Did you ever meet someone and feel an instant ….something? Maybe you’d call it chemistry. Maybe fate or God’s plan or karma. Whatever you call it, all you know is, there is that heart pumping, gut-stirring, wordless feeling that alerts you to pay attention. This is something or someONE, that you need to take in. Digest. And KNOW. This sort of unexplainable connection can leave you dizzy due to the sheer bliss it brings. It can also come and go faster then you can get your balance if you choose to shush your heart, quiet your gut, and follow the “outside of you“ standards we all seem to fall prey to now and then.
I once met someone like that. We were introduced, we shared a glorious adventure, and then we parted ways. The memory of our first meeting came up recently when I had a man, a very nice man, say something to me that brought the memory flooding back in fast forward. He, not thinking anything of it, told me he didn’t think there was an aggressive bone in my body. That I was too sweet.
What did he not know was that at that moment, I wanted to punch him in his teeth.
I thought about my brief, yet powerful, exchange with this “nice” man for days after. It obviously hit a nerve. One that apparently has been pulsing and waiting to pounce. As I questioned why, I remembered one possible reason.
As a little catholic school kid, I played every CYO sport that was offered. I was on the basketball, volleyball, and softball teams. However, if I am honest, the one and only reason I was even wearing that CYO uniform and on that court/field was because my friends were. I flat out refused to be left out. I joined to hang out and that is all. I never really loved it. I spent the majority of my time on any court or field praying, with earnest, that the ball stayed the hell away from me.
Please God, if you love me, please o please keep the ball over “there”. Or allow me to fall and sprain an ankle, have the skies open up and lightening strike or have the other team all be slammed with a virus and begin puking simultaneously….something. Anything. OR, if you think that is just too much to ask, by all means, shine your light down. Let the angles sing and give me the chutzpa to be someone else. Make me wow them. Help me want to want the ball. Or something. Whatever. Yeah. Nevermind. Just keep it away. That makes more sense. I defiantly DO NOT want the ball.
Although I was not what anyone would call a natural at any sport, I like to believe, that with different circumstances or different lessons learned, I could have been. Maybe I could have run faster, thought quicker on my feet, reached higher, and even been more “aggressive”. I had it in me. I knew this. But I choose to stay small instead.
There was a particular game, early on in my sports career, that sticks out. I was about 9 or 10 years old and it was an away basketball game. I don’t recall the events leading up to this game. I am guessing they were pretty average being that they don’t stick out. I can safely assume I drove to the game with my parents and two younger sisters. I probably was looking forward to seeing my friends, possibly bickering with my sister in the car, and most likely having my mom put my hair in some sort of pony-tail. Or something like that. All normal and average. Yet this game was about to be anything but average for me. I don’t remember who, what, when or why. Yet I remember how it felt.
An answered prayer maybe? Or maybe the parent volunteer coach laid down one hell of an inspirational speech before that whistle blew. Maybe I just got sick and tired of the waiting in fear on the sidelines, always feeling like I was falling just short of myself. All I know is once I was put in the game, I actually entered the game for the first time. Ever.
It was as simple as making up my mind. I just plain ole decided to like it. I was going to love the game and love that ball. All of it. I was IN IT. I showed up. Simple as that. I didn’t even think about the outcome. The score was a non-issue. I just played my heart out.
I remember it feeling way out of my comfort zone but also very coolly powerful. I was kind of awed by myself and I was totally digging the momentum. The more I entered in, the further I wanted to go. I was on fire. When I stole the first ball from the opposing 4th grade CYO playing little girl, nobody was more shocked than me. Was that me? How the hell did I do that? Those cheers, they were because I did something good? No way! …..And here is the kicker, it was almost, dare I say, easy?! Well, not easy so much as simple. Basically I became clear that all it really took was…..doing it.
It was as if I was introduced to a part of me that I hadn’t yet met. This awesome, full of zest, life loving, go for it, part of me. It was an instant connection. I fell for this part of me. I fell hard. I knew, without a doubt, that we were made for one another. And all I kept thinking was, Where have you been hiding all my life?!
