When I reflect on my life, I’ve done a lot of pretty brave things over the years. I’ve told my real story, the raw and shameful and so-hard-to-say-out-loud parts, to a bunch of people. I delivered five babies without drugs (including 6 1/2 pound twins. Yeah, that hurt!) I partnered with friends to plant and pastor a weird and wild incarnational faith community that’s still plugging along after nine years. I write online and in print and let me just say, that’s not for the faint-hearted. It’s incredibly vulnerable to put your thoughts and your guts and your heart out there for the world to see, critique, and judge.
But a few weeks ago I have something new to add to the list that I wasn’t expecting. Or planning. Or actually wanting to be part of my story, to be perfectly honest.
It’s not about a new exciting endeavor I dove into or a next goal for our faith community or some God-told-me-to-and-now-I’m-doing-it moment. Those would actually sound a little better, a little bigger, a little more “important.”
No, the brave thing I did that took grit and courage and guts and nerve and resolve and spunk and tenacity (and went against everything in my heart that screamed no! no! no!) was this:
I embraced pictures of myself in a bathing suit on Facebook, cellulite and all.
A friend of mine who is learning to be a professional photographer came out to the lake with us on our boat and had some fun snapping pictures of everyone who wakeboarded and surfed that day. When I was surfing, I wasn’t thinking about pictures on the internet. I was just thinking about how much fun I was having, what it feels like to catch a wave, the joy of being in the water, the freedom I feel when I am behind the boat. It truly is my happy place.
But, the next day, when I logged on to Facebook and opened up my feed, my heart started beating fast.
Like really fast.
Oh. My. God.
There I am, white thighs flapping in the wind for all to see. And not just a few shots, but a bunch of them.
I felt so exposed.
And then I got really, really mad about my feelings, which were so familiar, so strong, so destructive. Why do I expect myself to be perfect? I’m 48 years old with 5 kids, and my legs are supposed to be toned and tanned, without a single flaw? Why is the first thing I see everything that’s wrong with my body, instead of notice that I’m actually out there having a great time doing what I love to do? How can I have done this much personal work over the years and still sometimes feel like crying when I look at myself? What the $@#@$#! is wrong with our culture that we have created so much shame about ourselves in this area?
As I started scrolling through the pictures, everything inside of me screamed, “Delete them, delete them, delete them! Hide, hide, hide!”
But I felt this deeper thing rise up from a core part of my soul, the kinder, gentler, wiser part that I’m trying to listen to more than the crazy voices in my head. And here’s what I heard: “Don’t hide. Let it be. It’s just you. There’s something in here you need to learn. It’s time.”
So I didn’t delete them.
I took a deep, deep, deep breath and let them be.
I’ll admit, I didn’t share them, I didn’t “like” them. (Yes, I have my limits on guts here, only so much I can do in one day).
But I let them be.
I didn’t take them down.
They are still on my Facebook page for all my friends to see.
And every time I think about it now, it makes me smile.
Then gulp a little. Yikes, it’s hard to leave them there.
And that makes me smile again.
Because I know for me that part of my story is learning to just be me. To not hide. To let who I really am out. To not try to pretend. To be free. Just as I am. Not who I think I should be. Not who I think the world tells me I should be.
This is not easy work to do.
So many might say, “What’s the big deal about this? There are far more important issues in the world to be talking about like poverty and racism and equality and justice, and you’re writing about thighs on the internet? Come on, get over yourself.”
Yeah, I hear you. And you’re right, on one level.
But on another level, I will just say that real life is real life. And there are a helluva lot of us out here—women and men alike—who are trying to figure out a way to embrace our bodies just like they are and find a way toward greater freedom.
Plus, the guts we find in one area helps us find guts in another.
Your story of grit and guts and courage may not be related to letting your thighs go public on Facebook, but my guess is that there’s probably an area in your life that needs to be set free.
Where hiding isn’t bringing life. Where shame is trying to starve out what’s trying to emerge. Where dreams are scary to say out loud. Where letting ourselves be who we really are is uncharted territory. Where we need to listen to that deeper voice, the wild and beautiful beckon of the Spirit that says, “Don’t hide. Let it be. It’s just you. There’s something in here you need to learn. It’s time.”
Image credit: Kamla Miller