Image by Cindy Lever from Pixabay

This spring, I got an itch for change, and I cut my hair. Sixteen inches of curls laying on the floor. I instantly felt so much lighter. And as I went about my life, it was a big enough change that I didn’t recognize my own reflection. I walked by the microwave in the kitchen or a window on the street and did a double take to see myself clearly. And then I realized that this was also happening inside myself.

I was away from home three times this spring for speaking and training. The trips included some powerful encounters – with new people who cared for me in ways I didn’t know I needed, with learning and insights that have challenged me to grow, and with the God who invites me into life to see more clearly. It has been exciting – and simultaneously uncomfortable.

Books have traveled with me on these trips. One of the characters in Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers, counsels a younger person considering space travel as a way to resolve restlessness and yearning, saying, “Our species doesn’t operate by reality. It operates by stories.” The line caught my breath in my chest, and my eyes filled with tears, blurring my vision.

Life has been changing me, more slowly and subtly than my reflection changed with such a dramatic shift in my hair. But in the same way that I have caught sight of myself and not recognized my reflection, the stories I have I have been operating by have also been shifting. It is unsettling to realize that the stories I live by are not serving me well. That parts of them no longer feel true, and to not yet have a fully formed narrative to make sense of the person I am becoming in this season.

For nearly two decades, I have been living into a deep belief that truth is something we are always discovering more deeply, rather than something we can ever fully possess. I am held in a faith that is grounded in questions and growth, rather than certainty and stability. But I am still surprised (more often that I want to admit) when my eyes deceive me, and I get seduced by a story full of half-truths.

Over and over again in wisdom texts and parables, the Creator whispers that we have been given eyes to see. And then implores us to use them to see clearly. It’s so very easy to see what we want to see and what we have always seen.

As I have been making new connections, I have been drowning under an old and familiar story that I do not belong. I have been feeling lonely and disconnected. The old story is crumbling, but I have been holding to it because it has been a comfortable place to avoid seeing myself clearly. Many things can be simultaneously true. I can feel lonely and be loved. I can be intense and vulnerable. Life can be painful and difficult – and beautiful and simple, all at once.

It is only possible to avoid seeing myself clearly for so long. Eventually, my eyes work to reconcile the external data with the internal perceptions. And for me, the editing of the story hurts. That’s why I work so hard to avoid it. I usually need help, from friends and family, and then from a therapist, spiritual director, and/or support group. It takes time, and new experiences, to find a new narrative that better serves me and draws me closer to deeper truth.

Maybe the hardest part of all of this is the slow death of my perfectionism. Each revision to my stories is a deeper admission of my imperfection. It is a relief to see more clearly that I am loved as I am. At the same time, so hard to let go of my habit of trying to earn love with performance. I am learning to see myself clearly – and with compassion. Gentleness does not come easily to me. And still it comes. I love the way that aging can soften me. Like laugh lines and gray hairs, seeing more clearly expands my heart with compassion – for myself and for others. May we keep aching to see.

Subscribe To Barefoot & Preaching

Join Leah Perrault's mailing list to receive the latest column from 'Barefoot & Preaching', right to your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!