While the rest of the world has been falling apart, I’ve been growing personalities. It’s a full blown case of the three menopausal faces of Eve. Woman number one is sweet and cuddly because she’s just come off a session of spontaneous combustion and is shivering from the evaporating sweat, number two cold heartedly cuts off my bewildered husband’s affectionate embrace screaming, “you’re so hot!” (he used to like it when I said that) and number three has no idea what the hellOkitty is happening here. The southern saying “she’s a hot mess” has become my reality as I self-incinerate all day and all flipping night long. I don’t really wake up in the morning, I just give up trying to sleep through the insanity.
I remember a friend years ago entertaining us with stories of how her aunt would suddenly leap from a dining table full of guests and begin stripping off her clothes as she raced out of the room to take a freezing cold shower, leaving a string of clothing down the hallway like a romance movie. I was laughing my estrogen saturated head off when my husband turned to me with that starry eyed bedroom look and asked, “how much longer till you go into menopause?” I tried to explain that sudden bouts of panicked stripping aren’t near as sexy as they sound. He didn’t believe me then. I think the poor guy gets it now. Yesterday on our road trip personality Two snapped at him for cranking the heat up in the car, when in actuality One was the guilty party (she had just warmed up from the last evaporation cycle). There wasn’t time to cool the car back down, so Two was forced to roll down all the windows and rip her shirt off while hanging out the window like a dog in order to breathe. The truckers were entertained and Three was mortified until the cooling cycle was over and One could redress and start the scene all over again. Four hundred and forty miles, a full length feature of temperature torture. If there happened to be more car accidents between Roanoke and Nashville yesterday, please keep the secret. I didn’t mean any harm. And for all the curious truckers, yes, they are real.
“Growing old is not for sissies”; I find that to be true of physical aging and character maturation alike. In my Christian formation and discipleship Masters program we are currently reading Dallas Willard and Richard Foster and listening to Professor Chris Hall. This week was about the journey of self-deception to self-awareness and maturity, using Peter as an example. Jesus lovingly walked Peter through several humbling public lessons (sinking in the water, rebuking Jesus, denying Jesus). I am ever grateful for His patience and kindness as I stumble and fall forward in my journey to follow Him. We journaled about things people have told us about ourselves that we didn’t like (but were true) and looked at how we responded to that truth and correction. I processed a painful conversation with my sister that took place some time ago. I was going to keep her identity anonymous, but decided it’s important to note this came from a sibling. Our siblings know us like no one else on earth (and they can call us out on our crap like no one else can).
It was a phone conversation where she unleashed and entire adulthood of grievances against me. It was shocking, painful and humiliating. I immediately wanted to defend myself and retaliate. It would only take a few minutes to create a similar list against her and discredit all her criticism. I’m ashamed to admit I’m a master at judgement and rationalization. But I felt the Holy Spirit invite me to take everything she dumped on me and carefully sort it. He also helped me understand that the emotion and anger came from pain, and her pain came from the fact she loved me and wanted me to love her. The unfair and wrong judgement of my intentions and heart could be forgiven and quietly set aside, but the truth of her experience was to be honored and held. I can choose to see someone else’s side, I don’t have to agree and they don’t have to be “right” for me to understand and validate their experience and feelings. I’m not even sure that is maturity- it might just be plain love.
Then the hard part. The ugly truth about me. I’ve received plenty of criticism from people before, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually swallowed the pill. I usually held it under my tongue till no one was looking and spit it out. Often spitting with great indignation. This time I swallowed, knowing it would nourish me if I fought the temptation to vomit it back up. I’m still digesting parts of it. But here’s the amazing thing- it didn’t kill me! It didn’t even make me sick! In fact, it was good medicine for my pride and blindness. Taking (fair) criticism to heart is one of the best ways to see our blind spots (besides listening to Holy Spirit, but he does not get in our face and force the discussion quite like people do!). I don’t want to be like some my pediatric patients who had to be held down and cheeks pinched in order to get a dose of medicine swallowed (I washed a lot of spewed medicine off my face before I mastered this maneuver.) I’m not looking forward to future doses of this stuff, but I know it’s necessary if I want to mature and be more like Jesus.
Oh my goodness, here comes another heat wave…………..