Recently I’ve had a goal of open dialogue with my children, engaging their hearts, hungry for honest answers. Children are unfiltered in the best sort of way, depending on what they are asked.
I like to ask what sorts of qualities make them unique, what they feel God is doing in our city, in our church, in their hearts. Otherwise it is all too easy to skate on through the day, doing life right at their side, hardly seeing them. How is that even possible? It baffles me. Being intentional is key, not just harboring good intention in my heart. [This chapter in my life entitled, “Things it Took me a Decade of Parenting to Figure Out.]
So, yesterday I asked my wise 10-year-old son, “What does the world need more of?” Without hesitation, he said, “Me!” I loved his unrehearsed answer so much. Even this morning it was percolating in my heart. I was challenged to say the same about myself, “the world needs more of ME!” Except I don’t often feel that way, at least not for now. I look in the mirror and see someone agonizingly in process, at war with perfection, on a trajectory towards wholeness. And, yet deep in my heart, I know my son’s answer is right. The world needs more of each of us, exactly as we are.
I remember a friend telling me that when I was honest about my process in a room full of people, it shifted something in the atmosphere that caused others to share. I was like, “Um . . . I don’t want that gift. That’s not a good gift.” Vulnerability is hard! Why is this my gift? However, as I’ve begun to embrace it, I’ve seen fruit in my life and others. So, here is what I want to say: I am worthy of love exactly as I am, and so are you. Whoever you are, wherever you are . . .you matter.
Recently I walked out of my house, which was an utter disaster after a full week of all five of my children having the throw-up bug, along with my husband and I. A coffee date with a friend was on the calendar for the morning. I stood in my kitchen and took in the full sink of dishes, the laundry pile that was mounting, the table stacked high with papers and I smiled with the thought, “I love myself.” Right smack dab in the middle of my mess. Why? Because I do. Because God does. Because this isn’t my stopping place, and because community matters more in the moment than a tidy house. I can’t afford to get my identity from performance (my productivity) when actually it comes from the fact that I’m a human and I have value. As I’ve begun to love myself in process, I don’t stay where I’m at. Instead, it causes me to bravely look at all areas of my life and acknowledge any shortcomings free of shame. Then I can actually grow.
This idea broke through to me as my daughter and I drew pictures together. Am I talented artist? Not by any respectable artist’s standards. But, I love to draw so I do it. My daughter erased her creation over and over and over until at last, it caught my eye. I started with, “Isn’t drawing fun?” She said, “No, it’s not. It’s very stressful for me.” Now, my daughter has more natural talent in her pinkie finger than I do in all of my body! She continued with, “Doesn’t it upset you?” I said, “No, it doesn’t because my goal isn’t perfection. My goal is to create something that only I can create. No one else in the world can draw this flower like I can.” I literally amazed myself at that moment because I realized how far I’d come. Now, my daughter considered my answer and continued to copy a photo meticulously. I kept happily scribbling away. I’m not downplaying excellence and perseverance because that is important to progress, but my point is, creative expression is not about perfection as much as giving the world what only you can create. Giving the world more of YOU. The challenge is often waiting until you’ve achieved perfection to do that, and it’s just not possible. Don’t wait for perfection. Produce and create something only YOU can.
Last week the kids and I read the story of Watt’s Tower. Have you heard it? An Italian Immigrant had a dream of creating “Something Big.” He worked six days a week and long hours at a tile factory and began to save scraps. Then, when he’d spot other items most considered trash, he’d take it home. Over time he mixed concrete to create sculptures from his trash, some towering to 90 feet! Most people considered him crazy, not able to speak clear English, treasuring junk. But, his towers made of trash became works of art, a local landmark moved into the city. Now, he is considered a genius. He called his work, “Something Big,” because that is what he always wanted to create. What if he would have seen himself as everyone else did? Poor immigrant. Babbling fool. Unimportant. I’m not sure how he saw himself, but regardless, he didn’t care. He still created.
So, I meditate on these stories of people who pressed on despite their process, people who had every excuse in the world to live a quiet life without expressing themselves. Not that everyone must have a Magnum Opus (shameless Charlotte’s Web reference), but the point is, you are the Magnum Opus. You are worth exploring the depths of your own heart and expressing it in some way, and this ability is intricately connected to your ability to love yourself. I think of the brilliant bumper sticker that never ceases to put a smile on my face, “The Earth without Art is just Eh.” And, art is not just paint-to-paper, it’s creative expression and each person on this planet is brimming with it. Why? Because the Creator is and you bear His image, His brilliant, fearless image. I love that when God created He looked at His creation and was like, “This is good.” Now, I realize He is perfection itself but I wouldn’t necessarily call everything he created my cup of tea (spiders? FREAKING, WHY???????). But, He liked it.
So, I give you permission to like what you create because it’s your own, to love yourself in the imperfection. The world needs more of you, Friend. It needs more of me, too. Show me what you got and I promise to love it because I love you, because you matter.