I was on a roll. I became a fire-cracker in motion. That ball? It was my new best friend. I wanted it. I ran and reached and grabbed and held it close. I claimed it.
Sure I was a little sloppy. There was a decent amount of pent up energy finding its way to the surface and it was practically tripping over itself as it stumbled it’s way out of my limbs. I may have bumped into a few girls. I may have jumped the gun and grabbed that gorgeous ball before the whistle blew. I may have been a little over zealous. I will admit that. But if it was anything at all, it was fun. Honestly, it was a full on blast. I was giddy with this new life force. I had passion and zest and chutzpa and go get it-ness flowing freely and oh so beautifully throughout all of me and it felt freaking fabulous. I was digging this new part of me, big time.
After the game I was walking to the car with my family feeling the jazzed vibes still tingling from my toes all the way up when I was slapped with a massive dose of the dreaded and killer of all things holy, “Who do you think you are?”.
A father of one of the other players from my very own team, let his opinion and comments fly just as freely as my chutzpa had been. His words were, “Wow, Rebecca. That was pretty aggressive. (Insert the facial expression of someone who just said witnessed something creepy or gross) Better remember honey, this is basketball NOT football.” (Followed by a very clear and patronizing eye roll and an ugly judgmental fake giggle)
That was all it took. Just like that, me and my firecracker self…. we broke up.
I mean, let’s face it. This relationship was so brand new. It was still a whirlwind romance at best. As fun as it may have been it was still undeniably awkward and unfamiliar. We didn’t have any groundwork laid. We were hanging by a thread. It only took one bumbling asshole adult to pull the magic carpet out from underneath my sweet little girl feet.
Staring out the window on that car ride home I basically told my little firecracker self that although she was amazing, it was over. That it was not her, it was me. That she’d be better laying low for awhile. Basically, don’t call me, I’ll call you. I let her believe it was just timing. Someday, someplace, we’d be magic together.
I spent years denying she even existed. Believing I lost the right to have her in my life. I allowed the opinions of that father, and the world outside of me, squash the very essence of who I was made to be. I did this so well, I believed it.
I am not claiming that this one particular jerk single handedly took away my fire-cracker self. Like I said, I did the breaking up. It was a choice. As a young girl I looked to the world outside of me to find what she so willingly ready to offer. I got lost. I grew up to believe aggressive, or just simply assertive girls were scary, intimidating, unpredictable and all sorts of other things that, basically, I decided were plain ole unattractive. I opted for the lay low, under the radar, in my own lane, stick to what I know, look pretty, talk quietly, smile through the pain, sweet, and agreeable.
My firecracker self loved me anyway. Time and time again she was the one pulling for me when, left on my own, I would have thrown in the towel. No matter how much I have pushed her down, pushed her away, and pushed her to breaking…..she still simply showed up. Again. And again. Maybe quietly, maybe discreetly, maybe sideways…but she has always had my back. She is where I found my strength. I know I am strong. I walked through some serious life. I stood when I could have crumbled. I kept going when giving up was the easier softer way. I survived and even laughed along the way. So maybe I did this all quietly, taking what I was given, making the best of it and in a “looking sweet while doing” it sort of way but I DID IT and I AM HERE. I was never alone.
I don’t think I am alone now. I think there are women, just like me, all over the stinkin’ place with pulsing nerves of fire, ready to light up the sky. We have been taking care of, staying in our own lane, smiling through some way too heavy to carry stuff, and trying to look fabulous while doing it. I think we are smack in the middle of a massive holy smack upside the head as we as mothers/aunties/grandmothers/teachers/ mentors/friends look at our little girls and feel our firecracker self screaming to be heard, seen, and known.
With this realization of the years that I let pass by, I could totally feel sorry for myself. Why did you have to throw this part of yourself away so freely and so early on? Just imagine where you could have been today if you hadn’t.
