I bought new pants a few months ago. I admit, I have a little crush on the purple pair. I’m pretty sure they are the first purple trousers I have owned since I was six, so I do feel a little Garanimalish when I wear them (I keep wanting to look for a shirt with a zebra or monkey tag to match) but it’s just fun to pretend I am a jitterbugging little grape when I dance into them in the morning. I can hear Clairee Belcher doing color commentary, asking me, “Such a vibrant purple. Kathie, would you call this color ‘grape’ or ‘aubergine’?”
The thing that surprises me, though, is what I keep forgetting about them.
All the new pants have three buttons and a zipper. No kidding; I almost have to plan an extra minute or two for trips to the little girls’ room. I haven’t really seen evidence that the overkill of zipper/buttons/Fort Knox at my waist makes them stay up any better, but I try to be committed to doing things thoroughly, so button-button-button-zip I go.
At least I think I go button-button-button-zip. For someone who has been wearing pants for many a year now, I am truly surprised at (and increasingly concerned by) the number of times I have missed one of those steps since my new pants purchase. It catches me unaware every time. Back to the meeting room in my office I go and as I smooth my shirt I realize the zipper is wild and free. As I step into a restroom in a Beijing train station I discover only two buttons are through their holes. And it’s not always the same button that is unharnessed. They take turns. After several months of “undone” surprises, I finally conceded that I need to look in the mirror before I depart the house or restroom. I am [pick one] old, inept, distracted, fumble-fingered, tactile-challenged, button-averted, zipper-zombied enough that I clearly need a visual cue to make sure I am fully dressed.
I sighed last week as I tried to absorb the reality that this isn’t much different than the rest of my life. I live a life and do a job that my brain thinks it knows well enough to handle from memory. It tells me that I can be on autopilot; just show up, type in a password, open the fridge, open your Bible, start the car, start a conversation, grab the groceries, grab the passport, whatever, and I think I should be good to go. The truth is, I need reminders constantly. And it isn’t just reminders about my next trip, what to pack for which country, to put the mail on hold, to pick up a prescription, to take my Leatherman off my keychain or my Fitbit off my supportive undergarment before I get to the airport (both those things can get you more attention from TSA screeners than you want, especially the tiny computer that tracks your physical activity but looks like something far more sinister and havoc-inducing attached to your underwire, apparently).
I need reminders about what matters to me. What my priorities are and who I want to be and how I want to live. I need prompts. I need aphorisms and calendars and friends and quiet and light and pain. I want to be smarter than all those things. I want to not need them. It may not be everyone’s prideful hangup, but it’s certainly mine. I think I should remember by rote that I want to be intentional about:
- what I put in my mouth because what I choose to eat will affect more than my passing emotions
- choosing to exercise not be thinner but to be healthier, happier, and in ready shape for activities I love
- managing the time I spend on social media because it influences my attitude and my heart
- starting my day with prayer instead of television news because one sustains me and the other drains me
- laying down my perfectionism to pick up thoroughness instead, which means a project (and maybe a blog post or two) can actually get completed and not just mulled and planned to death and non-existence
Potholes like these aren’t unique to my daily, monthly, yearly, lifely wanderings, but I want to be smarter than these bumps and dips in the road. I want to efficiently choose to not need reminders, to remember because I ought to remember and that’s that. Reminders seem weak, and I want to be smarter than weakness. I want to out-logic everything, including need and weakness.
I want to not need. It’s bizarre and ridiculous and hard and true. I fight against the very sweetest bit of God’s design: to need, so I will know the richness of relationship instead of the stifling of self-sufficiency. I thrive in sure love and trust when I am in transparent relationship with him, bringing my inadequacies into the light of who he is; yet, I strain and try my hardest to anticipate and address everything myself, not need. And without reminders, what I have so long labeled the crutch of inefficient thinking and performance, in a trice I find myself away from where I most want to be.
Without heart jolts and wake-ups and bread crumbs along the way, I stop remembering that it’s really about:
- not relying on human approval to be valued and treasured and accepted
- keeping close accounts with God because he delights in time with me, not because he is disappointed and I need to report in
- not fearing and dreading silence and solitude with him, because he truly meets me there in ways that undo and revive me
- breathing gratitude first, before I splutter my shatters and my brokens and my wants and my pleads, because the gratitude reshapes how the rest follows and it becomes beauty and surrender that rewrite me
- closing my eyes not in exasperation with who I still am, but in peace with who he still is, who has always loved me more than myself and is showing me what the second greatest commandment can do in my heart after years of my mowing right past it in frustration and misconstrued humility
- remembering that those who love me best speak truth and clarity and perspective into my life out of affection, not disdain for my shortcomings
Something in me responds as though it is failure in my character and faith when I need a reminder to live the way I desire. Like I haven’t been attentive enough, working hard enough, taking things seriously enough. I was somehow falling down on the job if any experience or word or music or sight moved my heart back to where I want it to be.
This girl needs to start getting giddy about jolts that waken me and prayers that speak to me and friends that email me and truth that grabs me and movies that move me and needs that needle me.
Those are really love letters in disguise.