I wouldn’t be mad if you brought a bottle of wine.
This is what my friend/mentor/Mom said when I asked if I could bring anything to her new apartment a few weeks ago. (You’re all picturing that one friend that also doubles as a Mom right now, aren’t you?)
Just kidding. I didn’t ask what I could bring, because I’m inherently selfish and my favorite thing is to show up at my friends’ new apartments and eat their homemade dinners with a smile on my face and my elbows on their table (true story), but I obliged, swung by Aldi on the way across the Ohio River, and landed on the Kentucky-side with a dry white in my passenger seat.
Erica Boden: The Wine Bringer.
Never the cook, but always the wine bringer. This is my current idea for my autobiography, but I’ll keep you posted.
Megan, earlier described as Mom, is the kind of friend that can cut through your bull in about 2.5 seconds. She is fierce in a way that you know she will tell you what you need to hear, but if you’re like me and crying and having a soft moment as a dandelion, she will also just let you lie on her bed. I like blunt people, so you can probably guess I’m a big fan of her.
We hit the bases of redemption stories, fears for the next season of life, speculated why so many people walk into her apartment complex neighbor’s door with briefcases, and chowed the pasta. A good night breaking in her new apartment until . . .
Until she asked me how I was doing. Actually doing.
Until she wouldn’t break eye contact.
Until I began talking.
It’s that moment where you think to yourself oh, no . . . you see me. Not the moment of beauty and the glorious thrill that your pastor talks about in being fully known and fully loved and the roses and the sunflower fields, but the feeling of oh, no . . . you see the front I have up. You see my suck. You see the dirt I’ve been scrubbing myself raw to rid.
You see the moments where I look for a second too long at the save-the-dates on the fridge, shoving out the debate if I’ll ever have one of those. You see me nod excitedly when someone tells a story, but secretly pick my cuticles under the table. You know when I’m sorry, but don’t wait for the words to come out to forgive me because then you’ll have gray hairs. That kind of seeing.
The seeing of the problems I act like I don’t have, the sin I bury deep, and the pain that I say I’ve given to the Lord to heal, but carry.
The moments when someone says I love you, it doesn’t hold the weight it used to because of the hurt that comes with those eight letters. While you’ve convinced yourself you’ve forgiven someone, you still have the ability to rattle off the six-page list of all the times they’ve screwed up, and allegedly grace keeps no records of wrong. In the moments where you sit with your boyfriend after enjoying a day together, your mind wanders to if he actually likes you because you constantly feel inadequate. It’s like telling the Lord you trust Him, but coming up with contingency plans B, C, D, and E for when it doesn’t go your way.
It’s the most classic version of the Ex-Test, or that’s at least what I call it. You can convince yourself you are fine, footloose and Free-People-ad-status free, totally — I mean totally — over your ex . . . but then they walk by . . . and you feel like you got sucker-punched in the gut and you need to leave that restaurant immediately with your two closest friends who will have to re-stamp your worth in you. So, you know, maybe not as over them as you thought?
The Ex-Test manifests itself in a hundred different ways. Being content in your relationship status, until you see another girl you graduated with engaged. Being a picture of grace and forgiveness to your friends, but if someone cuts you off driving you immediately mutter asshole under your breath, without even knowing their rush nor their story.
Real problems. Ugly problems. Deep-rooted ones that are not sexy to talk about.
We all have problems — and not, what do I eat for breakfast kind of problems, but serious problems. If you’re reading this, you probably have some level of trust issues because that means you’re above the age of five, which means someone — your mom, dad, friend, girlfriend, sibling, neighbor — has burned you. We have trust issues, daddy issues, self-image issues. We are chalked full of love problems, vulnerability fears, and emotional wars. These are not the cute issues in Instagram captions with a professionally-taken photo, but the ones when our mind wanders.
And as my friend who I know loves me asked how I was, I still had to fight reverting to my front. Because I wasn’t Good, so good! Life hadn’t been Fine! like all my text responses read, but somehow that was still terrifying to say out loud because as much as I am in public, I am still so terrified to be seen.
A week ago I moved to Bulgaria for the next year and everywhere I go, I realize how seen I am. Physically, sure, but also that I am an outsider. There’s no way for me to hide. I speak in English and when I attempt Bulgarian, my accent is dismal. I got my hand caught in an elevator (the elevators here do not necessarily bounce open like what I was used to) and was way too excited when I saw a Starbucks in Sofia the other day. I am not from Europe and as much as I want to be a native, I cannot hide my Southern y’all and Midwestern you guys.
I am seen and my identity is know. Here as it is in Heaven: fully seen and fully known. And for reasons I cannot always put in words, that sometimes scares me. It scares me that the Lord may realize I am a fraud and not as put together as I appear and sometimes stray even when I’m in His word . . . but wait. He knows that.
He knows everything, He knows all of me. He knows my voice, even when I talk in an accent. He knows my steps, even when I get stuck in the in between.
And if God is who He says He is, He is trustworthy. I can be seen. I can be me. I can walk knowing that I am held and loved and where I am supposed to be.
You — in the midst of exhaustion and new patterns of anxiety and pain — are, too. You are held. God is trustworthy. I write that for you, and I write that for me, too.
- Safe and sound in Sofia, Bulgaria for orientation and training. I will post a more official update later, but happy and healthy in Europe. Yay!
- Mediocre texter (and that’s being a little optimistic) when I am on wi-fi, so give me some grace as I get adjusted, please!
- 7 hrs ahead of you, New Yorkers & EST. 8 hrs ahead of you, my UA fam & CST. If you’re not one of those, I believe in your math skills.
*This site, E (ericaboden.wordpress.com), is not an official Fulbright Program site. The views expressed on this site are entirely those of its author and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.