Wednesday, August 6, 2008

How I know you...

For me a piece of writing is sometimes a crazy juxtaposition of different occurrences, conversations and various directions my own thoughts have taken. It’s fascinating sometimes to see how they all come together in a cohesive and, hopefully for you who read them, a coherent thought. Lately it’s been all about relationships.

I was at a funeral today for my girlfriend’s father. It took me a while to find her because, when I did, I hardly recognized her; she looked great in her high heels and sharp outfit. (Now how do you write that as a compliment without it also seeming like an insult for how she looks the rest of the time…?) :)

She looked stunning, and she truly is but how I know her as stunning is not in her choice of outfits but in how she is as a person – in how she gives of herself, how she loves her children, how she’s a selfless friend. I know her with dirt on her hands as she’s trying to help my poor attempts along at a flower garden. I know her under stacks of library books we’re talking about for the kids to read. And most dearly, I know her in tears – both hers and mine as often one’s filled eyes are all it takes for the other person’s to fill as well. And this is the woman that I know – not the snazzy one everyone saw today, but the one I’ve seen from life, that day-in and day-out kind of everyday, year-after-year, life.

We all have those impressive moments when we just shine, perhaps in appearance or accomplishment or in a very public place with accolades. Don’t you love that? When it all works together and we look so very impressive? Everyone sees us then, everyone can appreciate our talent or beauty or accomplishment.

But there are also times when we’re not quite as stunning. Who is it that you let see you in those times?

We have hundreds of relationships spanning all the years of our lives, and they are all unique to that person. Some are very specific around a shared interest, some are that of colleagues, some are just for a season because of proximity, some broad, some thin, some new, some old, and then there are those that are deep.

How precious a gift it is both to be allowed to see and to allow ourselves to be seen when life is not so great and we’re not looking so sharp; when there’s more failure than success, more perspiration than inspiration, more sorrow than joy, more hurt than happiness.

It’s the essence of an apt play on words I once heard, the word “intimacy” means “into me see.” How much of me can I let you see? And if I do let you “see into me”, will I be glad or sorry that I did? Will I feel that you have understood me or that you have merely compared me to how I should be or how I appear to be to everyone else?

And this kind of intimacy is built over time and with risk. It’s in that give and take and little layers of vulnerability exposed to see if someone can be trusted. Will a conversation with them be kept as a confidence? Is the expenditure of their time on my behalf willing or begrudging? Do they respond to my heart and not necessarily my words? And most of all are they true to me if I reveal that sometimes I'm just a little less polished than when I'm in my “Sunday best”?

And when there is someone with whom you need not censure your words or thoughts, one who can see you with dirty hands or furrowed brow and when this person grants you that same intimacy…the value of that is incalculable and not able to be expressed by mere words.

For can there be any greater treasure than to be trusted with the heart of another; or to have one in whose hands you may place your own heart and know that it is safe?

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