I have frequently referred to the effects of my mother’s and grandmother’s favorite behavior control phrase which was, “What will people think?” As far as I could tell and as I recall now, Mom took that phrase to heart in her own life, but Granny was another story altogether. While she was obviously concerned with appearances she was a dedicated woman of propriety. In other words she was far less concerned with physical appearances than she was with behavior.
If we were observed engaging in less than absolutely normal, acceptable protestant behavior those words, “What will people think?” were the first words out of the mouths of both women. Being what I think was a normal child of the ‘40s and ‘50s I heard the phrase with consistent frequency.
Living in a world consumed with appearances, made the effects of that upbringing an integral part of my decision making processes for most of my life. It never occurred to me to make even the most modest effort to address the possibility of what life would be like, if every act was not predicated with that thought. And then change became mandatory. It became mandatory because there was no way I “Georgia” was going to be able to live anything resembling a normal life.
In “Dear Mom and Dad” I wrote about those experiences of leaving the house for the first few times and the sense that everyone in the world could see me and were laughing uncontrollably at the sight. It was horrible. On those occasions my heart nearly exploded from the flood of fear induced adrenaline. I managed to overcome the fears by sheer force of will power fueled by the burning desire to be “real.” The problem of fearing the opinions of others still existed. I just overcame the fear enough to have some life of my own.
As time passed, and I spent more and more time in the company of others like me, I began to see them as a mirror of me. Fear of being discovered was rampant. True, not everyone exhibited the fear, but those who didn’t were rare. The fear of what others thought was masked by statements like, my neighbors, my boss, my family “will never understand.” I hated that fear. It permeated every relationship, every act, it even marred the stolen moments of self-expression our gatherings were meant to facilitate.
I knew the fear and I knew its source, but try as I may to ignore it, stifle it, kill it, I couldn’t.
I don’t remember when or where I arrived at the notion that I was, in essence, disputing the way God created me, but that’s what finally occurred to me. I’ve heard some people call that kind of idea or awareness a come-to-Jesus moment; an Ahaa moment. Whatever you choose to call it, I got it, and eventually realized that it was that very idea that Isaiah was talking about when he wrote, “Does a jar ever say ‘The potter who made me is stupid’?”
Like most everything else Abba does, or at least has done in my life, He is the perfect father and he sneaks ideas into our heads in a way that makes us think the ideas are ours. Then He waits to see if we recognize the ideas as coming from Him and if so do we have the presence of mind to thank Him? It took a while but I finally did.
I still wasn’t “there” yet. There was still one element of understanding I didn’t have, and looking back now I wonder why I was so slow to reach that critical juncture in my life. Once again I can’t tell you when or how I finally realized what was missing, but when I did my life changed in ways I never would have dreamed of.
I had spent my entire life looking at myself through the prism of what I thought other people saw when they looked at me. It was a subconscious image of someone who had everything going for them but somehow still managed to fail at everything attempted. I put up a magnificent front for others to see, but deep down there was this nasty voice which repeatedly pointed out, that they really didn’t know me. They didn’t know how flawed I was and if they did they wouldn’t want to have anything to do with me.
It was one of those moments when I was wallowing in the fear of what others might think that it finally occurred to me … What does God think of me? Asking Him what He thought of me didn’t seem like the right approach. I guess that question as well as the solution was out of some sermon that I didn’t really hear, or some scripture I really didn’t absorb.
At last, I asked Abba to let me see myself, the person He created me to be, through His eyes.
Did I have an immediate vision of that person, that soul? Not hardly. One day I suddenly realized that I was really happy, and for the first time content with the way, and who, I am. Does that mean that I don’t give a whit about what people think about me anymore? No it doesn’t. I does mean however, that if I sense that they don’t like me or the way I am, it doesn’t affect the way I feel about me. You see, I do want people to like me. How else am I ever going to be able share the message that Abba has assigned to me, which is … if I can find peace and happiness at my age by accepting and seeing myself as Abba intended all along, anyone can. But first you have to ask the same question I did.
“Please Abba, Let me see myself, the person You created me to be through Your eyes.”