The Worst Version of Myself

audrey“Do you ever feel you’ve become the worst version of yourself? That a Pandora’s box of all the secret, hateful parts – your arrogance, your spite, your condescension – has sprung open? Someone upsets you and instead of smiling and moving on, you zing them.” -Joe Fox, You’ve Got Mail

Most of the time, I appreciate that Bryan challenges me. But sometimes he takes things too far. He likes playing devil’s advocate just to get me thinking and, often, to better hear and understand my thought process. He finds it interesting when I process externally. I’m pretty sure he has no malicious intent, but sometimes he seems just plain contentious, and I end up feeling like nothing more than a debate partner or, worse, a science experiment.

I’m reading through the bible chronologically again this year. Right now, I’m finishing up the story of Joseph – how he was sold into slavery by his brothers, falsely accused of sexual assault by Potiphar’s wife, ended up in prison, was forgotten by Pharaoh’s cupbearer after helping him, but eventually became Egypt’s second in command by God’s provision in God’s perfect timing. I was telling Bryan this afternoon about how much I love Joseph. He is one of my favorite bible characters, and I relate a lot to his story.

“Oh, you realized that about yourself, did you?” I heard Bryan’s smile over the phone.

“You think I’m like Joseph, too?”

Bryan’s answer – indirect as always – was, “Joseph got himself into a lot of bad situations.”

Zing! So you think I get myself into a lot of bad situations? I defended Joseph, “He couldn’t control all of the things that happened to him.”

Bryan interrupted me, as he does sometimes, “He bragged to his brothers about his prophetic dreams that someday they would all bow to him. He went into the house alone where Potiphar’s wife was, knowing full well that she was an aggressive woman who wanted him for herself — ”

My turn to interrupt. “Joseph’s brothers already hated him before he even told them about his dreams. Jacob was a fool to be so obvious about Joseph being his favorite son. And Joseph was just going into the house to do his work when Potiphar’s wife grabbed his cloak. He had no way of knowing she would be alone in there. It was bound to happen eventually. And anyway, God had a hand in everything that happened, because His plan all along was to use Joseph to save Egypt from the coming famine.”

Bryan’s counter: “But Joseph could have gotten to that same end by a far less messy path if he had exercised more wisdom and discretion.”

…I won’t continue to belabor the conversation. Suffice it to say that we didn’t end the phone call on a good note. It was our first full-blown fight. And it was awful.

I cried for a couple of hours before cleaning myself up for evening church. I tend to go to the 5:00pm service at my old church – the one I attended before my broken engagement. As a result, I don’t like socializing with many of the congregants. Most of them don’t know that part of my story, and I don’t really want to talk about it. Those that DO know about it tend to pry. “How’s your heart?” they ask me. You haven’t spoken to me in six months, while I was deep in the pit of depression. What makes you think I would want to share the most intimate concerns of my heart with you when you have proven yourself to be a fair-weather friend?

Introvert5I arrived ten minutes early, so I sat in my car until the church service started, thinking it was safe to walk in unnoticed at that point. Nope. About thirty seconds after I found a spot alone in the back, one of my old acquaintances, Tiffany, came over with her boyfriend – a new addition since we last spoke. “Oh my gosh! How ARE you?! It’s so great to see you! How’s work? How’s life? What’s new?”

So. Many. Questions.

And none that I really felt up to answering. “Work’s okay,” I said simply.

“You like it?!” she asked enthusiastically.

“It pays the bills,” I answered noncommittally, hoping she caught my tone of voice that was obviously not welcoming of further conversation.

“So what’s new? Anything exciting?”

I shrugged. “Not really.”

She tilted her head to the side and put her hand on my shoulder. “How’s your heart?”

Ah, there it is. I couldn’t wait for that question. Let’s see. I’ve been absolutely destroyed emotionally in the last year, first by the man I loved who decided he didn’t want to marry me after all; then by countless so-called friends who either unintentionally said hurtful things or abandoned me altogether. I have walls up higher than you can climb; thicker than you can break through. Do you really think I’ll make myself vulnerable to you after not speaking for so long? Do you really think I’m foolish enough to believe you actually want to hear the answer to your question? No one really wants to know the answer when they ask how you’re doing. They just want you to hurry up and say “fine” so they can get back to talking about themselves and how awesome their life is.

