For the Ones in Hiding


tasha burgoyne -for the ones in hiding-3

I remember how the fear would thicken at night. After “lights out” I would lie still, wondering if tonight was the night I wouldn’t be afraid. Seconds later I would be under my sheets, the heat of my breath warming my face. I longed for cool air on my cheeks. I longed to be free of my fear of the dark.

My parents told me “there’s nothing to be afraid of” every night, but every night, no matter how I clung to their words, I couldn’t muster up enough belief to keep my blankets below my head. The shame of my lack of belief and my non-existent courage became the shadow of my fear, another layer of heat and hiddenness over me.

My fears didn’t stay in the dark. Later, it was a playground full of kids, and even later, a room full of mingling adults. My own feelings of awkwardness kept me from running out into the crowd to take up space and join in. My own anxiety taunted me with an invitation to play tag or introduce myself and engage in small talk.

So, I hid. I tried to summon the awkward feelings away. “Just be yourself,” they all say, “There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

What I didn’t know then, but wish someone would’ve told me, is that it wasn’t just me. What I am still learning is that we are all afraid. What I’ve heard is that we’ve all been told to take cover so that we don’t have to feel weight of our own awkwardness and misfit mistakes.

There’s no measure of mustering that will ever be enough to make me more than what I am. We learn and we grow, but we cannot escape the truth that we are imperfect vessels. We come and become cracked and miss-shaped in a world that tells us to shape up and cover everything odd and awkward. We do everything we can to take cover and in doing so we teach our children to do the same.

But, what if those very things, our cracks and blemishes, our process through being carried onto completion, are what makes room for someone else to see they are welcomed home and no longer alone?

The fear is no longer thick for me at night. And instead of continuing to tell my kids the same line I was told, that “there’s nothing to be afraid of,” I’ve started telling them that I used to be afraid at night too, and that sometimes I am still very afraid of things. Instead of trying to teach them how to keep from feeling awkward or strange, I’ve been telling them that I feel that way, and that likely, many others around them do too, but that all of us are none-the-less amazing because of it.

I am almost forty and when I was young, I thought being as old as this would mean being done with awkwardness and fear. I thought it would mean being a strong vessel whose cracks were filled and whose base had become balanced. Instead, I am learning that it’s my fear that gives space for perfect love to come in and flow freely back out. Those cracks in my sides make way for courage to come uncovered.

I am learning that my own awkwardness is hospitality. It’s the very misfit parts of me that have the power to welcome the strangest of strangers home again.

So, this is for the ones who are still in hiding. You are not alone. You are loved. We need you to come uncovered.

I want to tell you that your deepest fears can be the place where courage grows into a tree of hope for the most fearful of souls.

I want to tell you that your awkwardness is an open door, bringing the loneliest of lonely over a threshold into community.

What if we believed Paul when he told us that we are fragile vessels and that it’s that very fragility that we all have in common. It’s the very thing that ushers in the undeniable, irreplaceable work of God: the treasure we were made to hold and behold in one another. It’s the cracks in our story that allow the light to shine in and back out for a world that’s so afraid of the dark.

We are the clay vessels that are meant to take up space for the sake of how deeply we are loved and able to love others, not because we’ve conquered the fear and moved beyond being awkward, but because that’s the sweet spot where power of Love meets us and moves us beyond what anyone thought we could be.