I got this heart breaking message from a friend a while back and it has rattled around in the empty caverns of my skull since.
“but, it’s fine. It would be folly for me to attempt to prove that I am the “right kind of ____.”
No, my friend, you don’t ever have to prove you’re the right kind of anything with me. And it breaks my heart that you feel you ever do with anyone.
Haven’t we all felt the ache behind those words? That feeling of being less-than, of not fitting in, of being the wrong kind of something?
I know I have. I have spent decades trying to be the right kind of daughter, the right kind of friend, the right kind of student. The right kind of writer, the right kind of sister, the right kind of mother. The right kind of wife, the right kind of employee, the right kind of neighbor.
I know what it is to be the wrong kind of everything. A woman in a man’s world. A girl from a mixed, blended, shaken and stirred family. A single-mom. A survivor. A nerd. A girl from the wrong town who went to the wrong school. A mom with two not-right kind of kids who don’t smile and make messes and whine and don’t comb their hair. A crazy-cat lady.
It’s OK. I’m not the right kind of anything either.
Oh friend, I wish I had better words for this. I managed to finger-stutter something into the keyboard about being the right kind of God’s kid. But I’m not the right kind of friend for this job. I want to offer compassion, comfort, at least the certainty that you are not alone and are the right kind of you.
No, you don’t have to ever be the right kind of anything with me. I might not understand you all the time. I’m not the right kind of friend for that. I might not agree with you all the time. I’m not the right kind of friend for that either.
Be different. Be left handed. Be a bit shy. Be an odd-duck, a monster, a fool. Be a swan, a kitten, a genius. Be real. Be you.
And be the same, too. We’re all a little bit monstrous and frightful. We’re all a little bit helpless stray kitten, too. You be you. I’ll be me. And together we can do what we can’t do alone. Because we’re so very different. And so very much the same.
I know I’m not always a great friend. I can be monstrous and helpless, too. Sometimes I need a friend to remind me it’s Ok, and I don’t have to be the right kind of anything.
You are the right kind of you. The right kind of God’s kid. All sinner and all saint. God don’t make mistakes. Just human beings, in all of our flawed glory and beautiful mess.
You my friend, you will always be dear to me. For you and I have seen each others’ utter brokenness and resilience and endless creativeness. You and I have seen each other poop and cry and shiver and rage. There is no right kind of poop. No right kind of tears. No right kind of fear. No right kind of anger. They just are. All our shit stinks and all our tears are salty. All our fears are valid and our rages normal.
There will always be people reminding us of those three rules: Don’t feel it. Don’t speak it. And don’t change. Those rules from years before we ever met. No wonder we are rebels, with rules like that. Because between us, in this crazy world, we have felt it. We speak it. And we change. Bit by bit we do.
Remember when we first fell into friendship all those years ago? We were the wrong kinds of friends in every meaning of the word. People from different times and places, people from different faith traditions and different life situations entirely. Yet we became and remain friends anyways. Despite it all. Because of it all.
We won’t ever be the “right” kind of friends. Good. We need friends who challenge us and confront us. We need friends who grow with us and away from us and towards us. We need friends who just love us, even when we are unlovable. And we all are sometimes. We need each other as we are, not who we want to pretend to be. We need friends who see the monsters, the sinners, the pains and fears and hurts and angers. We need friends who see the angels, the saints, the hopes and dreams and loves and healings.
None of my friends are the right kind of friends. Or the right kind of anything else. We’re all a bunch of not-quite-right but more-than-good-enough people. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I love having people show their own not-quite-rightness. One happy side effect is that I feel better about my own little-bit-wrongness, not quite so alone, a little bit more OK. But also I love the differences, the beauty, the contrast, the learning. Nothing is quite so educational and exciting as embracing the challenges of communicating with and cherishing a whole bunch of not-quite-right-little-bit-wrong made in His image human beings.
It’s never easy. OK, it’s damn exhausting. Loving real, broken, messy human beings always is. But it is worth it. You are worth it. I am worth it. Life is worth it. Sometimes we just have to hang on and hug tight and know that no one is the right kind of anything. But each and everyone one of us is worth everything. Everything.
Here’s a secret, my friend, none of us is ever the right kind of anything. We wear a hundred labels and live a dozen roles, none of them fit right or cover the whole. Some of us die trying to live up to those labels, to fill those shoes that pinch in the toe and slide in the heal. Some of us just cut the tags off and go barefoot. And sometimes we all do a little of each. Sometimes the shoes are too big so we can grow.
I’m trying to tell you, in my own clumsy, inarticulate, round-about way, you don’t have to be the right kind of anything. Ever. Not with me or for me. Just be you.
I don’t have to find just the right words and you don’t have to read them just right either. Perfection is not wholeness, not fulfillment, not heaven. God didn’t say “it is perfect.” He said “it is good.” And it is. We are good. Just like we are. Just like we will be. Just like we were.
Different is good. Just imagine if you met a clone of you. Or if I met a clone of me. Yikes. Hair-raising. It’s OK. I love you because you are different. And yet the same. That’s what it means to be friends, to be two of God’s adopted kids in a mixed up, messy world.
I know you’ve had decades of different being bad. Different meaning less-than or more-than or even wrong. But see, all those people who have told you that, helped you feel that, they are wrong. They, too, have been sorely misinformed by an evil world. Different is good. Different is beautiful. Different doesn’t mean unequal. Just be who God made you. He didn’t make you me or me you. He doesn’t make mistakes.
You are one plus four and I am three plus two. Different. But equal.
I am so sorry you haven’t been loved and treasured for who you are, as you are. I hurt with you, deep in my chest. I know that feeling. We all do.
I could write you another thousand words and they’d all be just as not the right kind of words as this first thousand. I’m not the right kind of writer. I mess up and make mistakes and typos and say silly things and make bad analogies and crippled metaphors. It’s ok. I’m ok. These words are ok-enough. It’s all they can be.
I’m not the right poet for this job. But it is a job that needs doing, a need that needs met. I’m every bit as broken and sick and hurt as anyone else. I don’t know where I am going or when I will get there or what I will do when I am there. But right now, right here, as improbable as it is, you and I are still friends. For whatever unknown reason God has set us down side by side today. And today I know this is my work- to love as he loved.
I’m not very good at that. I keep making a mess of it. I am very much a child longing to obey and please but spilling the cup and breaking the glass. Good thing there are always more cups, more milk, more towels to wipe up with. The kingdom is beautiful with that bounty. Here we are all ok-enough. Our stumbling, bumbling attempts are cherished and treasured. We don’t have to dress right or speak right or do it right.
And you, you are ok-enough, too.
I wish I could give you my eyes. These words just can’t be the right kind of words. I can’t make them make you see what I do.
I wish you could have the eyes that see your more-than-rightness all tangled up with your less-than-wrongness. I can’t make you feel ok, make you understand, make you see or hear or smell or touch or taste.
You are the right kind of you.
What would it be like if we could step into another’s soul and feel every bit of pain we’ve cause, every tear shed in our name, every hurt and wound and ache? And every bit of pleasure we’ve given, every smile, every laugh, every help and joy and rest we’ve given?
I wish I could write the right kind of words. I wish I could be the right kind of friend. But I, like you, will never be the right kind of anything. It’s OK. It’s more than OK. It’s way better than OK. It is good.