So I told her, “I’d rather not talk about it.” When non-verbals don’t work, I resort to verbals. So much less elegant, but sadly more effective.

After the service, some people invited me to go out for frozen yogurt. I don’t know why; I’m sure I didn’t look very welcoming. I declined as politely as I could and escaped back home to my dark apartment where I made myself hot chocolate with homemade whipped cream to sip on while binge watching Netflix.

Yes, this is my life. I have officially become the worst version of myself.

Authentically Aurora

The Christmas Story, from Joseph’s Perspective

Joseph and JesusI am a sucker for character development. When I used to play video games in junior high and high school, I didn’t look for games with the best game play or battle sequences or graphics or music. I looked for games that let me know the characters, learn their stories, and watch them develop, learn and grow. A character without a story to tell was too boring and static for me.

Although I’ve grown out of my video game days, this theme of loving character development has translated to the books I read, the movies I watch, and even the people whose company I keep. I enjoy people development; helping people grow into the best possible version of themselves and watching them blossom as their stories unfold.

For that reason, one of my favorite Christmas songs is “A Strange Way to Save the World” by 4Him. It’s a beautiful song, both musically and lyrically, that tells the Christmas Story from the perspective of Joseph, the betrothed of the Virgin Mary who gave birth to Jesus, the Son of God. So often, we forget the perspective of Joseph when we hear the Christmas story, but there is so much richness to his portion of the narrative.

Joseph and Mary were engaged before Mary became pregnant with Jesus by the Holy Spirit. When Joseph found out Mary was pregnant, he planned to quietly divorce her, because he was a good man and did not want to publicly disgrace her. Can you imagine finding out your fiancé was pregnant? What must Joseph have thought and experienced during this season?

But then an angel of God appeared to Joseph and told him that Mary was still a virgin, and that the child had been conceived by the power of God through the Holy Spirit. Joseph was instructed to wed Mary, as planned, and name the child Jesus, which means “the LORD saves”. So Joseph did as God commanded and took Mary as his wife, but “he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born.” Woah. That’s some kind of self-discipline, Joseph. [Read more here.]

There is so much to discuss here. What must it have been like to be approached by an angel – an angel who assuaged your fears over your betrothed’s infidelity and affirmed your marriage? What kind of faith did it take to go ahead with marrying the impregnated Mary?

Why did the Son of God have to come to earth in the form of a vulnerable human infant? How did Joseph feel about being tasked with naming and raising the God-man Jesus, the long foretold Messiah?

For many of these questions, I can only guess at the answer, but at least for one of them, I have a firm foundation. Jesus, the second member of the Triune God, existed before the beginning of time but chose to come to earth, taking on the frail flesh of a man, because we as humanity needed a Savior.

We have a problem of sin. None of us can honestly say that we live up to our own standards; much less God’s standard of holy perfection. Because God is perfectly just, He cannot tolerate sin; there must be a punishment for sin. Our sin separates us from God, and none of us are “righteous enough” to earn our way back into a right standing with God.

But because God is also perfectly loving, He didn’t want to leave things that way. He wanted to be in relationship with us. So He met us where we are, in our brokenness and sinfulness. “While we were still sinners, Jesus died for us.” Jesus – the Son of God – descended from heaven to earth, taking on the fragility of a human infant, because only as a man could He suffer the punishment that we all deserve for our sinfulness.

And so Jesus grew up, setting a course for the crucifixion He always knew was coming. He humbled himself, even to the point of death, to take the punishment we deserve so that, through faith in His substitutionary atonement, we could be forgiven of our sins and put back into a right relationship with God. But Jesus didn’t stay dead. After three days, He rose from the grave and ascended back into heaven, defeating sin, death and the power of Satan.

This is the Christmas story. It’s a story of character development and an epic journey to conquer evil. It is a story of unwavering justice, unconditional love and unfathomable redemption that is a free gift available to anyone who believes.

Authentically Aurora