Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Show Your Real: Meg


Meg is the girl you want to be your best friend. 

And somehow I got her as mine. 

She is the other half of me...not in the "we complete each other" kind of way, but in the "we're cut from the same cloth" kind of way. She's a loud, passionate, equal-parts-dreamer-and-doer force of a woman. She gets herself into gigantic messes, but always comes out the other side with a smile and a story. She "feels big" and doesn't apologize for it. She is the life of the party, but at the same time she is a true, thoughtful and deep soul. A friend, of the best and purest kind.

I am blessed to call her my friend, and I'm honored to have you get to know her better today.

{Meg's writes as part of a team at Pure and Simple, a truly fantastic site that you need to know about, if you don't already. Seriously...go to there. I'll be here when you get back.} 

I entered college with the faint knowledge that I would one day have to come out the other side. I was excited about the transition into this next (and potentially last) phase of my school days - more focused on my next few steps instead of a giant leap four years in the future. I had always been a good student and avid extracurricular participant. I had high ideals about 'what I could be when I grew up,' paired with a strong naivete about the road between here and there.

I loved college and I took advantage of what college should (in my starry eyes) really be for. I got a solid liberal arts degree, read lots of classic literature, and most importantly was taught how to think. I took classes that shaped the way I saw the world and my part in it. I pursued opportunities and causes I was passionate about, without too much thought to what might build my resume.
Fast forward to present day. I'm a full-fledged adult: Married, living on my own, fully capable of doing my own laundry. Grown-up life - complete with grown-up job.

My career thus far has been a journey - seasons of highs and lows, chock-full of character-boosting lessons, gift-defining moments and new passions and pursuits. And since I'm being real - the journey is often accompanied by the (unfortunate) mindset that what I do determines who I am.

I'm not sure when this weasel of a thought crept into my life, but it has certainly dug itself a comfortable home. Being good at my job is like any other thing in my life - I have a tendency to give it more importance than it should actually have. It's all too easy in moments of professional success (or failure) to equate being good at my job to being a good human being. And while I do believe that calling and work are a valuable part of my life, I don't believe I should view them as the source of my value.

I read Tim Keller's book, Every Good Endeavor a couple of months ago. On my morning commute I opened to the introduction and promptly began to cry. He recounts an old story by J.R. Tolkein about an artist named Niggle. Not surprisingly, Keller is able to convey this story much better than I could:

"[Niggle] was a perfectionist, always unhappy with what he had produced, often distracted from more important issues by fussing over less important details, prone to worry and procrastination...Niggle had one picture in particular that he was trying to paint. He had gotten in his mind the picture of a leaf, and then that of a whole tree. And then in his imagination, behind the tree “a country began to open out; and there were glimpses of a forest marching over the land, and of mountains tipped with snow.” Niggle lost interest in all his other pictures, and in order to accommodate his vision, he laid out a canvas so large he needed a ladder. Niggle knew he had to die, but he told himself, “At any rate, I shall get this one picture done, my real picture, before I have to go on that wretched journey.”

So he worked on his canvas, “putting in a touch here, and rubbing out a patch there,” but he never got much done. There were two reasons for this. First, it was because he was the “sort of painter who can paint leaves better than trees. He used to spend a long time on a single leaf, . . .” trying to get the shading and the sheen and the dewdrops on it just right. So no matter how hard he worked, very little actually showed up on the canvas itself. The second reason was his “kind heart.” Niggle was constantly distracted by doing things his neighbors asked him to do for them. In particular, his neighbor Parish, who did not appreciate Niggle’s painting at all, asked him to do many things for him.

One night when Niggle senses, rightly, that his time is almost up, Parish insists that he go out into the wet and cold to fetch a doctor for his sick wife. As a result he comes down with a chill and fever, and while working desperately on his unfinished picture, the Driver comes to take Niggle on the journey he has put off. When he realizes he must go, he bursts into tears. “‘Oh, dear!’ said poor Niggle, beginning to weep, ‘And it’s not even finished!’” Sometime after his death the people who acquired his house noticed that on his crumbling canvas his only “one beautiful leaf” had remained intact. It was put in the Town Museum, “and for a long while ‘Leaf: by Niggle’ hung there in a recess, and was noticed by a few eyes.”

But the story does not end there. After death Niggle is put on a train toward the mountains of the heavenly afterlife. At one point on his trip he hears two Voices. One seems to be Justice, the severe voice, which says that Niggle wasted so much time and accomplished so little in life. But the other, gentler voice (“though it was not soft”), which seems to be Mercy, counters that Niggle has chosen to sacrifice for others, knowing what he was doing. As a reward, when Niggle gets to the outskirts of the heavenly country, something catches his eye. He runs to it—and there it is: “Before him stood the Tree, his Tree, finished; its leaves opening, its branches growing and bending in the wind that Niggle had so often felt or guessed, and yet had so often failed to catch. He gazed at the Tree, and slowly he lifted his arms and opened them wide. ‘It is a gift!’ he said. The world before death—his old country—had forgotten Niggle almost completely, and there his work had ended unfinished and helpful to only a very few. But in his new country, the permanently real world, he finds that his tree, in full detail and finished, was not just a fancy of his that had died with him. No, it was indeed part of the True Reality that would live and be enjoyed forever."

To be real - this post is hard to sum up, because this is not an area I have all figured out. I am encouraged by Tolkien's story and I know (despite all my striving) that what he expresses is real: our work - our gifts and all that we do with them - has been given to us with purpose. Our efforts will be unfinished, but He has already accomplished all that we need. At this season in my life, this is truth that I need to hear every day.

Show Your Real is a bi-weekly series of guest posts centered around the concept of authenticity. The goal is to encourage each other to expose the reality of our lives- good and bad- and to foster a sense of community that goes beyond the often suface-cy interactions of social media. We invite all of you to participate! Please comment, link, and hashtag to spread the showyourreal love. If you would like to contribute a guest post in this series, please email me! 

1 comment :

  1. Thanks for including me Court & for your sweet words. I'm thankful for you!