My mama tells me often that she admires me.
That she admires my boldness, my guts, my willingness to say whatever is on my mind.
You know who you are, Audra. You’ve always known who you are.
And tonight, here I sit. Writing those words, thinking of all the times I’ve heard her say them, or something to their effect. And in this moment, curled up on top of my bed, they feel so simultaneously hilarious and devastating. Because what did I do? What kind of lies have I told, what kind of masks have I spent my entire life wearing, to make the woman who has known me for 100% of my life believe something so absolutely ridiculous about me?
Who I am feels like an onion, truth be told. Layer by layer, one thing after another keeps getting peeled off. Sometimes, the peeling is interesting and exciting and adventuresome. Sometimes the ripping of the fibers just hurts like hell, usually depending on what I find beneath the edges of any given layer.
I haven’t known who I was since I left home when I was twenty years old. Which is laughable, since I know myself far better today than I did back then. Better to say that I haven’t lived under the impression that I know who I am since I was twenty years old. Eight years and a lifetime ago, my world was shaded entirely in black and white; I had all these thoughts, clear ones. Thoughts of who I would be and what I wanted, what I believed, how God worked, what the world was.
Eight years and a lifetime ago, God started slowly tearing all those thoughts away, pulling them back and exposing something a little more real, a little more true. Eight years and a lifetime ago, I started having fewer answers and a whole lot more questions. Eight years and a lifetime ago, I started being remade.
Eight years and a lifetime later, here I am. And I have absolutely no idea who “I” is. All I know is that the further I chase Jesus into life, the more the layers come off. And the more layers come off, the harder it gets sometimes. Lately, the fibers give way at the tug of divine hands and underneath is the gritty, dirty mess of more pride than I want to admit to. Pride that demands my own way. Pride that demands I be seen. Pride that demands that my gifts be used for MY glory, not just His. Pride that demands that others take a backseat while I ride up front. It is a disaster in here some days, or maybe most. And some days, more often than not, a part of me longs to just cover it all back up and go back to being that girl. Go back to being that girl my mama’s talking about when she says that I have always known who I am.
And then, yesterday, I get this text message, and he’s spent part of his day writing. He asks me, and I can hear his voice in my mind. He asks me if ever, when I’m writing, I look back at what I’ve written and think, “Do I really believe this??” And I laugh out loud in a public place, a laugh that’s coming from a place of stunned gratefulness that somehow, that man I married gets me. Even when he doesn’t know it or mean to. He gets me.
And I tell him, with confidence I feel to my core, “ALL THE TIME.” I tell him in my all-caps voice, because he deserves to know he’s not alone in all the ways he doesn’t know who he is. In all the moments when he looks at his life and the words coming out of his mouth and out of his pen and suddenly wonders who he is and what he believes and whether anything he’s doing or saying is true.
He deserves to know he’s not the only one trying–and failing often–and trying again–and failing some more–to live an authentic story.
Maybe that’s the one thing I actually do know about who I am. Maybe that’s the one of the parts that will remain after the stripping away of all the layers, the peeling back of flesh and neuroses and selfishness and gritty, dirty, frail humanity.
I really do long to live an authentic story.