If you know me well, you know Bob Goff is one of my favorite people. I’ve written a few posts about his book Love Does (which I read my sophomore year of college), and basically half of my instagram feed is quotes of his. (#sorrynotsorry) He just radiates Jesus’ love and joy to everyone he meets, and his words have a way of grasping you in the most beautiful of ways.
He came to Lipscomb’s campus this week for a few different speaking events– a mentorship dinner and Q&A with our SGA Monday night, and chapel Tuesday morning. I may or may not have attended all 3 events. Ahem. I kindof got lucky– originally they didn’t have enough room at the mentoring dinner (I’m a part of our mentorship program but didn’t RSVP till late), but after I sent my email some people cancelled. Holler!
I loved getting to hear him speak in such an intimate setting. Last time he spoke (my sophomore year), it was PACKED– and the same goes for the Q&A event and chapel. So, it was fun to be in a smaller space hearing him talk right in front of me (literally–I was sitting at a table beside the stage). He centered in on mentorship and what that looked like– talking about what loving people is, mostly, and being present. He told funny stories and had cute ancedotes for everything. However, he said one thing that caught my attention.
He was talking about how sometimes we get hung up on our baggage and ourselves. How we reflect our families, our parents, our pasts, our stories.
He then said we needed to be a beautiful reaction to what’s happened to us. Be a beautiful reaction to our story, our past.
He gave some personal examples about his upbringing and family– talking about the ways he positively reacted to not-so positive things in his story. He didn’t reflect his upbringing, or the negative impact parts of it had; he reacted to it by being better than it.
Truly, I’d never thought of this way. We’re a reflection of how we’re raised, who we’re surrounded by, right? But for me in my life, I always focused on the negative impact my past has on me.
When I think of how my story has impacted me, I always think about how untrusting I am. How I hate conflict and fighting (even if conflict is necessary) because of all the yelling and fighting I heard growing up. How I’m scared to commit to relationships, to be vulnerable and honest with people (afraid they’ll run when they see how messed up I am). How I always try to talk over people after going unheard for so long. How I’m a perfectionist (in recovery) and try to earn love and attention because I’ve always fell a bit short. How I’m always scared of something bad happening and am anxious about the future because I never knew what was going to happen. How I closed off my heart to emotions because I was a crybaby, and needed to toughen up (as I was told). How I’ve never liked the way I looked, and still struggle with who I see in the mirror.
Those are all the negative things– the struggles I deal with because of what’s happened to me in my lifetime. My insecurities and flaws from my past. I dwell on them a lot– and thanks to therapy, I work through them. Or try to. These are how I reflect what’s happened to me.
I’ve never tried to react to them other than just succumbing to the fact that they’re a part of me.
So I thought about it: how can I be a beautiful reaction to what has happened to me?
Because I didn’t get the physical affection I wanted/needed as a kid, I am quick to hug/love on people. (And now I’m quicker to let other people do the same for me).
Because I dislike conflict and arguing/fighting, I’ve learned how to mediate problems and help come up with solutions.
Because of my struggle with emotions, I’ve learned how to empathize well with others. And I’ve learned how important emotions and showing them truly are.
Because of my struggle with being heard and paid attention to, I listen to people.
I take an interest in what my friends do or enjoy, not because I enjoy them but because they do.
I quit striving for perfection and take grace instead. (most days)
I take time to let people get to know me, but I let them into my heart more and more each day.
I believe I am a child of God and that makes me beautiful, even if I don’t see it in the mirror.
I’m still working on what other beautiful reactions I’ve got from what’s happened to me. Some are easier to see than others, but in time I know I’ll figure ’em out.
I think Bob’s point was that we dwell so much on the bad parts and how they affected us, but good things can come from the bad. We were made from dirt and dust, after all.
I wouldn’t have these things– these skills, these abilities, these attributes– if I hadn’t lived through the struggle and the bad. I wouldn’t have the same story or the same reactions if I hadn’t been through what I’ve been through.
Even if my story was hard in some places, it’s been worth it when I see what good has been done in me through it.
I struggle so much with the effects of my life: divorce, family issues, alcohol abuse in the family. Mental health struggles (both mine and others). I look at my life and I see how much mess there is, and all the bad attributes I deal with because of the mess. It’s not fun most days— the ways my story has affected me negatively show up every day, and it’s a mess.
But there’s beauty in the mess. There’s a beloved daughter in the mess. And there’s something beautiful about that– not because of what has happened, but because of who I’ve become and what I’ve done with the mess. There’s not a lot of beauty about the things that have happened. But God makes beauty from ashes, and He makes beauty from my story.
I just have to look and see.
My life is more than a reflection of my family and what’s happened to me: it is a reaction to the mess I’ve lived. A beautiful reaction.