, and you have to willingly crank it every day, knowing it will turn your once awkward teenage words into crisp manuscripts. You absolutely hate to need the feedback, but there is no way around the power of sitting at that table. If you can swallow it, listen, and come out the other side, you might just be an author. Or at least a humbler human being. And the latter is definitely the greater gift.
And then someday you might be able to sit across from someone else and be the person giving the feedback. Wiping the cheeseburger drool caused by their unfortunate orthodontic apparatus.
You see, I had written a work about a dishwasher.
No, I lie.
I wrote a story from the perspective of a dishwasher. And I don't mean a person washing dishes.
I wrote a story from the perspective of a common household kitchen appliance.
Yeah. Bad. Very, very bad.
I can laugh about it now. And no doubt my writing prof is still laughing about it.
That day in workshop was brutal.
I wish I could tell you that I got over it right away, but I never did finish my creative writing minor. I can tell you that I just didn't have time to make all the work happen in the two years I rushed through college, but now I wish I would have fought for it, even if it meant admitting I was an average writer at best.
Even if I am one now, I understand the power of being evaluated, being found wanting, and coming back to the table anyway.
Because the work you do is absolutely bigger than your failures. And it is always, ALWAYS, better because of them. And when you realize, like I am, that your works are never who you are, what can save you, that all is faith, all is grace, then you absolutely have nothing to lose because you have nothing to stand on in the first place. Romans 1-3 has a way of killing your ego and freeing you from it all at the same time.
Next week I will be presenting my ideas for the Dayton Women in the Word podcast and blog to our team at our vision casting meeting for 2018. And it has me thinking about that dishwasher. It has me thinking about that workshop table. I'm never going to willingly crank the expander, or bring my imperfect ideas and unfinished work to the table.
But this is the best place right? When being faithful to what Christ has done and will do is more important than you. When you ask God to crucify your ego so that YOU are not a barrier to what He wants to accomplish through your life.
When you fully trust that your ashes, past, present or future, are not your enemy because God is a beauty from ashes kind of God. And it is all beyond you anyway.
When I was 21 year old newlywed, I stabbed myself in the hand pitting an avocado while trying to set two of my friends up. Both endeavors were complete failures. But that is a story for another day, another post.
Embarrassed is not a strong enough word. For the expander. For the dishwasher. For the 11 stitches in my hand and the husband unbuttoning my jeans when I had to pee.
I won't ever forget what my granddaddy told me after the avocado tragedy of 2010. "The only people who never hurt themselves in the kitchen are those who never learn to cook."
So now when I look at my scar, I think of him saying that. And I think of all the guacamole that could have been lost these past 7 years on the altar of my ego.
And I think of how many compliments I receive about my smile, the smile that was crafted ages ago by palate expander cranked. And all my BFFS I had who were struggling in their own angsty sixth grade ways, but playing Polly Pockets with me anyway.
And I also think of how Tim kisses that scar and how he washed the dishes for us when I couldn't use my hand any more when I so badly wanted to impress him with my all my newlywed mad wife skills. And how many times I have said to him over the years, "Oh well, at least you love me." Because he has seen all the worst parts of me by now in the past seven years of marriage, and yet. He has shown me through his steadfast love that the love of Christ surpasses the worst thing I could ever do to the people who love and sacrifice for me the most.
Knowing and receiving the love of Christ makes me resilient.
I think resilience comes when we have "just kill me now" moments and realize we are still valued and valuable. We still belong at the table. We can still smile for the camera. And my goodness gracious, we can still make a heck of a guacamole.
And in fact, how could we not? Are these not gifts given to us to reflect the Best, capital B, Best Author, the author of our faith, Jesus Christ?
Bottom line, when we rejected our Savior, He died for us anyway. We all have failed in the most epic way possible. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We are all in the same boat. We all come to God naked, unrefined, withno hope of a second chance at the table.
But Jesus handled it. He died on the cross. He took the shame of the exposure with him, too. He took that shame, and it died when He did. Because for no reason I can understand, He says we belong with him.
That is it. We belong with God.
This a much deeper need than the needs to create, or to behold beauty, or to receive affirmation. We were created by Him, for Him. And we need to belong to Him who sees us fully, yet who loves us enough to take our sin upon Himself. And now, because of what Christ has done, He sees complete righteousness. Past. Present. And Future. Not only that, He gives us opportunities to grow closer to the vision of who He intended us to be.
And He uses all the elements of a good story to do it. And to my great humility, He uses storytellers like me to tell it.
But you bet, however I do it, I won't be telling it from the perspective of a dishwasher.
To start, I'm just going to sum up that for the Christ-follower, we are declared right and at the same time, He is changing us to be right.
So. We don't have to worry about getting it all right.
And, we can release others from the pressure to get it all right, too.
Especially as we invite others to the table, let's remind ourselves, we belong to Him.