I don’t care much for April Fool’s day.
And it’s not so much that I lack a sense of humor – I like to think I’m rather funny.
You see, I’ve been played the fool too many times, and that particular creeping heat that climbs my neck and simultaneously grips my gut, the one with that monosyllabically weighted word, shame, that rings my neck and flashes like a neon sign makes me feel small and stupid. No. I don’t like being the fool.
Historically, Fools were the entertainers, the clowns, the funny-men of the Royal Court. As comedians continue to be in our day, Fools of history were the ones allowed to speak out, to point out, to criticize the foolishness of politics, of religion, of society – and not lose their heads or be sent to the stocks in the process. They were a special breed of Truthtellers. They didn’t need to declare a side or allegiance, they only had to cloak the truth in humor, a few tricks, a lewd joke and some juggling and they were armored. In fact, they were so disgraced by the mere fact of their foolishness that they had nothing to lose and they needed no master.
And isn’t it a funny coincidence that the only people allowed to point out the buffoonery of humankind and speak truth to courtiers and kings were labeled as Fools?
So today on April Fool’s Day, I am going to be the Fool, and reveal the truth about five lies that I have allowed to influence my choices.
Perhaps by poking out their insane and topsy-turvy warped perspective, I can stand free of their control. Perhaps we can stand foolishly free together?
- You have no talent.
I really believed it. In fact, in all honesty, I still wrangle this one. I grew up small, always smaller, younger, more naïve than most everyone I knew. This is the dark downside of being the youngest. I had six older brothers and sisters, all grown adults by the time I was in middle school, and from my vantage point they were SO much smarter, more talented, artistic, interesting and beautiful than I. They were more important, too. Everything I tried to do seemed “less than”. I tried to draw, tried to sing, tried to write poetry.
I even tried sports—which was a HUGE mistake.
In seventh grade, I landed myself a spot on the fifth string Junior Varsity basketball team. I could rock the Chuck Taylor high-tops, but I stunk at doing anything with a ball. Angry, even bitter, I rode out the season on the bench, refusing to quit, hating my coach and also, believing the lie: you have no talent.
I have always set high expectations for myself that I can safely assume I will never reach, because believing I have no talent keeps me from believing that I can or should do anything truly worthwhile.
- You need to justify the fact that you’re taking up space.
Yeah, it took almost dying and being utterly useless to anyone, unable to perform or provide or produce a thing to teach me that just my BEING HERE is enough. To the ones who love me, my being here was everything. But oh, lies die hard, don’t they? I don’t know why or how this lie attached itself to me. Perhaps because I’m female? I have believed that in order to take up space, I need to be making myself useful, engaging, intelligent, pretty, helpful. It comes out in all sorts of practical ways, usually in the guise of multitasking.
But, wow, that’s exhausting.
- You will never be a good leader.
This lie was spoken directly to my by my high school P.E. teacher, who also happened to be my class advisor. I was applying to run for class Secretary and I had to have an interview completed with our advisor to include in my packet. She leaned forward and looked me in the eye and said, “Alyssa, you will never be a good leader. You look too good, dress too good, you even smell too good. People can’t relate to you. And if they can’t relate to you, you can’t lead.”
Now, I’m sure, since this was a nice, Christian School, she was well-intended, even if her grammar was atrocious, yet the impression she made on my developing and insecure self was akin to shoving samurai blades into wet cement and slicing out whole parts of me. Perhaps I could have been a leader, but with this definitive description, I shouldn’t be considered for the team. What does a person even do with that?
She was my greatest identity thief. My years in Christian school taught me a lot of other things about myself that have taken years to extricate: how boys see me is my fault, if they lust after me, I need to dress more modestly because boys can’t help themselves; I need to be steadfastly loyal to all Christian leadership and never question their motives, methods or interpretation of Scripture because they are God’s anointed leaders; literature is dangerous; burning worldly music is good; some people are called by God to special ministry and others, well, they just aren’t.
So, as if being a malleable, insecure fifteen-year-old wasn’t enough, I had to navigate my teenage years with some seriously wrong thinking, too. I learned to adopt ambivalence as a protective mechanism and stopped trying to make a difference.
- The bathroom needs to be cleaned FIRST.
Okay, this isn’t really the actual lie, but the spirit of the lie is there. I learned to replace pursuing any of my dreams or living in a sweet spot (doing those things that God designed me to do) with small, mundane, doable tasks that helped contribute to justifying my taking up space. I believe that if I have a “Done” list that I can somehow spend time doing things that I enjoy, that create beauty and perpetuate grace. Somehow, having a ring around my toilet is a clear sign of poorly aligned priorities.
Just so you know this is fresh, my bathrooms are sparkling right this very minute because I scoured and polished them before I sat down to write this post.
- It’s all up to you.
This is a naughty little lie that reeks of pride and approval-addiction. When I’m working into a lather thinking I need to do so much, what I really want is other people to notice. Do I want their help? Not always. Do I want pity? Not really. Falling prey to this lie led me into so much frustration, hurt me and others in countless ways. It’s affected my marriage, my parenting, my relationships. And again, since I believed I lacked talent, leadership ability, the sense to make priorities and felt unjustified to take up space, my twisted idea that it was all up to me was a pathetic ruse that kept me from doing anything.
So there you have it. Five lies that have had WAY too much control over my life.
I look like a normal person, but actually I am a bundle of contradictions. Oh wait, that is a normal person.
When I read the Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning several years ago, well, it changed my life. It didn’t fix me or remove the lies and throw them in the fire, but it revealed me to be a fool among fools. A needer of grace. It helped me see I had the keys to unlock myself from the lies that chained me: I was saved by grace alone.
And somewhere in his book of grace, Brennan Manning admitted:
“When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.”
And I cried.
Because I finally had permission to be okay with my paradoxes. I could accept the truth as God explained it – proved it – in his word and through his actions and still be a bit of a muddled girl.
I could be a fool for truth because of God’s grace.
And I am.
I have a little voice but I never stop using it. So I have to keep pulling back the lies and I have to shout the truths instead, like beams of light into darkness, and follow where they lead.
My lies made me afraid and cowardly. The truth terrifies me, but it’s unchained. And I know the critics will come and I know that I’ll be first in line to castigate myself, but I can remember grace, can’t I?
I can choose truth over lies.
April Fools Day. Could it be a day for telling truth, for being crazy in grace?
“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty.” 1 Corinthians 1:27
What lies have played you for a Fool? Are you ready to call them out and live free?
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