Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Of Lights and Shining

August 2012 008-1Today was Luke's first day of kindergarten.  It's hard for me to even see those words typed out in front of me.  Kindergarten...Luke!  He was thrilled.  So was I!  I wish I could say I was a weepy mom waving my child off at the bus stop, but I was just thinking about how nice it was going to be to be down to two kids for the day.  But as I saw his little head peering out through the window at me as the bus drove away, he suddenly seemed so small and I couldn't help but feel like I had just thrown my kid into a swimming pool of piranhas and told him to get swimming, ready or not.  But he is ready and I know he'll do great.

Yesterday as I was walking Camden home from the bus stop, I asked him about his day.  His best friend was placed into another class and he had been having a little bit of anxiety about the prospect of facing the third grade without his BFF by his side.

"Did you make any new friends today?" I asked.

"Mmmmm... not really.  The kids were nice to me but I'm just not as friendly as (insert name).  He always knows how to make people laugh.  Mom, I really think I need to work on trying to be more popular."

Ugggh... the one thing no mom ever wants to hear.

August 2012 002-1But I remember those days so well and I remember so badly wanting to be liked by others.  I didn't have to be the top dog, I just wanted to be popular...ish.  I remember thinking that if I could just be more like my sister Patty, then so many of my problems would be solved.  She seemed to have an effortless gift for making people like her.  She knew what to say and when to say it with what seemed like a flawless combination of smart-alec wittiness and charm.  I would even sneak into her room and ferret off with a few of her shirts to sport to school in an attempt to at least look like her.

It wasn't until I got married and we moved away that I was able to find who I really am.  And who I am is different from Patty.  Make no mistake, Patty was and is still a phenomenal person.  If there was anyone I was looking up to during those many years, I'm glad it was her during those pivotal years.   But for so many years I always felt like I was trying to wear someone else's shoes that just didn't fit, leaving me feeling uncomfortable in my own skin.  It took me several years to realize how much I had placed myself in her shadow without even realizing it.

Several weeks ago in the Sunday school I was teaching, we read a scripture in Matthew and discussed it.   "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven."

After I got home from church, I kept thinking about our discussion and realized there's so much more I wish I would have said to them.  The kids I teach are 15 years old and if there is one age I remember with most clarity, it's the year I was 15.

I wish I would have told them that there will be times when your light will stand alone in a sea of darkness and you will be a beacon to others.  At times your light will serve to add to the glowing brilliance of those around you- you'll be part of the chorus, not the soloist.  There may be times when your light flickers and dances around unsure of itself as it struggles to find fuel to continue to burn.

IMG_1645-1And then I had a thought flash through the back of my mind.  It was the perpetual kid inside of me, still feeling some trepidation about holding up my light for others to see, thinking I'd rather just hunker down and hide mine behind someone else's light.  It was easier and felt safer.  Holding up a light can sometimes make you vulnerable- an easy target.  Some may scoff that your light isn't as brilliant as those who blaze around.  Others may be creatures of the night who at seeing your light will slink away into the shadows leaving you terribly alone.  Others trying to hold up lights of their own may claim you're stealing thunder, so to please go shine somewhere else.  That one can be the most painful of them all.  

There have been so many times when I've wanted to snuff out my light and hide in the shadows.  My flame doesn't seem to carry the graceful sway of so many others.  More often than not it's choppy, lack-luster, and awkward.  Instead of warming and illuminating, I sometimes feel like I'm sending bridges up in flames.  But then I realize that when I feel the most at peace is when I'm not being a diluted version of myself or rendering a poor attempt at being someone else.

So, Camden, remember that the best version of you is you.  Imitations and replicas are never as good as the original masterpiece.  There may be times when you don't want to be you anymore.  It may seem so much easier for you to be someone else.  But there's a darn good reason God made you the way he did.  He didn't short change you.  Quite the opposite, actually.  You are special and unique in more ways than you or I can even imagine.