I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.
“I’m not so sure about that part,” she says. “Maybe you shouldn’t share about the BiPolar. You know how people can be.”
Yes, I do know. I’ve seen and heard it all. I’ve felt it, too. I’ve felt the sting of careless words and thoughtless assumptions; assumptions gained by sensationalized screen performances.
“It’s part of me, part of who I am,” I tell her. “What do I do? Hide it?”
“Well, no.” she says. “But maybe just not put it out there so openly. I mean, you don’t really need to include it in your bio; do you?”
Truth be told, when I hit the “publish” button I panicked. My heart stopped and my lungs emptied. I thought, “My God, what have I done?” I panicked at the thought of my whole Self exposed by a single mouse click. Well, not my whole whole Self, but a big part. Besides, I could click “delete” just as easy.
But, I didn’t.
What I really panicked over was the list of sins still kept inside, the whole entirety of my whole Self, the Self I kept boxed in the dark, tucked-up tight as my lips.
And I felt like a fraud.
I eased my conscience by explaining to her that I’d rather be upfront than confronted. And besides, I repeated, it’s part of me. I shared with her my need (somewhere way deep down, or maybe not my own need at all, but God’s) to be honest, to be real. To be just as bare and raw and real as I felt Him lead.
I told her
How it hurt looking for something, someone that wasn’t there. How that so utter alone-ness made everything worse. Made me worse. How alone became isolation became bitterness.
And I asked her
How could I voice frustration with the safety of neat and clean if I wasn’t willing to jump first into the muck and mire?
And I asked
How could I complain about ribbons and roses if I didn’t show my own stains and scars?
Surely I wasn’t the only one searching. Was I?
“I suppose you’re right,” she says, her trepidation and unease seeping from the screen.
She was only looking out for me, I know. She wanted to shelter me, protect me. This I know, too.
But, I left the bio.
* * * * *
For my ninth Christmas there was nothing I wanted more than the newest Hot Wheels electric race track. The boy down the block had one and man, was it cool. Unlike the dolls and Barbies and Nancy Drew books I’d accumulated for each birthday and Christmas before, boys toys were just so much more… alive. They moved and made noise. It was all in the action. I didn’t have to imagine so hard. With the push of a button things happened, things I didn’t have to think too hard on. Things I didn’t have to conjure scenarios I had no idea about.
I also wanted the newest, most gigantic set of Lego’s. Playing with these did take some imagination, but they didn’t require any make-believe families. Besides, if one didn’t like the creation, one could simply take them apart and start all over, build some new architecture.
I didn’t care if I didn’t receive any other presents for the next ten years. I just wanted these two things, and I wanted them badly.
The tree went up, the lights went on, boxes built up underneath. Small boxes. Light weight boxes. Shirts and socks and underwear boxes. Two days before Christmas I got worried. And I went snooping.
I’d never snooped before, but ours was a small house with not many hiding places. In five minutes I had located the loot: two big boxes tucked behind Grandpa’s side of the closet. There they were, the track and the blocks both and I smiled so big. I smiled so big I was afraid my sin would be discovered so I did my best to continue my curiosity in the open.
Christmas eve I went to bed all excited and anticipating ten times greater than any Christmas before, any kid before. The next morning I was up and at the tree in one fell swoop. Just as I’d deduced, there were shirts and socks and underwear. And my new track and blocks.
And I deflated faster and fuller than any unfulfilled wish.
It wasn’t that I’d changed my mind about what I wanted most.
It was the thrill of surprise never realized.
It was the pretending to be surprised.
It was the burden bearing of deceit.
* * * * *
A few years earlier I broke my arm.
Swinging and double-dutch and giggling with the girls began to bore me, so I tagged along with the boys, played kickball and swung from the monkey bars. That year the boys discovered that the monkey bars were set too close to the ball shed, that if they heaved themselves hard enough, they could land right on top of that shed, and from there to the roof of the bus garage.
And I wanted to go, too. I lined right up.
