Friday, June 24, 2011

Spilling Secrets in the Dark

For me, writing is like going on a sleepover.

I remember my first big sleepover when I was finally old enough to join in on a girls only youth group event.  I was one of the youngest, probably around 12, and both my parents and the leaders agreed that I could attend. 

The night was full of feminine squealing and giggling as we painted each other's nails and gave make-overs.  I wasn't yet allowed to wear make-up and was both shocked and pleasantly suprised to look in the mirror at myself with red lips, blue eye shadow, dramatic black eyelashes and rouged cheeks.  Someone had even crimped my hair and since it was the early '90's, my hair was BIG! 

"I look like a sixteen year-old" I gushed out, then felt slightly embarassed as I noticed the real sixteen year olds around me giggling, with their stylish clothes, spiral-permed hair and far more "shapely" figures.

Nonetheless, as the night wore on and we piled on the rec-room floor, eating junk food and watching a sappy, yet tasteful movie, I felt contentment at being part of the crowd.  I wasn't the coolest, or most popular.  But I was liked for my kind personality and my tendency to "suck-up" and earn the favor of the older kids and leaders.  (Not that I was pathetic, but I did care what people thought of me and I did my best to achieve their friendship.)

Sometime around midnight, the youth leaders, who must have been exhausted from all the crazy estrogen crammed into such a tight space, proclaimed "Lights Out".  Of course, as most of you probably know, this is merely the signal of what sleepovers are all about... giggling and spilling secrets late into the night! 

I parked my sleeping bag and pillow near to a friendly looking girl who was close to my age and we listened with rapt attention to the older girls talk about boys, school and their unfair parents.  After a few rounds of "Truth or Dare", which I hesitantly involved myself in, the girls began to drop off into gentle snores and the room became more calm and more quiet.  With only a few of us left awake, the tone of the conversation changed and became more heartfelt and serious.  I lay on my back, staring up at the dark ceiling, and found myself speaking more and more - opening up my heart to the few girls in the room about my feelings, my hopes and my fears.  I didn't feel like the "youngster" anymore - I was on the same level.  It didn't matter that my ears weren't pierced and that my body hadn't grown up yet.  What mattered was the quality and content of words expressed from my heart.

Under the cover of darkness, my eyes were taken off of the things that hold little bearing on my true self.  It is so easy to be caught up in appearances and to gauge your behavior on your surroundings or how you believe others perceive you.  Some seem to have the "gift of gab", and do not become distracted by their surroundings or audience as they speak.  (Thankfully, that is one of my husband's traits, which is an obvious asset to his role as "preacher".)  I've never felt completely comfortable talking in a crowd, or even one-on-one with a person whom I don't know very well.  I find myself stumbling over my words, with my thoughts all jumbled and missing pieces.  After I stop talking, I'm nearly out of breath and my heart is pounding, and then I remember all the important stuff that I meant to say, and didn't express properly!

So here I sit... typing.  The words flow freely out of my heart because I'm hidden from view and I am not mindful of the thoughts or opinions of others.  It's just me and my open heart.  I would be wrong to say that I feel completly alone in this process, though.  I feel a keen sense of God's presence as I write.  In a way, many of my postings are a form of prayer and connection to Him, as I unveil the failings and weaknesses that I experience in life.  What I find amazing is how we can talk to God, and not feel like He's pointing out all of our faults.  He already knows absolutely everything there is to know about us, and still He offers his love and acceptance.

I Samuel 16:7 is a verse I memorized many, many years ago and cling to:   

"For the Lord sees not as man sees, for man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart."

Thank goodness for this!  I can be honest and open, pouring out my heart because He knows that I will fail and fall, again and again - but He also knows that in my heart, I long to do better and to change.  He doesn't misinterpret my words or actions - He sees the true meaning behind everything.

Keeping in mind the idea of sleepovers and how it is much easier to become more vulnerable, I have a couple of thoughts to leave with you.  I've said it before, but I've found that some of the best conversations I have with my husband are in the dark, with the lights out.  If you're struggling to feel closer, or you find that there are issues that are hard to discuss, next time turn the lights off and see if you can become more honest and sincere.  Also, I've found that there is a beautiful sense of vulnerability that you can witness in your child if you are willing to snuggle on their bed, in the dark and talk to them before they go to sleep.  Even pre-teens (and I'm guessing teens) become more free with their feelings and thoughts because there isn't the same level of confrontation when you are in the hushed, calming atmosphere of darkness.  When you remove the distractions and turn off the outside world, a sense of openness and humility is bred, giving real connection and closeness.

Once again, I sit, in a quiet room... my feelings spilling out, like the secrets of little girls on a sleepover. 

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