Imagine a large wall painted with a picture of two rooms. I am standing next to it looking down its surface as though it were one side of a long corridor. The room closest to me looks like Picasso’s Guernica minus the animals. That represents my life with my mom, dad and sister. The further one is dark and slightly out of focus as though viewed through a foggy, distorted window pane. Vague shadows emerge and melt back into the murky gloom. That represents life with my granny, grandpa, dad and sister. I am plastered to those two scenes face forward and spread eagle with my torso, left arm and leg glued to the Picasso and my right arm and leg glued to the darkness. When I try to pull away my body resembles a sling shot and the adhesive stretches with me like gum stuck to the bottom of a shoe. It is impossible to remove myself.
I carried this image with me when I drove to my friend’s house for prayer. As we fell into discussion I also shared with her my quandary over blue vs. orange, yellow and green. Our Lord gave her an interpretation consisting of sharp contrast between darkness and life; my family of origin was the darkness and the bright flowered wallpaper in my teenage closet was the life for which I always yearned. Her discernment rang in my spirit like a bell. My young life was so frightening and hopeless that I had created an image of what I perceived would be a place of happiness, a place radically different from my current existence…and I hid it in the closet of my soul. There I could be everything my parents weren’t: outgoing, fun loving, popular (preferably famous), rich, entertaining, energetic, productive and care free. Pursuing and accomplishing that representation of perfection became my life’s goal. The alternative threatened to envelop me like a yawning black hole in outer space. I had to try to escape.
There was and is one problem. My genetics. Susan Cain, in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, cites studies by Jerome Kagan from which he concluded that approximately 50% of our makeup is based on heredity (nature) and 50% of it is based on our experience (nurture). This information confirmed what I already suspected; I was running from who I was created to be. I am wired to be a strong introvert: a person who thrives on quiet and going deep with a few people, a homebody who can sometimes be intensely thoughtful and serious but still enjoys life and has quirky sense of humor, someone who likes working carefully to produce quality results and therefore may never be prolific in achievements. The list of similarities to my parents goes on.
I continue to find myself drawn to a life of “bright colors”. Within the past few months I have brought home two different quilt sets each printed with red, orange and yellow flowers. When I spread them out on our bed, my husband and I were overwhelmed by their vibrant busy pattern. After the second purchase, I asked myself why? Why did I repeat the same mistake? The colorful closet of my past converged with the lively bedspreads of my present and an “aha” moment came. Part of me is still trying to be that for which I had longed. Yet when the fantasy world of my youth jarringly collides with present reality, I am startled by the realization I am not comfortable with the old imagined persona. Trying to put it on feels like attempting to squeeze into clothes that are too small or pound the proverbial square peg into a round hole. Pleasantly surprised, I realize I am beginning to feel comfortable in my own skin.
And God is rejoicing because of it. I am His work of art. “Oh yes, You shaped me first inside, then out; You formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank You, High God – You’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration – what a creation! You know me inside and out, You know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something.” (Psalm 139:13-15, The Message) Also, through two interesting books on introversion, The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D and the one I mentioned earlier, I am learning to appreciate the many positive aspects of the temperament I have been given. Yet doubt still niggles; a nagging fear still pierces my heart. Somehow I remain clinging to that family wall and stuck in my teenage blue bedroom.
I yield to my God for His power and ability; He will help me separate and turn away so I can further embrace the life He intends for me.