One boy heaved and landed. The second boy. The third. Then it was my turn.
I didn’t make it.
Instead I hung from the lip of the roof by my fingertips, the sand laden tar ripping my skin. About the time I yelped those boys took off across the roof and shimmied down the other side. The last thing I saw before hitting the ground was their wide eyes looking back at me from over their shoulder.
When the dust settled, all that was left was me and a mouthful of sandbox and a broken arm.
I was afraid to say a word, afraid of getting in trouble, getting those boys in trouble, so I kept quiet. Two hours later I’m moaning so loudly Teacher noticed and I was sent to the nurse. When she asks me what happened, I tell her I got tripped-up in the double-dutch ropes and I hung my head.
I hung my head that night while Grandma and Grandpa fussed over me. I hung my head the next day when Teacher fussed over me. I hung my head over that for years.
I hung my head because holding up a lie weighs a body down.
We aren’t built for such burdens.
When I was fifteen I finally confessed the truth to Grandpa. (Grandma had already gone home by then.) He laughed at the silliness of it all as I cried at the relief of it all.
I swore right then and there I’d never bear that burden again.
But, I did.
* * * * *
I meet a woman for the first time the other day, and as women do, we make small talk, feel each other out, determine maybe we’re cut from similar cloth and begin to open up. We share thoughts, histories and stories, mostly about God and faith and walking this walk. I realize she’s freshly in to this, that she’s where I was not too long ago. Her questions were my questions, her confusion mine, doubts, too. She asks questions I also asked and in the beat of my heart I’m taken aback. I pause at the position I’m suddenly and newly in, the place filled by others for me. I pause at this new uncertainty of being the one to answer questions, the one to fill this place.
Then I feel, “Go on, Girl. Carefully. Tread lightly.”
A few days later I’m scanning my Facebook feed and find my new friend there. She’s shared pictures of her life, her weekend, her night out.
I think back to not so very long ago when my heart was pulled one direction, but my feet walked another. I think back to the conflict and confusion and I want to tell her, want to share what I’ve learned, want to save her from all that distress.
But I hear it again, “Tread lightly, Girl.”
And I’m pointed down to my own feet still damp and dirty, caked in mud; my own feet, still prone to walk a wider road.
I’ve got an online conference call planned, so I hunt down my headset. I haven’t used it since… well, since then. I’m not sure I still have it. I threw so much of the old life away, boxed it up, or just plain pushed it back, back into the history of Me. Back in the dark. I start digging around and soon I find it.
The very sight of it reminds me, brings that history right out of the dark box and into the light of this day. It revolts me and I drop it as if it’s scorched my palm, left black char behind.
But the call approaches so I shake my head, steady my gut, tell myself, “That was then. This is now”. I slip the set over my head and I’m right back there, right back to that time and I hear my friend asking again, “Are you sure you want to share that?”
* * * * *
Yes. Yes, I do.
I want to share who I was.
I want to tell you all about who I was, what I did.
I want you to know that I’ve spent time online with men; that eventually I met those men for the sole purpose of one night of pleasure. I want you to know that I’ve smoked pot and snorted speed and drank anything I could get my hands on. I want you to know I’ve committed adultery and shattered a home and left my sons. I’ve ended a life. I want you to know I’ve cheated and lied and broken promises. I want you to know it all.
He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
It’s not a matter of confession. No. God’s got that.
It’s a matter of perspective. Exposure. It’s a matter of illumination.
It’s a matter of bringing out of the darkness and in to the Light.
It’s a matter of showing you clearly just who I was.
So you know you’re not the only one.
So you know you’re not alone.
It’s a matter of sitting down beside you, muddy feet planted right next to muddy feet, so I can tell you all about His great Mercy, His saving Grace.
So I can tell you
He is so much bigger
than all your yesterdays,
so much brighter
than all your darkness,
so much more
than anything you’ve ever done,
anyone you’ve ever been.
Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
So I can show you
That was then.
This is now.
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.