Candles, good china, perfume. Where in the world am I going with this? I have always been a collector. Just ask my husband about baskets, lots and lots of baskets...Some things I collect just because I like them. I have quite a few rolling pins. An Italian ravioli rolling pin, a cobalt blue glass one and a beautiful marble one. I love to cook and those are an extension of that love. But all the candles, the bottles of perfume? That comes more from feeling like I will never get any more of them or the thought that some day I might really need them. I have quite a few drawers full of candles. Why? I think it comes down to fear. Fear of lack, fear of squandering resources. Fear of truly trusting God with all that I have?
The older I get, the more time in self-examination I spend. Some good, some bad, but if I am attempting to live a Christ-like life, it will all turn me towards Him. I've been thinking of relationships a lot lately. I've come to the conclusion that I am not very good at them. There are times that I feel lonely and alone and friendless and then have to assume that that is my own fault. I have a hard time letting people in.
Just like the holding on to things, I hold onto my emotions, my feelings, my love too maybe? I think of relatives who lived through the depression. Who really went through times of lack and real times of fear. There is a scarcity mentality that they live with. Using a tea bag three times so that the box will last longer. Taking short, cool showers to save water and power. Or going to extremes and hoarding. Saving things that have no true value to anyone else, but makes sense to the person hoarding. Plastic bags, rubber bands, balls of foil. What starts as a fear becomes a sickness and often ends up driving their loved ones away.
The word stingy comes to mind for me. I know that does not describe me in every way. I do try to give to others. When I see someone in need I will attempt to help fill that need. We have given cars to people. Food and resources. Money when it's needed. We open our home once a week for bible study and that takes time and preparation. That kind of giving comes easier for me. But giving myself, opening up to others; that is much harder. In reading up on what some call emotional stinginess it is often traced back to childhood. Many resources say it has to do with fear of control. Others say it is because of lack of trust or fear of intimacy. I think for me it may have to do with all three of those issues. Being a child of alcoholics is difficult. Having parents that were emotionally absent is painful. Being alone a lot of your childhood has affects. Having been molested and not being able to tell your parents is devastating. And having grown up in a non-Christian home teaches you that you have no one to turn to. So I turned to drinking and drugs and bad relationships to fill all those swiss cheese holes in my heart and soul.
It took meeting my husband and being introduced to the Lord through him to begin any healing that I have had. Accepting Jesus not just as Saviour, but as Lord made some big inroads into bringing peace into my life. But again, taking time for self-examination shows me that I may have not made as much progress as I thought. It is painful to look at yourself and see where you fall short. But it is a mirror that I believe God allows us to look into, not for our harm and our shame, but to bring us true healing and to cause us to grow. I am going to be 55 in less than a month and I am tired. I am tired of me. I truly want to be more like Him. Loving others, loving myself enough to be able to give others more of myself.
I look at my husband and see this extrovert and how he loves being around people and spending time with them. That is so not me. It is often almost painful for me to have to be in a group of people. It takes a lot out of me and often by Friday I am so ready for a quiet weekend and time alone. That is part of my makeup, how God made me, but He also made me to be like Him and that means loving others, being vulnerable and being open. That is foreign to me. I remember as a child after being put to bed, wanting a drink of water, or for my dad to come in the room. I would say to myself, just call out, "Dad". I couldn't do it. I would then say, ok, count to ten and then call him. I was afraid I would bother him, or make him angry or that he just wouldn't hear me. I kept needing a drink of water bottled up. So how easy will it be for me to open up and let others see deep inside?
I have one friend that I have known for about twenty years. I am just starting to be able to open up to her. It is not only like taking your clothes off in public, but peeling your skin off too. Letting it all hang out. She is kind. Taking baby steps with me. Last year she told me that she was hurt that I had always tried to be there for her and others, but never let her do the same for me. That hurt, but it brought freedom also. I apologized and have tried to let her in more. A few days ago we were talking and I said how I feel like an outsider, not fitting in, not having friends. She said that a few years ago someone had said to her that they did not want to get to know me because they thought that I thought I was too good for others, that I was so put together that I came off as being better than others. Oh, my; I didn't at the time she said that, but it made me cry. I have spent so much of my life feeling like I don't fit in. That I don't belong, that I am not wanted. That I am unattractive and unworthy and unneeded. I do my hair and makeup just so. I try to dress like I have some sense of style. I suppose I put on a mask. A mask that looks acceptable and put together, but a mask that I guess makes others not want to get to know me. What I thought would make others accept me pushed them farther away. A mask that hides our true selves from others, that doesn't let them see in also doesn't let us see out very well. Any type of mask will limit our range of vision.
I doubt I will change how I look, but I want to change how others see me. I want to take off the mask and let others see not just Gail, but see the Lord. I want others to see not fear, but love. I have been afraid pretty much my whole life. Afraid of rejection, afraid of being hurt, afraid of being used. Afraid that in reaching out I will get slapped down. But, duh, all of those things have already happened...so how much worse can it get? I hope it's not like praying and asking God for patience...
Ok, so slipping the mask off. I am insecure, I am a bit socially awkward. I am afraid of reaching out, afraid of asking for help. I am self-conscious, I am not comfortable in crowds. I feel that I am being judged and that I come up short. I fear that I will let others down and that I will be ashamed and embarrassed. I don't trust a lot of people.
I do trust God. I trust that He loves me. I trust that He has chosen me as His daughter. I trust in His word and in His plan for me. And I trust that He wants me to be better than I am, and that even if it hurts, if I trust Him, He will get me there. I trust that He does not want me to live in a scarcity mentality. Whether it is a fear of lack of things, resources, provision or love. I trust that He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and can and will provide. I trust that He has a deep, enduring and never-ending well of love for me. And I trust that He has put people around me who will help me to realize that I, as John Donne so eloquently put it am not an island and need others in my life. To love me, to comfort me, to encourage me, to chastise me.
So to those friends and family and people I may have just interacted with, I apologize. I never meant to hurt you. Never meant to let my own lack cause you to feel less than. Never intended to let my stinginess make you feel unloved, unwanted. And that I will do my best to change that, with the Lord's help. Please be patient with me on this journey, I am sure I will stumble along the way, but I am on the way. Hopefully I am on His way.
I am going to open us those drawers full of candles, literally and figuratively. Candles in a drawer don't make light. People in a mask don't show His light. Here is to opening the drawer, here is to taking off the mask. Light that candle and let it shine. Show your face and let His light shine. And like a moth to the flame, see what it draws to you.