Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Is That Really Me?

Have you ever seen a recent photo of yourself and thought "Is that really me?" That photo looks nothing like me! 

Time really has a way of messing with our minds, and our sense of identity. Whether we feel younger or older than our actual age, or whether it seems our "insides" and "outsides" just don't match, sooner or later we all have to make sense of the difference between how we see ourselves and how we must seem to others.

There's no way to see all the marks of time and experience on each person's soul. Who is she now? Who has she been? Who did she want to be when she was four years old? 

Strangely, it seems that our identities are both "ever-changing" and "ever-constant" at the same time. When I think of my life over the years, I can see a thousand ways I've changed. And at the same time,  I'm exactly the same person I was when I started.

As I sit and try to unravel this mystery of  "me," I can't help but think of tree rings. Each one represents another year in a tree's life. The tree looks different on the outside, but on the inside, it's all still there -- the same inner core that was there at five years, 10 years, 50 years, and so on.

All we have to do is see someone we haven't talked to in years and suddenly we're able tap into the memories, feelings and sense of identity we had back when we were in high school, without losing track of who we are today or where we've been all along the way.

But even though we remain inside the very first, best and lastest versions of ourselves, we still have to work with the present "bark" of our being, which is the hard outer shell that everyone else sees. And that's rough. Time and experiences leave their marks.

As we meet new people and get to know them, we slowly share who we are, layer by layer. But even then, everything is filtered through the present, like tapping maple trees to drain the sweet syrup from the inside. You have to start from the outside to get there, and  what you're able to draw out is but a fraction of the whole. The same is true of our personalities. We're never able to share with anyone all of our layers in quite the same way we understand them within ourselves.

Perhaps that's why people have such a deep need for other people, and for God. The inside of our souls is always trying to shine through all the many outer layers. And this part is so essential and pure within us. It's the part of us that believed in Santa Claus, hoped for the impossible, and believed happy endings really do happen. But, depending on the storms we've weathered over the years, this part of our being isn't always as easy to reach as we'd like. Some things are just too painful to recall. Or maybe we just can't see past our own or someone else's outer "bark" to appreciate what lies beneath.

But when we lose this part of ourselves, we become like hollow trees that are easily destroyed in the next big storm.Without that first seedling of self that is capable of faith, hope, trust and great love, we've already begun to die inside, just like a hollow tree.

In my experience, that's just what happens when we become so hard and doubtful on the outside that we can't accept the light of God who knows each one of us inside and out -- layer by layer. Just like the sun and the rain that give life to the trees, God and the people around us help to preserve that core of who we are so we don't become hollow and weak.  

With others, we share ourselves through conversation and common experiences. With God, it is prayer that allows us to express the whole of our being without even uttering a word. He knew us before we were ever formed in the womb, and knew our names. And He is the only other being in existence who knows the whole story of our lives -- each and every layer.

How I hope and pray that each and everyone who reads this blog gets to know Him and is able to preserve the best of yourself and share it with others.

No comments:

Post a Comment