Thursday is garbage day. Early in the morning we wheel clean receptacles and recycle bins just outside the garage door. Neat and tidy. Nothing unsightly.
Unless you lift the lid.
So much like me.
Neat and tidy. Matching clothes. Matching socks. Dusted. Vacuumed. Laundry done. Counters clean.
But don’t lift the lid.
Or you’ll see my ragged need for validation. My rotting desire to be enough. Clean enough. Strong enough. Thin enough. Smart enough. Wise enough.
Growing up, I was short and skinny and shy. My hands and feet sweated. I matured late, took a lot of meds and drink a can of pear nectar in class every morning, embarrassing my friends so much they finally wrote me a letter listing, “30 Reasons We No Longer Want to be Your Friend.”
Even though I was a cheerleader. Even though I got good grades. Because they said I didn’t earn it, didn’t deserve them, that it was all just because I was a teacher’s kid.
Then along came Confirmation Class. Eighteen months of independent study. I drank in every word. Wrote and studied and met with Pastor Gerber, and decided to go on to school for a theology degree.
Instead I graduated high school, switched colleges, married and divorced before I was 23, and worked to pay off a mountain of debt.
Four years later, I’d remarried and had a son. We lived in a little Cape Cod on a quiet street in a small town. On the outside life looked good.
Until you lifted the lid.
And discovered an anger that scared me. I could be out of control in minutes, and began to understand how someone can cross the line and abuse a child they love. I was afraid of hurting my son and equally afraid of confiding in my husband.
But God began to speak.
In McDonalds. On an ordinary day.
I’d walked in, ordered lunch, took my son by the hand and sat at a booth in the back. Three minutes later, my son had flung a French fry, torn up two napkins and scattered the pieces, climbed across the table, grabbed my iced tea and plunged his hand in deep, reaching for the lemon slice, tea erupting across the table, the floor, me.
I shoved my half-eaten burger in my purse, mopped up the booth and the floor with a dozen white napkins, hoisted my squirming son onto my hip, turned to leave and stopped mid-stride.
For there in the next booth sat a mom with four small children, sitting, talking, eating, smiling. And before I realized what I was doing, I’d crouched beside her and poured out my heart.
Her words sank deep. I knew about Jesus. But I didn’t know Jesus. My garbage cans were clean and tidy on the outside, but messy, rotten, and stinking on the inside.
I was not enough. But I was never meant to be.
Because He is.
Knowing Jesus isn’t about measuring up, cleaning up, being enough, but about drinking deep, leaning hard, letting go.
For only when He lives and breathes inside of me am I clean.
Inside and out.
*I’m deeply grateful to Michelle DeRusha for the opportunity to share my own spiritual misfit story. Her memoir, Spiritual Misfit, is raw and deep, authentic, and laugh-out-loud funny. I was hooked by page two and devoured it straight through page 219, sad to see it end. It will engage you, encourage you, amuse you, and leave you wanting more. More of the One who calls her name, your name, my name, the One who opens wide His arms to gather each and every one of His beloved misfits in. This post first appeared at Michelle’s place on May 16, 2014.