The other morning I bent down to retrieve my coffee grinder from one of the bottom cupboards in my kitchen, already thinking about how nice that first cup of coffee would taste. I have a lot of bottom cupboards in my kitchen and only one section of upper level cupboards, so I’ve had to store everything but my plates and glasses down below. I feel like it’s a pretty good trade-off, however, since most of my kitchen walls are taken up with windows, and I would almost always prefer to spend my kitchen time (cooking, baking, serving lots of food, washing dishes) enjoying the views outside (flowers, pets, hummingbirds, mountains) rather than looking at a bunch of cupboards, even if it would mean being able to reach my coffee grinder without bending over.
But I’m getting a bit sidetracked here…
Usually my main focus is on starting the coffee maker as quickly as possible, but on that recent morning as I leaned over to grab the grinder from the bottom shelf, my eye was drawn to this sliver of our backyard that was visible in the three inches of window that weren’t covered by the blind that I always pull down at night.
I was struck by the idyllic scene: perfect yard, gorgeous flowers, and the chair that I couldn’t quite see in the picture, but that would make a peaceful place for me to drink that first cup of coffee.
But that beautiful scene was just a sliver of the whole picture. After grinding my coffee beans, I raised the blind and this is what I saw:
The flowers were still pretty, but I also saw the dirty dish towels and fresh oregano that I had left drying on the porch railing. Laundry that one of the boys hadn’t brought in the day before still hung on the clothesline; the hose was stretched out across the grass instead of neatly coiled in its rack on the back wall; and if you look closely, you can probably see a few piles of dog poop that the other boy “forgot” to clean up the day before. Plus, you can practically see right into the neighbors’ apartments across the street in the big, ugly building that blocks our view of the Cordillera Negra.
I also knew that peacefully enjoying a cup of coffee outside wouldn’t really work, because the minute I opened the door, this menagerie would be begging me to share with them…
My sliver of a picture-perfect view out my kitchen window versus the true reality of my backyard made me think of the slivers of ourselves that we present to the rest of the world. Social media is “The Biggie,” of course, where we usually only post the prettiest photos or the funniest stories. But real life is also a place where we usually only show the best sliver. How many of us, for example, immediately answer “Fine” when someone asks us “How are you?”
From time to time we discover that someone else sees an incomplete sliver of our lives because of the lens they’re looking through. I remember a very awkward moment one time at a mission conference where several of us were sitting on tall stools on a stage in front of everyone else. I know that the person who introduced us meant to be complementary when he said “Our missionaries are our heroes,” and I’m pretty sure he added something to the effect of, “that’s why they’re on pedestals.” I felt embarrassed about the introduction, however, since I knew that Ade and I hadn’t done anything heroic and had no reason to be put on a pedestal. Ever since that awkward moment, I’ve tried to make it a point to show more than just the best slivers of my life.
Take this morning, for instance…
I made sure the boys were ready to go to church with Ade before I announced five minutes before leaving that I would be staying home. Otherwise the boys would have tried to stay home with me, too, and I wanted to be alone. Plus, we think it’s important for them to be in church. It’s important for me, too, but this morning I felt like I would have trouble keeping my thoughts in a gracious place when the off-tune worship music blasted through the speakers at rock-concert volume. And even though I understand Spanish perfectly, I knew that this morning my “English mind” would overrule and I wouldn’t hear a thing. While I’m being honest about how easy it is to tune out another language if I really don’t want to listen, I might as well also admit that I’ve been struggling to pay attention in our local church for several years now, as the messages tend to be fairly superficial with a good dose of guilt for not quite living up to God’s ideal thrown in at the end.
So I decided to stay home and tune in to the service at my home church in Ohio. Even though I wasn’t actually “going” to church, I put on an outfit that was slightly dressier than my typical jeans and sweater while the praise band was beginning their music on YouTube. But when I looked in the mirror, I was a bit alarmed; the person looking back at me just seemed SO…
Was it my choice of clothes that I had hoped would be one step up from jeans and a T-shirt? Or maybe a halo of gray was showing in my hair, which would actually be pretty close to completely white by now if I decided to let it go. Had I gotten a few new wrinkles on my face from not using enough sunscreen on our last few treks? Or was it…..
Then, hearkening to the guilt that we usually feel in our Sunday sermons, I had to ask myself why it was such a bad thing to LOOK middle-aged when I decidedly AM middle-aged! (When I celebrated my 50th birthday last year, Luis said to me, “Congratulations, Mom. You’ve lived half your life!”) But my idea of looking middle-aged is more like this…
… than this…
Since there wasn’t much that I could do about how I looked at the moment, I tuned in to the online church service. Listening to in-tune music and an excellent sermon by Pastor Scott (and all of it in English!) did a lot to shift my focus from the sliver of cultural exhaustion and the middle-aged slump that I had slid into this morning.
In the solitude of our upstairs school room God spoke to me. He reminded me that He does not see only the slivers of beauty that we present to the outside world. He sees it all… the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful.
But not only does He see all of these slivers of me, He KNOWS every part of me, too.
He knew that I would see that reflection in the mirror this morning and not really like what I saw.
He knew that I would need to be honest about what was in my heart and not really like what I found.
He knew that I needed a morning of English worship (and being alone) to put my heart back in the right place.
And he promises that one day all of these slivers will come together into something that is perfect!
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:12
NOTE: The picture above is my favorite current picture of our family. I do think that I look decidedly middle-aged (and those are the same pants that I hated today!), but this picture brings me happy memories and JOY, and at the end of my odyssey of today, I can say that I'm very thankful to be at this stage of life.
4 thoughts on “Slivers”
Thanks, Rach! From one imperfect middle -aged mom to another, this encouraged me!
I love you, Beck! And you’re doing a great job as a mom… the perfect mom for all 9 of your kids!
Thank you for sharing so honestly. I love seeing pictures of your treks and hearing the stories of God’s work. Our God is a gracious and kind God to work through such imperfect vessels to accomplish His work and to bring glory to Himself. He has been speaking to me through Zephaniah 3:17. The ESV translation makes the verse very personal. Have a great day!
I love this verse in ESV, Linda, and as I was looking for a new verse to highlight on an August prayer bulletin that I prepare for our colleagues, this one is perfect! Thanks for sharing, and have a wonderful day.