As part of a school assignment, I and a couple classmates wrote and presented a newscast which was videotaped and shown to the class. I think I was the anchor (of course) and I remember being quite proud, if a little self-conscious, of my role. That is, until the video played. I imagine it was the first time I’d seen myself on tape; video cameras were expensive and my family didn’t own one until after I got out of college. What I saw of myself shocked me. I was awkward and my gestures and glances seemed forced, even fake (probably because they were and the camera doesn’t lie). I remember thinking, “Is that ME?”
I feel some of that dichotomy here in this space. I think I am one thing, or at least I strive to be; reality proves quite different. Just the other day someone asked me if I was still blogging. And I said no, without hesitation or any equivocation. My husband was with me and immediately reminded me of this new attempt here in this space which I had evidently either forgotten or felt so removed from that it doesn’t seem an actual thing I do. And, yeah, it seems to me my words are awkward and forced, my attempt to be a writer about as effective as my brief stint as news anchor. And yet here I am.
I’m reading a memoir, I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott. I’m not quite halfway through the book, but this collection of essays, which incidentally isn’t written from a gospel perspective, rings true in so many incidents of my own life that it feels like she’s telling my story, or a least some parts of it.
In describing her search for happiness and identity and realizing the blessings she’s enjoyed, Philpott writes
But being fortunate doesn’t mean you won’t reach a certain point in life–many points, actually–and panic. It doesn’t mean you don’t periodically wonder how you got where you are and if there’s any way to get out.
I get this. I feel this. I look at myself and my life and sometimes I am surprised at where I am and who I am. Though I don’t actually wonder how to “get out” so to speak, I do in fact wonder “Is that ME?” and “How in the world did I get here?”. I review my life and, like my elementary school self seeing the video version of herself, I am at times surprised. Maybe I panic just a little. Maybe I am sometimes sad.
It’s been a weird year, I texted a friend yesterday. The grief and loss and transition of this year all exacerbate that existential crisis I just described. It feels like I just woke up one day and all the kids were gone, the nest emptied. Of course it wasn’t that sudden, it just feels that way. For the longest time I knew exactly who I was: a mom. Yes, I am still a mom but that title no longer describes my day to day vocation. And I can’t even really remember what it was like when it did. Over lunch at our favorite Mexican food restaurant recently I asked two of my sons what our day to day life was like when they were all little and at home. Did I make everyone’s lunch at once? Did you all eat the same thing? Did we all sit down to lunch together? I can’t even remember the everyday moments that made up my life for so many years. It’s weird.
My friend texted me back: Yeah, it’s like I’m 51 and haven’t figured out my life yet! Lean on Jesus, friend. Yes and amen. How comforting to know I’m not alone. Not only does my friend–and, for that matter, Mary Laura Philpott–get me but Jesus is with me. Zack Eswine writes in his book Spurgeon’s Sorrows: “It is the presence of Jesus and not the absence of glee that designates the situation and provides our hope.” Jesus defines my life, my identity. He answers the question “Is that ME?” with a resounding “Yes. You are mine, all that you are, all that you were, all that you will be. I have saved you and I will save you. In grief, in joy, in loss, in gain, in stability, in transition, I am with you.”
I may be surprised by my life but the Lord is not. In His sovereign goodness, He has brought me here. Even in those moments I am prone to panic or to pity, I can trust Him. He is sufficient, He is near, He sees, He knows, He is my hope.