All true. But there are also many more truths, both seen and unseen, that I cannot deny.
I recently had a discussion with my 12 year old nephew and 12 year old daughter. Both about to start their seventh grade year, both navigating new responsibilities such as having their very own phone, and both making dumb mistakes that you are supposed to make when you are 12. I let them know about some of my “mistakes”. Some that cost me dearly. Some that changed the course of my life. Some that I am still feeling the effects of and paying a price for. I let them know that it is so flippin’ clear to me that one of the reasons I needed to go through this stuff, was FOR them. I made some of these mistakes so that they didn’t have to. So that I could pass on my hard knock lessons and they would have freedom to make different, new mistakes. New lessons. Their worlds were just a bit more open and free now, because of my journey and, if they paid attention and listened, their very own journey would open up somebody else’s in the same way. We are all connected and it all matters.
In the midst of having this memory I happened to read a story about Jesus that rocked me. Divine timing flooring me. It has everything to do with the nice man calling me sweet, the memory of my little girl firecracker self that I banished, and the woman I am today struggling to know believe what God really wants for me.
It is from Mark 7:24-40. In this story a woman who came to Jesus asking him to help her because her daughter possessed by an evil spirit. Jesus replies in a way that I, at first, took as obnoxious. (And to be honest, I find that I am frequently – consciously or unconsciously – looking for ways to disprove the Love that Jesus was and is. Like if I do I’d be validated in some off beat way. When in fact, each and every time I discover that I am unable to disprove anything, I feel more solid in my soul than I could think possible) Anyway, Jesus says something like “Would you feed the dogs from the table before your own children?” Ouch! Rough, no? Was He really comparing her to a dog? However, looking deeper into the words that were used and taking into account interpretation and setting, we understand what he was actually saying was, “There is an order here. There is a lot to do, do you really expect me to stop in my tracks just because you say you need me?”
Still hard to swallow, I know. This is when my lay low, stay in my own lane self would have done a slow back up. I probably would have said something like, “Oh geeze. Your’re right. My bad. Go go go! Take care of them. Maybe if you, I don’t know, find some extra time maybe and it’s not too far out of your way or something, maybe you could possibley swing back around here. But no pressure. I mean, I get it. Go. And again, I’m sorry.”
But here is when the story gets really great. She comes back! That’s right. This woman challenged Jesus. Or better yet, she accepted His challenge. She, in her lowly little ole self, in front of a man she was being told was the King of Kings, the Savior… she came back at him. And not with resentment, or bitchiness or who do you think you are’ness. Not even with an ounce of aggression. No, it was pure and beautiful assertiveness. It was her firecracker self. She simply showed up. She was all of herself. She responded with a big ole, ”BUT….”
And with that, Jesus told her that with her reply, her daughter was saved. He has indeed called her to rise up and in a very grounded way, she rose up to meet Him there.
I like to think of Jesus as high fiving her. Saying, “Sister, YES! That was what I was going for. Some chutzpa baby. I knew you had it in you. I have big plans and good work for you to do. Go now. Use that bold, assertive, bad ass chomps I gave you to do good. I love you so lady. Now off you go. Go do some serious loving with that chutzpa!”
Ok, so it’s probably safe to say that Jesus didn’t say bad ass but, for whatever reason, I like thinking that it’s just a smidge possible.
CYO sports are a thing of the past. I haven’t been on basketball court in years but I have never needed my firecracker self more than I do now. Life is begging me for it. And I can’t help but think, maybe God, himself, is calling us to join in the game. Our past stories have created a new bitter sweet freedom to be all of who we were created to be. No need to overthink and figure things out. Simply show up. And yeah, maybe it will be sloppy or clumsy or look less than attractive. Maybe we may even turn some people off with our bigness. But, c’mon now….there is work to be done. Games to be played. People to LOVE.
Let’s get off the sidelines my friends and let us enter in. Let’s run, reach, and be beautifully bold. Let’s play our hearts out.