Chrystal Smith's Definition of Bona Fide
The thing about being 30-something is that I feel more of an urge to step out of my comfort zone and try new things, and less of an urge to care about what those around me think. After months of excuses, I finally mustered the courage yesterday to take a hip hop dance class at our local gym (stop laughing). I love to dance, but let’s just say that coordination and following directions aren't my gifts. I’m more of a feel the beat and those couple glasses of wine and just go with it kind of dancer. I fussed over what to wear so that I wouldn't stand out and I was sure to get there early to snag a spot in the very back of the class. Please, Lord, just let me blend in and not look like Phoebe from Friends. As the dozens of super fit younger girls filed in (surely all expertly trained hip hop dancers), I was surprised to see an older lady roll into the dance room in a wheelchair. She parked herself toward the front and pulled out her water bottle and towel like the rest of the expert dancers. I was perplexed, but most definitely intrigued. The instructor stepped up to the stage and turned the hip hop music up to all.of.the.decibels, and acted as though the wheelchair in front of her was a familiar sight. All of the ladies in the class took the instructor’s lead and started bouncing back and forth to the beat. Before long she had us doing quick dance combinations. I more or less kept up, maybe even blended a bit (praise the Lord), but my eyes kept going back to the woman in the wheelchair. She sat stationary in her wheelchair, but her arms were going a mile a minute to the beat. She had her own awesome moves that couldn't even be replicated by Beyonce herself. I could see her face in the mirror-wall reflection and she was clearly having the time of her life. She was dancing, without a care in the world. She brought such a liberating energy to that room. She allowed herself to be completely vulnerable and simultaneously gave permission for the rest of us to dance straight through our own handicaps and insecurities.
That kind of awesome vulnerability in this day and age is a rare and tricky thing. Our internet-centric culture creates a unique environment where people can carefully curate an identity for themselves, showing their life in the best possible light, and picking and choosing what the world on the other side of the screen gets to see. Maybe even embellishing a bit here and there, bedazzling the mundane and hemming in the tattered edges of their lives. Sweeping the messes and yucky parts under the rug, because nobody wants to see those. Our culture tends to associate vulnerability with weakness. To show hard emotions and honesty and brokenness feels messy and out of control. So under the rug you go, Dirty Messes.
I’ve had the opportunity to wear many hats in my adult life. From a working college student, to working mom (part time and full time), to entrepreneur, to work-from-home mom, to stay-at-home mom, and the list goes on. I’ve tried this adulting thing from just about every angle. The one thing I’ve recognized in each of these seasons is that there is always a longing for the advantages of the roles I see other women around me in. As a professional, I longed for more time with my kids. As a stay-at-home mom, I long for a creative outlet and recognition of hard work. As a part-time-working stay-at-home mom I long for both and often feel like I’m failing at everything. It’s all just a wash. There is no perfect scenario, and the grass is always a shade greener on the other side. And when we have access to see the pretty parts of thousands and thousands of filter-enhanced creatively cropped lawns, it’s not just the grass on the other side we’re comparing ours to… it’s every lawn as far as the internet can see. So we hunker down where we’re at and decide to shine the light on just the pretty parts of our life too, hoping no one can see the dark dusty corners and laundry mountains in the background. We convince ourselves that if everyone around us sees a lovely put-together picture, then surely it will be true.
Here’s the thing, friends. None of us have it all together. And even if everyone believed we did, we wouldn't feel any more put together in the long run. If we strive to find our identities in anything outside of the love of Christ then we will surely fall short. Our identities, at their very core, are fearfully and wonderfully made children of God. The end. If we hold tight to that and actually know it to be true then thats when life gets fun. That’s when we get to wave our freak flags high and proud and open our hearts, exposing all of the light and dark and cobwebs and quirks. We get to say “this is the me that God so masterfully created. He does pretty good work. I quite like me”. We get to roll in with our handicaps and insecurities and uncertainties, and dance like everyone is watching and waiting for someone to finally break the ice so they can dance their dance too.
So, sisters. I invite you to see the beauty of God’s best work, in YOU. Underneath the messiness that you’re trying so hard to hide, it’s there. And when you find it, you hardly mind the messiness anymore. You can come wave your freak flags and dance your dance without any concern of handicaps. You can blast your song at all.the.decibels and get down, get funky, and get vulnerable. Allow the world to know you have hard stuff too, but that it is all part of the masterpiece that you are. It all matters and it’s all a part of who we were uniquely created to be. And when we can let our guards down together, slip into our comfy jammies, gather around our unkempt tables, and say “you too?!”… thats when the magic happens. We are all on the same team and we all have broken and beautiful parts that make up one giant puzzle of humanity. Every last one of us, all of our pieces matter. Let’s act like it.
Let’s see those bona fide dance moves, ladies.