I’m a rut girl when it comes to exercise, which means that I walk the exact same route at the same pace every morning. And many mornings, I see my neighbor – who is quite old – sitting on her front porch with a cup of coffee. Some mornings she is completely unresponsive to my waves and greetings and although I’m not sure why, I suspect she has some form of dementia. It’s not the kind of thing I would want to ask her on a good day, so I haven’t. I just wave and greet her and accept the days when she gives me a blank stare. This morning, however, she was all there and her response to my greeting was the most refreshingly honest thing I’d heard all day (granted, it was early).
“Good morning!” I shouted to her.
“Well good morning!” She replied.
“How are you today?”
And in the happiest sing-song voice she said, “I’m completely, terribly messed up. How are you?”
And there it was. The blessed truth about every single one of us summed up by my sweet neighbor from the comfort of her front porch over a cup of hot java.
A church friend of mine pointed out that our trite, chanted greeting of “How are you?” is almost never met with an honest reply. She finds it an offensive greeting and seethes inside when someone asks her this as they hurriedly swoosh by. “Like they really want to know,” my friend says through clenched teeth. But like the rest of us, she usually gives the proper reply of, “Fine. How are you?” It’s just easier, she says, because no one wants to know how we really are. And most of the time, church is the place where we would be most likely to give the trite chanted reply because it’s the last place we would confess our messiness.
But I would like to join my neighbor on the porch and confess that on most days, I’m completely, terribly messed up. Here’s proof: I just finished writing my column for Mia magazine about how to simplify relationships, specifically with our children. I dashed off over 700 words about how far I’ve come as a parent and how I have learned that we miss the blessings in parenting when we are busy trying to control how our children turn out. In other words, enjoy your children more and bark at them less. Be more amused and less annoyed. And then, I stood up from my computer and barked at my daughter for something ridiculous. She tried to diffuse the moment with some humor, and I was not amused.
I give myself grace about these things, but they do confirm the truth that when I act as if I’ve got it all together, it’s a big facade. My word for 2012 is Descend, which is supposed to remind me throughout the year to be humble and comfortable with my own imperfections. It also helps me give grace to others around me who are imperfect. Somehow, this makes it easier to accept grace from God and take a deep breath. I don’t have to pretend that I’m better than you, or her, or him. Or that I’m moving toward some sanctimonious place where God will finally be pleased with me. Nope. I’m happy to sit on the front porch with my neighbor and give an honest reply to your greeting:
I’m completely, terribly messed-up. And how are you?