Reputation: It’s Not Just a Taylor Swift Song

(Isn’t that album so sad and depressing? She used to be a lot more fun to listen to.)

I think I have mentioned it here before, but I absolutely hate crying. And I know, because I have been told multiple times in the last 24 hours, that it is a good thing — that it is good for people near me to see what is really going on in my life and heart, that it is cleansing and healthy and nothing be to ashamed of and I smile and nod, but deep down (in that place that seriously I did not feel like showing the entire world, or even the 2 people that I ugly cried in front of for a solid 2.5 hours yesterday). In the infamous words of Quail the Second, which she will likely spend many years trying to live down — yeah, yeah, yeah.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve read the Psalms. Pillow wet with tears, rotten bones, tears in a bottle — all good things, and inspired by the Holy Spirit. I just think it is a lot easier to approve of open weeping when someone else is doing, and while I am at it, you know what David never mentions from his time in the cave? That there is not enough Excedrin in the world to counteract a really hearty and thorough crying jag. Yesterday’s headache was profound. Like, gee whilikers, Batman, I think my head is going to split like a gumball that rolled underneath the wheel of the Batmobile and I wonder if drinking copiously would help… No, Robin, you are underage. Or so I assume based on your high squeaky voice, and by the way, nice use of the word “copiously”. Your lessons with Alfred seem to be paying off.

But I digress.

I know it is supposed to be healthy. I know we are to bear one another’s burdens and theoretically, you give someone the opportunity to be tenderhearted as your brother or sister in Christ by opening thoroughly up to them and not keeping a reasonable or respectable face when actually, your heart is breaking. I’m told it is a good thing when you burn through Kleenex as if you were single-handedly trying to offset the green efforts of establishments like soulless Starbucks everywhere — deny me napkins and coffee cups sleeves to save the planet, will you? Ha! Watch me use an entire box of paper products in one sitting! Or better still, don’t watch and I’ll just tell you about it, ok?

Because I hate crying in front of people.

Now, on some level, I am exposing pride to you all (that would be a bigger hurdle for me if you didn’t already know all about my hysterectomy mishaps and feeble leg shaving abilities. I don’t have heaps of self respect left to grasp onto at this point), that I dislike having emotions displayed because perhaps they expose my weaknesses, my inability to handle my life well. And that’s probably true. But as I have contemplated (through the haze of the headache, so take all this for what it is worth), the real anxiety that rises to the top about why I hate crying in front of people has to do with being misunderstood, that old-and-so-last-week sin of caring about the opinion of man and being thought well of. In a word: reputation.

Once upon a time, in my youth, I was a people pleaser… of a certain variety. Truthfully, I never really understood people who would act differently than how they believed, or who would change their behavior to earn the approval of their peers; I was the sort of people pleaser who would do what I knew to be right either way, but just feel angsty about it and probably suffer a pain spike while I internalized all the rampant disapproval over my actions. I am not a stranger to conflict (I mean, you read the leggings post…), and having special needs kids has largely beaten the people pleasing out of me, because you cannot effectively advocate for another person and still be fussed about them not liking you or thinking you are a weenie. I figure it is part of why all medical professionals refer to you as “Mom” and never by your name when you have a sick kid — they need to distance themselves from you, as you are likely annoying as heck, and that distance actually frees you up to be the man-eating shark that you may need to be in a given situation.

But when I really fall apart, which obviously happens on occasion (lately, anytime someone asks me the really hard, penetrating questions, like — how are you?) I have to fight tooth and nail afterwards to not try and salvage my reputation as someone who doesn’t fly off the handle. I search my soul, and I do not find self pity, yet in that moment, while I was hosting my own personal Noah and the Flood reenactment, it was perfectly rational to exhort me not to give in to self pity. But it eats away at me that I could carry a burden faithfully, and give thanks through it, perhaps for months or years and that is not what shows during the breakdown. And I have no control over the character that is perceived by another person, whether it is true or not.

And as all of this is happening, I have been working on a short (very short… and I think the lady who invited me to speak is hoping for even shorter than what I am writing) talk that I am giving next week at a ladies’ tea, and have had my face pressed up against the glass of Mary’s story. Mary, whose reputation was outside of her control. Mary who obeyed and gave thanks, because the approval of God was worth more to her than the approval of man, His glory worth more than her own.

And she sang.

She sang God’s words back to Him as she stood on the brink of disgrace, of possible (we might even say probable) divorce, of being driven from one land to another, of being the baffled and overawed young mother of a King, of the King, of having her heart pierced, and I daresay not once, but over and over again. She sang in faith. God would handle her reputation. I have no proof — but I suspect she wept sometimes. Buckets. She sang in faith because she knew whom she had believed and that His word is trustworthy and His ways are good.

So. Am I?

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