After the festivities, the four friends sat and enjoyed cake in Carrie’s newly designed apartment. Carrie asks Samantha how it was possible that Samantha did not realize how much weight she had gained, and Samantha’s reply was, “I’ve been avoiding mirrors.” At the end of that scene, Carrie narrates, “There we were, the three mirrors Samantha could not avoid.”
As I watched that scene yesterday, another one flashed in my mind. Rene, Misheck, Jim and I sitting on the balcony at the guesthouse, working on the Faith and Life project.
We had just taken a break, and somehow the conversation turned towards my postgraduate studies. At the end of that conversation, I had an institution recommended to me to pursue my postgraduate studies, a scholarship I could apply that could possibly cover some of the expenses, a letter of recommendation as required by the scholarship, and research material. I felt a bit dazed, to say the least. And I also felt terrified.
I thought, “How in the world did that just happen?” But as I asked the question, I already knew the answer. And sitting here, writing this post, three threads from various experiences are being woven together so that, like Carrie and her pals were to Samantha, so Misheck, Jim and Rene were to me – three mirrors that I could not avoid.
Thread #1: Strengthsfinder
I took this test in Idelette’s lounge at her recommendation.We were whiling away the time before leaving for sightseeing, when Idelette suggested I quickly take the test. I raced through the questions, anxious for the final results. But when I got the feedback, I had the strongest reaction to the results. Inside my head, I screamed, “NO!!!”
On the screen were listed the following:
What was that all about? Why was I having such a strong negative reaction? As days went by, I continually recalled that day and my reaction, wondering what was going on in my head and heart. Until now… As I read through the reports generated by the test, I smiled because I realized exactly what my reaction indicated… I did not want to own that space. I did not think I was enough. And looking into this mirror made it hard to hold on to the lie… made it hard to stay in the shadows.
Thread #2: The lie I bought into
Unbeknownst to me, I was carrying residual and unresolved emotions from my experience as a member of a panel that facilitated the final plenary session of that Gathering. These emotions started surfacing as Rene, Jim and I sat on the balcony, chatting about what our expectations for our time together in Kigali.
I hadn’t really given it much thought, but when it was my turn to share, I had one emphatic request – I did not want to get to Amahoro unprepared. If they wanted me to participate in the presentation, then it had to be well prepared. Rene then casually remarked, ‘Ooo. There seems to be some unresolved stuff from last year.’ I brushed her words aside, denying that that was the case.
The next morning, after a good working session, we had the outline and most of the content for our presentation. We then began to assign tasks to each of our group, and Misheck was requested to facilitate the input session because he was male, educated and an African. As Rene explained why Misheck would be the best to present this section, fear, anxiety, anger and a deep sadness started rising within me, and I knew that Rene’s words of the previous evening were true. I could no longer deny that there were unresolved issues from last year’s presentation.
After lunch, I sat and shared this realization with Rene. She shared her thoughts about how the plenary session has unfolded and the events leading up to that presentation that contributed to the outcome, and then she levelled me with the next words. She looked at me and said (I am paraphrasing), “Nicole, you have to take responsibility for your role in how you are feeling. The experience of last year culminated in a lie about yourself that you chose to believe. I’m not expecting you to tell me what it is, but I do want you to realize that believing that lie is a sin, and you need to confess that sin and let it go.”
As the tears rolled down my face, I looked into my friend’s face, and there I saw a mirror I could not avoid. I knew what that lie was. I chose to believe that I messed up because I was unprepared, and more than that, that I was not enough. And because I believed that lie, I did not want to be part of a presentation and stand up in Goma in front of those who had been there last year.
But as Rene gently encouraged me, I realized that I cannot let the lie win, and so I reluctantly agreed to be part of the presentation, and to facilitate an aspect of the afternoon track.
Thread #3: The gift I denied
It felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. As Rene, Misheck, Jim and I worked, I found myself watching myself. I observed the questions that were running through my head, and those coming out of my mouth. I reflected on the thoughts that were coming to mind, and the details that I was hungry to record and the deadlines and tasks I was hungry to nail down.
As I watched myself, another memory surfaced, this one from quite a while back. In my early twenties, I attended a gifts and ministry workshop at my church, and I remembered the list of gifts applicable to me as a result of the questionnaire I had completed. The gifts of teaching and hospitality did not surprise me, but the third one did… administration.
Who wants to be known as an administrator? Can there be any more boring, unglamorous “gift”?
At the time I did not think of that gift as such; I completely rejected it, and whenever any administration role came up, I refused to consider it.
But as I watched myself that day in Kigali, I realized that I could no longer deny that gift. It came as natural to me as breathing. All the questions, my attention to and demand for details, and being adamant about assigning deadlines all pointed to the gift I had denied for so long.
In believing the lie that I am not enough, in consistently questioning my worth and value, in second guessing myself, I avoided all mirrors that called the lie into question. But as I sat on that balcony in Kigali, as Rene, Misheck and Jim consistently engaged me, they became the three mirrors I could no longer avoid.
Siki Dlanga, in her anthology entitled “Word of Worth”, writes,
Out of these words that confine me
Out f this lie that had bound me
Away from this torment
I am coming out
I walk into the light
I shall confess the truth
I am going into the sun
Where I will dance in the rain
I will sing aloud
I will ride the rainbow
I will say
This is my freedom day
I will watch the stars
Shine their light on me
Confirming ancient wisdom
Winking at me
For believing in the truth
Against the odds.
I choose to come out into the light today.
I choose to accept what I saw in those mirrors.
I choose to no longer believe the lie. I choose to step fully into who I am.
I choose to accept my strengths of:
I choose to embrace my gifts of teaching, hospitality and administration.
I choose to embrace my vocation as an academic/reflective practitioner (thanks for this title Jim).
I choose to accept and fully live into the truth that…
I AM ENOUGH
Will you join me in this quest? I’d love to hear from you.
Which mirrors are you avoiding?
Which truths about yourself have you been denying, but now need to embrace to fully live?