Summertime has to be my most favorite time of the year. Surprisingly, this Hawaiian didn't always welcome the warmth of the sun. As a young girl I was a much different person than I am today. I was painfully shy and self-conscious of my flaws: flaws that were easily covered during winter months. A year ago my husband snapped this goofy picture on the North Shore of Oahu. We had spent the day exploring the coast and happened to catch the most amazing sunset before having to board a plane home. Ironically, I lived nearly a decade on the islands never once able to truly enjoy the beauty that surrounded me. In many ways, I was living in hiding. I used to hope that I would be magically redesigned by Cinderella's fairy godmother. The truth is, living vulnerable, and not perfectly, has proved to be a better design to live by after all.
As a little girl, I was often on my own. At least, that's what it felt like. Have you ever returned to your childhood home and noticed how short the walk to school was? As a child, it seemed to be such a trek. Much the same, I believe a child's feelings can be amplified. Thankfully, I enjoyed a lot of time in the safety of my parents presence as a little girl. My dad and I were inseparable and I was beautiful in his eyes. As responsibilities piled on, my hero found himself consumed by the rat race of the Silicon Valley. In his absence I slowly retreated into a shell.
I soon found my body changing, and not for the better. In fifth grade, my teacher, Mrs. Murphy, called me out into the hall to discuss my embarrassing weight gain. Not too long after, my arms, legs and hips began to itch uncontrollably. I scratched and I scratched until one horrible day I discovered the beginning of a web of stretch marks that would claim my body forever. To make matters worse, I developed a severe case of acne that I wrestle with to this day.
As a latch-key kid, I dealt with these traumatic events on my own. The only natural solution that occurred to me was to hide. I always wore a sweatshirt, even in the dead of summer to hide my body. I begged my mom to let me wear makeup in an attempt to conceal my imperfections. Most importantly, I covered my legs at all times with long pants and long skirts. I never wore sleeveless tops. I deftly veiled my true motives under the disguise of religious modesty. My heart however, longed to be free from hiding.
I retreated from activities at school that I loved. Before my body began to change, I was addicted to the swimming pool. Knowing that I wasn't allowed to swim unsupervised, I'd sit by the edge of the pool waiting to hear my parent's car pulling into the driveway. That was my cue to dive in. As a teenager, I opted for home schooling knowing that I would be excused from mandatory swimming classes with my peers. The pool was no longer an enjoyable place to be. Isn't it amazing what extreme measures I took to hide even as a child?
In many ways, hiding was a lifestyle for my family. By the time my parents had me, they had been saved from reckless lifestyles. However, looking back I now realize that even after becoming believers, they continue a lifestyle of hiding. My father only had one arm and I am proud to say that he accomplished more with one arm than most men did with two. All the same, he struggled with an inferiority complex that drove him to mask his handicap with his ability. My mother, brilliantly creative and gifted in the arts, hid behind procrastination as most artists do. Of course, at church I was surrounded by a community of hiding beings that exhibited weight gain, workaholism, and gossiping to name a few. In all of our means to hide our inner hearts we effectively erect self-defeating signs to warn others: "Beware my heart can't be trusted. This is my property and my problem not yours."
Our proclivity to hide is indeed our greatest obstacle as human beings. Whether you believe in the Bible or not, the story of Adam and Eve mirrors our struggle to live vulnerably. They hid much like we hide. Sure we don't cover ourselves with fig leaves, however, we live in a world of hiding opportunities. Tragically, we are hiding from the very thing we crave: relationship. I challenge you to discover what you cover yourself with. Do you veil your insecurities with a false sense of pride? Do you bury your discontentment in chocolate? Do you hide your desires from your loved one? What signs are you sending your spouse, children, friends, and co-workers?
I wonder if my dad ever noticed the change in me? I am sure he must have on some level. I know it is often hard for him to read my stories now. He has the true heart of a father that breaks at my heartache. There are many women who have not had the blessing of knowing a father's unconditional love. You might be one of them. I must say, it wasn't supposed to be that way. My father, both physical and spiritual never once gave up on me. I didn't believe it then but I do now. No matter how hard I tried to hide myself, they both believed in the woman I was created be. I don't care how far removed you may feel from wholeness, purity, innocence or beauty. I dare you to reveal yourself, as you are right now.
As you do, be sure to find a friend that will lovingly help you to reveal your heart. In that aspect, my husband has been a source of healing for me. The moment I met him, I knew he accepted me as I was. I have learned that he loved me to much to let me stay where I was and who I was forever. Before our friendship, I never realized how many great adventures I had been hiding from. He's been a true friend, challenging me to not hide behind my flaws. Instead of passively letting me run away from intimate relationships, he's mirrored the heart of God, always leading me towards living without fear of anyone's opinion.
Upon our return from Hawaii, we were greeted with the typically brutal Texas heat. Today is no exception as the temperature is supposed to reach 104 degrees. In this climate, I have simply been unable to continue hiding. I wear shorts and tank tops now. Sure, I experience I brief panic at times to know my flaws are revealed. The trick is to keep moving. A couple of days ago, I even ventured out to a community swimming pool to meet a girlfriend. I still love being a girl and wearing makeup but my motives have changed. What a difference a motive can make. I urge you to search out your heart and find a friend who can help you to turn up the heat. Get uncomfortable with your hiding place. There is a beautiful world that is anxiously awaiting your return!