Her question interrupted a perfect evening with the face-slap of reality:
“Why do you talk funny?”
The blow nearly knocked me over, right there on the cold pavement of a downtown sidewalk.
I blinked, stunned.
She didn’t mean to offend, of course. She was only four years old. And four-year-old girls are incapable of offense. Simply, she asked a question, based on undeniable, un-disguisable facts. I didn’t speak like her parents or neighbors or friends. I did, indeed, talk funny. And she wanted to know why.
I felt exposed. And I couldn’t give her an answer. Because any honest reply would’ve been too full of pain for an innocent four-year-old girl. She will learn soon enough about life’s injustices. But not today.
And so I tried to laugh it off, even while my glued-together identity started to give way on cement sidewalk.
“Well, uh … I talk funny because I, uh … I’m unique.”
I forced a chuckle and ruffled her hair. “Unique” packaged my deformity in far prettier paper, even though I didn’t buy it. She seemed satisfied, and soon she resumed walking down the street in the opposite direction, along with her parents. I have no doubt she forgot all about the funny-talking woman on the sidewalk.
But here I am more than a year later, and I can’t help but remember. Her question exposed a harsh reality, one I wasn’t ready to accept:
I’m different. Flawed. And there’s nothing I can do to change it.
This is my daily struggle. And my daily choice. Forced to live the rest of my days in a broken reality, I must choose how I’ll experience it. Either I can spend my life trying to hide. OR I can choose to face it head-on and discover new ground to stand on.
The kind of sidewalk cement that doesn’t give way when the world has its say.
This is easier to write about than it is to live, as you already know. The world is quite skilled at assaulting us with countless messages—overt and covert—about how to measure our worth.
Too often we listen, we buy in. And we frantically try to do what is demanded of us. But in all our efforts toward self-improvement, all our tireless striving for more, I wonder if we’ve forgotten:
You see, Jesus came in poverty so we could be rich.
Jesus endured rejection, so we’d be received.
Jesus experienced loneliness, so we could know love.
Jesus died with absolutely nothing, so we could have everything.
Jesus became broken, less-than, unwanted, and unloved …
… so we could have wholeness, fullness, purpose, and love.
In a world that taunts and teases with aspirations of glory, Jesus tells us the way to the top isn’t to climb, but to bend low. To concede brokenness. To admit need. To relinquish our efforts in order to receive His. In other words, He already became nothing so we could have everything. We have no need to climb.
So the next time you’re tempted to hide or strive, take a few moments to remember a few beautiful truths about the incomparable gift of the imperfect you:
- Your Imperfection Adds to our World of Wonder. Every day creation lights up in full color. Sunrises and sunsets. Flowers and birds, mountains and seas. Did you know that the Earth has approximately 950,000 species of insects alone?! Talk about variety. And my children marvel at them very single summer. Why? Because they’re interesting, unusual, one of a kind. And wonder comes as a result of their discovery. Let’s stopping wishing we looked like everyone else, and instead embrace our unique contribution to this glorious world of wonder.
- Your Imperfection Creates Opportunities For Connection. Think about person you most enjoy spending time with. The one you’d call in a heartbeat if child gets sick, your marriage starts to fail or your house catches on fire. It isn’t the woman who looked perfect in her workout clothes or the man who came home with the biggest paycheck. It’s the friend who knows how to be real, honest, and doesn’t mind rolling up her sleeves to get her hands dirty in your messy life. Stop trying to look like and behave like a magazine spread. Instead, be flesh and blood. Be walking, breathing human who isn’t afraid of a little dirt. Especially her own.
- Your Imperfection Is the Impetus to Glory. If asked what character qualities we most admire in others, you and I would probably make similar lists: Courage. Strength. Integrity. Faith. Perseverance. Humility. But here’s the reality: Those qualities don’t come by way of ease. You can’t put on humility like mascara or courage like a custom-tailored suit. Instead, it comes from fire and failure, struggle and pain. It takes tension and opposition for faith to grow. Your ongoing struggle? Nothing more than a ripe opportunity for God’s glorious work in you.
It’s been nearly two years since an innocent four-year-old asked me a tough question. There are still days when I’m tempted to shrink from the world, knowing what I lack. Even so, I now know how to answer her question.
Why do you talk funny? she asked.
I talk funny because I’m an imperfect, one-of-a-kind woman loved by a perfect, One and Only God. I’ve been chosen not because of my efforts but because of His.
And, somehow, that’s more than enough.
It’s enough for you, too.
[reminder]What is ONE WAY you can start to see yourself—broken as you are—as a gift? [/reminder]